Sometimes when you are running, things really come into view. A few years ago, I had been considering two different kinds of thinking that lead us in very different directions as I jogged.
One way of thinking that I considered—which many call scarcity thinking—usually leads to failure, fear, and discontent. These are the sort of limiting beliefs that I have come to warn people against.
A Better Way?
The opposite of scarcity thinking is abundance thinking, which gives us a shot at success, joy, and fulfillment. These more generous ideas have much in common with the liberating truths I have used to help leaders drive out doubt and overcome significant obstacles.
A Tale of Two Thinkers
My friend Robert Smith, author most recently of 20,000 Days and Counting, is a great example of abundance thinking in action.
Robert is one of the most generous people I know. He always greets me with a big smile, a hug, and an encouraging word. I leave his presence energized, feeling great about being me.
And I have noticed that he is like this with everyone. He treats employees, vendors, booking agents, publishers, and others as if they are his best customers. He routinely invests in their success.
It comes back to him in a thousand ways.
One of my former clients—who we’ll call Charlie—is just the opposite, and a perfect example of applied scarcity thinking.
Charlie exhibits a hoarding mentality. He never picks up the check, even if he asks you to lunch. He constantly complains about everything. When I was working with him, I always left his presence drained and diminished.
And he is like this with everyone, I learned. His employees roll their eyes when you mention his name, but don’t dare say anything that could get back to him. They live in constant fear that their livelihood and well-being are at risk.
Not coincidentally, the success that their boss craves always seems to elude him.
More Than Enough vs. Never Enough
When I got home from running I wrote down this list of polar opposites, with Robert and Charlie in mind:
- Believe there is always more where that came from.
- Share their knowledge, contacts, and compassion with others.
- Default to trust and build rapport easily.
- Welcome competition, believing it makes the pie bigger and them better.
- Ask themselves, How can I give more than is expected?
- Are optimistic about the future, believing the best is yet to come.
- Think big, embracing risk.
- Are thankful and confident.
- Believe there will never be enough.
- Are stingy with their knowledge, contacts, and compassion.
- Default to suspicion and find it difficult to build rapport.
- Resent competition, believing it makes the pie smaller and them weaker.
- Ask themselves, How can I get by with less than is expected?
- Are pessimistic about the future, believing that tough times are ahead.
- Think small, avoiding risk.
- Are entitled and fearful.
Change of Heart
I don’t think I’ve overdone the contrast here. Robert and Charlie are just that far apart, in how they behave and in the results of that behavior.
But I don’t think for most of us it’s that cut-and-dry. We have a little bit of Robert and a little bit of Charlie in us. I know I do.
We ought to strive to grow as abundance thinkers, to be more like Robert and less like Charlie in our careers and in our lives. Proverbs reminds us that as a man “thinks in his heart, so is he.”