Imagine Lewis and Clark cresting a hill and looking down over a plain teeming with more wild creatures than they’d ever seen. If they came to expect plentiful game over every hill, the explorers could take only what they needed and leave the rest to grow and multiply.
But if they crested the hill sick with famine, they might be tempted to slaughter everything they could and gorge — in answer to their famine or anticipated famine. That tactic, of course, decimates herds and leads to what? Lack.
Life’s like that. If you see the world as an abundant place, you take only what you need knowing your needs will always be met. Likewise, seeing the world from a famine-state, from “lack”, can cause us to take much more than we can possibly use and end up in excess.
Although it’s been said that “nothing succeeds like excess”, “Keep it simple, stupid” also rings true. Living in abundance is much simpler than living in lack.
What’s your relationship with abundance? Do you see the world as a naturally abundant place? Do you have everything you need in your life, or do you carry the feeling that there is something missing — plenty you lack?
Once I talked with someone who is 5 feet 11 inches tall. Know what she said? “I always have wished I was six feet.” Going through life lamenting one inch? Come on, now! From my five foot six perspective, the girl’s got abundance! But in her eyes, she’s just a little bit lacking.
The feeling of lack is one of the most pernicious limits we human beings place on ourselves. The sense of lack, the feeling that we don’t have enough, most often comes down to three areas: Money, Time and Love. Let’s look at how a “lack mindset” works with each, shall we?
Lack of Time Those who have attended one of my Stress Less Now! workshops know that the clinical description of stress is feeling you don’t have the tools necessary to complete the task at hand. When we feel as though we lack the tool of time, we rachet up the stress level for ourselves. We live in crisis mode. We often compensate by rushing through things — giving us plenty of opportunities to make careless mistakes and beat ourselves up for not being more careful. We often excuse our faulty decision-making saying we haven’t enough time to “think it through.”
Lack of Money When people wish for abundance, they are most often wishing for more money. Many of my clients have the long-standing belief that the solutions to most of their life’s problems could be solved if only they had enough money. They don’t have enough and can’t possibly get enough. They have a lack. To address the perceived lack, though, they can get into dead-end jobs they hate — just for the money. Or, they create such a money famine that they spend recklessly, buying more stuff in an attempt to address the famine. But the underlying perception of lack is not addressed — and persists.
Lack of Love Here’s where a perceived lack of love bites us in the patootie: a newly single person looks around and says, “Hey! I don’t have enough love! I lack a partner! I need to get me one!” So they grab for the first guy or gal who crosses their path — and then wonder why the relationship doesn’t work. It’s not, “I want to be with you”, but “I want to be with someone, and you’re handy.” This leads to intolerable situations with unsuitable people. And unecessary heartbreak. And no meaningful solution to the feeling of lack.
How to turn this all around? Here’s a tip: Shift your feeling of lack — “I don’t have enough” — to one of abundance — “I have exactly what I need at this moment.” Sounds too easy? Or Pollyanna-ish? Or downright impossible?
Need a concrete exercise? Okie doke. Write it down: what is it you want the very most in the world? A client recently told me she needed more attention. She’s dealing with some really tough decisions and feels like no one’s calling her to check in and see how she’s doing. I asked her how often she picked up the phone to reach out to people in her life. “Uhhhmmm,” was the response. Ask yourself: How can you give what you want the most to yourself? The kicker is that the solution is close at hand: we all are able to give ourselves what we lack. It just seems easier to wait for someone to give it TO us instead. The nutty thing is this: If you give precisely what you feel you lack to others, you’ll insure that you’ll receive it back.
It’s true. You get what you give. If you hold back from meaningful relationships, how can you expect to receive the love you crave? If you are disrespectful, will you receive respect? If you rush, how can you be other than rushed, and rush others? If you are negative, you will find yourself surrounded by negative people. But, if you make an effort to be what it is you want to receive, you will find the world a more embracing place.
Dr. Jon Haidt’s book The Happiness Hypothesis has a wonderful formula for computing happiness: H = S + C + V, with H representing your general happiness, S your set point, C the conditions of your life and V your voluntary activities. In the last year I’ve had the opportunity to work with quite a few individuals who are either immigrants to America or the children of immigrants. For many of them, their S is set on lack, in recognition of their family’s struggle to come here, and their fear that their hold on their new life is quite fragile — it could vanish in an instant. It’s tough to shift from lack to abundance, BUT IT CAN BE DONE.
Take a hard look at yourself — are you a person who lives in lack? If so, it’s OK. Be conscious of it, know where it comes from, and work to shift your mindset. Try saying, “I have everything I need” everytime you feel like saying “I don’t have enough.”
Focus on what’s right in your life instead of what’s missing. Focus on the 5′ 11″ you stand, rather than the inch you lack. Love what you have, and ask yourself if your choices are designed to fill a sneaky sense of lack — a sense which robs you of the joy available in the here and now — or whether they’re made from a vantage point of abundance. Move your S into abundance and your H will follow.