Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Scarcity vs. Abundance

This is a topic I've been thinking about posting on, and today Angie's post prompted me to go ahead. I'm not totally versed on this subject, but have read about it two or three times in various places. It is the "Theory of Scarcity" vs. "Theory of Abundance". The theory of scarcity says that there is not enough to go around. If you are viewing life through the lens of scarcity, then you need to hold on, to hoard in order to protect yourself. The theory of abundance says there is plenty to share, that spreading the wealth increases the wealth.

An example of these two theories that I remember reading about took place in a school where the budget was tight and supplies were hard to come by. Operating from the theory of scarcity, the staff was locking up the existing supplies, arguing over use, hiding supplies from each other. When one of the teachers had had enough, she opened her doors and started sharing everything she had. Miraculously, there was suddenly enough. Why? Because people started sharing - they brought out the stuff they'd been hoarding, they began pooling their resources; they began to work together on finding more.

Now, the truth is, I have always operated from the side of scarcity. I didn't want to share; I wanted to protect my resources. After reading about this theory, I've made an effort to change my view and see the world as abundant. I'm not always successful, and I still have to work hard at it. Scarcity is as simple as thinking - "I don't want to wear that black shirt today, because I might want to wear it tomorrow", or "I don't want to make a salad tonight, because then I can't have it tomorrow". Silly, yes. But that's the way my mind works. I'm always holding on just in case I need it later. Sometimes it's bigger - some of those kinds of things that Angie mentioned - things that affect others, like "this is my time to... and I won't give it up". I think some of this comes from my childhood. Don't get me wrong - my childhood was wonderful! There were five of us kids and my Mom stayed home with us while Dad worked. We had enough money, but not much extra. I started picking berries for school clothes in fifth grade, so I was really careful with spending. Not to mention with two brothers and two sisters, I got used to protecting my stuff. And my Mom tends to view the world from the scarcity side too. Add to that a bit of a compulsive, orderly personality and it's easy to start viewing resources as scarce.

Like anyone else, I am a work in progress. I've made decisions about how I want to live my life, what kind of a person I want to be, about thinking through my actions. I have to work on those things every single day - it doesn't come easy and I slip up a lot, but I keep trying. One of those decisions was to try to work from the viewpoint of abundance. I try not to let myself drift into "saving" things for another day - I wear the shirt, I make the salad. I try very hard not to get too locked in to my time. It is a balancing act, like everything else. We all need to make time for ourselves and to take care of ourselves, but figuring out how to do that without being selfish, or greedy or at the expense of others is the challenge. I try really hard to accommodate others - in the family and out. We have always called my Mom "the Mother of all Fairness" because she tries so hard to do this too, so when my husband calls me that, I know I'm out of hand! (Isn't it amazing how hard we try not to be our parents and how easy it is to do? It's called modeling - bear that in mind with your own children! They are always watching you and will do what you do, rather than what you tell them to do.) (Slipped a little parenting lecture in, didn't I?)

I think there is a very fine line between selfishness and taking care of yourself. I think you have to look at your actions very carefully and consider the impact on others. Frankly, racing is a very selfish sport. It requires a lot of time (training, traveling, the race itself, recovery), it can require a lot of money (race fees, equipment, traveling), and if you have a family, a lot of support (spouse gives up own time to either travel and support you, or stay home with the kids to support you). I think we can all get caught up in the excitement and thrill and not care or notice the impact it is having on others. Where is the balance? How do you find it? I don't have the answers; it is something we each have to figure out for our family and ourselves. Eric and I work on it all the time. Should I mention here that all of our vacations for the last three years, and for this year too, have involved a marathon? We've started the vacation with a marathon, then gone on to travel, we've centered two vacations around Boston, our vacation last fall was based on four marathons in four days and we are going to start our vacation in June with a marathon, then travel. We've been able to include the boys in most of them, and Eric has been a very good sport about pre and post marathon vacationing. (I think we've worn him out pre-marathon more than once). It works for our family, probably because I am also invested in running, as is our younger son. Our older son goes along good-naturedly with the rest of us.

Anyway, a life of abundance is the life I am striving for -abundance in love, in friends, family, and in resources.

11 comments:

olga said...

Very interesting - no, not point of view, it's not new, but the choice of words describing...I guess in English.
But yes, it has to be a balance, and whether or not it is usually not we who decide. But we try.

robtherunner said...

I believe that I try to live life by the theory of abundance, but realize that I am very selfish at the same time. I would be happy to give everything I had, but at the same time I take a lot. Case in point, my running and my family. I would give everything I have to make sure my family is provided for, but I take away a lot of time because of my selfish pursuits.

Great Post! See you in the morning 9 a.m.

Sarah Elaine said...

Wonderful, thought-provoking post. Abundant with wisdom.

TryAthlete said...

Sounds like you have your priorities right. All the best.

Donald said...

Yes, running is pretty selfish, but if it makes you a healthier, hapier person, that's the way you pay your family back.

Of course, like everything else, there is an ideal balance. Good luck in finding it.

Flo said...

Great post. I tend towards the scarcity view too and try to fight it. I don't view my own time as scarcity though, of course I'm not obsessive about it. In many ways it all depends on you view - is the glass half full or half empty..

Tammy said...

Great post! I find that letting go of things has brought more back to me. So I'm all about the theory of abundance. I know I will receive what I need in return, just not necessarily in the same place I gave it. :)

PuddyRat said...

Hmmmm...I think I also operate from the scarcity side. I never thought of it like that, so it's good to think about.

Glad to hear you don't need to go to the hematology/oncology department. See you tonight at the track?

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Wow - fascinating...and scary to think about!!! Obviously, I operate on the scarcity side :) (the part about "saving" a shirt to wear another day really hit home - every day I evaluate what I have and when I will use it!!!)

This is awesome - because now I wonder what will happen if I take a leap of faith, and try operating on the abundance side of things for awhile. And I'm like a cat - too curious. So now I'll have to try it. Hmm....

D said...

Great post!

Durani said...

I guess economists are catching up with this concept they call it "Increasing Return Economics". Very insightful post. thanks