Scarcity – real or unreal?

I remember an ad that shows a woman sitting at a kitchen table, looking longingly at a container of coffee; she reaches for it, and her roof flies off.

The message was that some people need to make choices that many of us don’t need to make, because they live constantly with financial scarcity.

I can recall when first becoming a therapist how thirsty I was to build my business. Even though I knew I was wrong to feel it, I would have a hard time recommending another therapist. At that time I was very much driven by the feeling that there were way more therapists than clients.

To be fair, when I began as a therapist, the field of therapy wasn’t as well accepted as it is now, so I had some justification for my feelings. Even so, what I felt wasn’t real. It was made up by my fear of not making it.

Sometimes scarcity is real in terms of limited available resources. It might be money. It might also be other limited resources. Or it might be time.  When it’s real, that always makes choices harder, not only because we need to prioritize and let things go, but because feeling that scarcity makes us anxious; and when we’re anxious we can’t think as well as when we’re relaxed.

There are studies that show that when we’re in a situation where we feel there is scarcity, we don’t function as well.

If you find yourself with a lack of resources, or feel you don’t have enough time, here are 3 things you can do to help reduce your anxiety:

  1. Before you do anything else, sit down and take 5 long slow breaths – 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. That alone will bring down the anxiety and help you think more clearly.
  2. Do a reality check: is it really true that there isn’t enough time, or money or resources? Or, are you triggered by past events that didn’t turn out well because of a lack of time or resources?
  3. If it’s real, then there are 3 things you can do to bring your resources in line with what you’re trying to accomplish – reduce the scope, farm out some of the parts, or make it worth your while.

Reduce the scope: decide what’s important, then focus only on that. One way to decide is listing everything you feel needs doing, then assign each one with one of 3 markers – U for urgent, I for important, and N for nice-to-have.  Then eliminate all the U’s and N’s and focus only on the I’s.  things that feel urgent are rarely life-shattering if they don’t happen – they simply feel that way. Nice-to-haves are exactly that – nice to have once the important things are done.  One thing to keep in mind is that small rewards are important, not simply nice to have.

Farm it out: there are a lot of things in my practice I don’t really like to do. When I have to do them, I procrastinate, waste time, and don’t do a very good job getting them done. Things like bookkeeping, sending reminders, marketing are a few of these. If I can, I’d gladly pay others to do them, or barter with others with those skills in exchange for something I could do that they want. If that isn’t possible, then I’d have to find some way to make it worth my while.

Make it worth your while: I’ve only ever found two ways to make this work – either by adding an element of pleasure, or one of mastery. With bookkeeping for instance, I make sure to do that weekly: it doesn’t take long and my accountant is both happy and relieved at year’s end.  I learned the wisdom of that after slaving through 4 months’ worth of bills and receipts. That motivated me to find a better way. Now, I feel like I’ve mastered a formerly onerous task. Adding an element of pleasure is something that really makes a task worthwhile and can take as many forms as you can creatively make up; anything from breaking for afternoon tea, to chatting with a co-worker or neighbour over coffee for a few minutes, to moving your office to your back yard when it’s lovely out.

Scarcity creates problems that make it hard to succeed. Sometimes it’s something we feel that is more about past experiences, and sometimes it’s real and needs to be dealt with. Most of us will encounter it; I hope it helps you to know how.

Quote of the Week

Having the least usually forces us to make the most of what we have.
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana


Living under scarcity




I hope you enjoyed this article. When you’re ready to take the next step on your life journey, book a free 20 min consultation with me.