Community - Holistic Lifestyle - Self-care

June Blog: Scarcity Mindset

What is a Scarcity Mindset?

submitted by Emily Bennett MSN, RN, NC-BC

The OHNA Conference Theme for 2024 is: Community Wellness Cultivating Healing and Abundance  Together. As we prepare to gather and learn together, how do we cultivate healing and abundance? 



As I pondered about cultivating abundance, I became curious about  something called a scarcity mindset. Several questions emerged from  this curiosity. Is scarcity the shadow of abundance? Is scarcity the  opposite of abundance? According to Lynn Twist, abundance means  having more than enough, and when do you know you have more than  enough? Is enough really sufficiency, not abundance? Why is a scarcity  mindset so pervasive in our society?



The scarcity mindset is a topic of psychological research and interest. It would seem that fear of scarcity  is a self fulfilling prophecy. Two areas that this way of thinking emerge very commonly are time and  money. Other areas of your life that can be impacted by a scarcity mindset are: 

  • relationships
  • beauty  
  • love  
  • attention  
  • rest/sleep  
  • space 
  • happiness 




In scarcity thinking, the mind will focus on where there is a lack. In our capitalist society, scarcity  manipulates us to believe that we need to consume more and more, we need money to consume, we  need money to achieve perfection. In cleaning the kitchen last week, I started listening to Pink Floyd’s  album, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and realized it covers many of these concepts! There are even  songs titled “Money” and “Time”! This way of thinking is completely embedded in our culture, and has  been for decades!


In the bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) by Stephen Covey, he broaches the  subject of scarcity and abundance: 

“Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so  much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it  would mean less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. 

People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit  – even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy  for the successes of other people – even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or  close friends and associates. It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else  receives special recognition of or windfall gain or has remarkable success or achievement.” 

He suggests that this thinking causes tunnel vision, prevents creativity, one struggles to see how  resources can be changed and connected in new ways to solve problems. This leads to missed  opportunities.  

In their book, Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives (2013),  Mullianathan and Shafir share contextual stories to provide the reader with examples of how this  mindset is subconscious and pervasive, I highly recommend picking up this read if you are interested in  learning more about the psychology of scarcity. The theme that scarcity creates scarcity is an especially  interesting one. The concepts of tunneling, bandwidth, trade-offs and slack help to understand how this  happens. Tunneling occurs when focus on one aspect of a goal or problem comes at the expense of  other things that are connected to it. It impacts our choices, it is inhibiting and often provides only short  term values, it creates trade-offs. Bandwidth is another scarcity tactic, it impacts our perception of  capacity and leads to thought distortions, distractions and little bunny trails in our minds. Whether it’s  dieting, budgeting, or even loneliness, preoccupation impacts our perceived “bandwidth” or energy to  focus on what we want to achieve. The concept of slack is best described by the authors using the  metaphor of a suitcase. Trade-offs show up again in this description. If your suitcase is small, your  choices are limited and trade-offs may occur, with a larger suitcase, you have more flexibility and even  the luxury of packing extra items that may not be needed, or you have open space in your suitcase.  Basically, the more you have, the less you are concerned about the small details, the less thought is  needed for ensuring you have packed exactly what is needed, because that is all you have room for in your bag. This can occur with budgets, menu planning, vacations, etc. It is natural to slack on the energy  of precision when you have wiggle room! Until reading this, I would have wondered if slack was a form  of abundance, but in reality slack inhibits creativity and innovation and causes scarcity in the long term.  Ah Ha! We now have regrets of a past slack, having had an opportunity to be more careful with our  resources, right? So now the question becomes, what can we do? 

Kate Holly, host of the podcast for “The Space Beyond Scarce” believes that the opposite of scarcity is  depth and equity. Once there is an understanding that there is enough for everyone, we can release the  fear of lack. This podcast series explores ways for individuals to contemplate the scarcity mindset and  ways to overcome this way of thinking.  

How does one flip the switch from scarcity thinking to accepting there is  enough? 


The answer isn’t a simple one. Awareness of our tendency as humans to have a scarcity mindset is a  great first step! Pausing to notice if your belief or choice is based on a scarcity mindset may lead to new  observations and a curiosity in your life, about what you have to be grateful for, and what your future  holds. As I was writing this article, our summer vacation plans were cancelled. My reaction to this news  was initially dread…time wasted making the plans, looking forward to a future that was now going to be  different…maybe we have all experienced this, especially during the pandemic? Because I was learning  about having a scarcity mindset, I opened my mind to consider how I have a week off work and the  world is my oyster! New plans are being made and our family vacation will be wonderful! 

Practicing mindfulness, gratitude, self-compassion along with a curiosity are all ways we can overcome a  scarcity mindset. Recently, I followed some advice from Rob Brensky’s Free Will Astrology (Virgo,May 23). “For the next three weeks, send streams of love and gratitude to all your organs.” I am including my  brain in this exercise! It’s on my calendar, hope you will add it to yours!  

Namaste, Emily 


Rob Brensky’s Free Will Astrology 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) Stephen Covey 

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives (2013) Sendhil  Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir 

The Psychology of Scarcity 

The Space Beyond Scarce Podcast, hosted by Kate Holly:

The Soul of Money: Lynne Twist 

University of WA School of Medicine mindset