Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Overcoming The Scarcity Mindset


The word ‘poverty’ conjures a mental picture of physical lack. We associate poverty with the physical manifestation of lack, hence a security guard is considered poor while a GM in a bank is considered rich. Consequently, to fight poverty, the first inclination is to try and change the physical conditions. Hence most poverty alleviation programs are reduced to fighting the symptoms rather than the disease.


Creation is a process and starts at the mental level. You don’t start building a house by mobilizing workmen to site. You first of all hire an architect to help bring your mental picture to life on paper and other media. It is only when the mental creation process is completed (and approved) before the physical aspect commences. A good lawyer does a dry run before appearing in court. A good plastic surgeon has a clear mental picture of the end result before picking the knife. To have a predictable outcome, you need to create the desired result mentally.


It is decades down the line when the security guard becomes chairman of a group of companies and the GM (now ex GM) drives a taxi for a living that it becomes obvious who is rich and who is poor.


To start with, is it possible to build without a blueprint? The answer is yes. That is what most people do. In some villages, some just start moulding blocks and build as they go. I came across a building in progress without a foundation once. They just laid blocks on the bare ground and started building. I am sure that building will be completed one day and people will move in after a lavish house warming ceremony. What happens when a big storm hits is best left to the imagination.


There are many symptoms of poverty mentality. I will focus on three.


Lack of planning


One key symptom of poverty mentality is lack of planning. There is no drawing or blueprint. You have no clue what the finished product looks like. There are no clear goals (financial etc) or aspirations. You are on a journey with no idea what the destination is. If you are asked to describe your life in the next 5, 10 years etc, you have no clue because you have neither taken the time to discern purpose nor articulate what you really want in life. Such people wait on God to do what God is waiting for them to do. The sad thing is that the 5, 10 years will come and go whether you plan for it or not.


Short term thinking is one of the hallmarks of poverty mentality. You take one day at a time, waiting till you get to the bridge before figuring out how to cross it. When all you see is right in front of your nose, you miss the danger lurking in the horizon. You don’t realize there is trouble until it hits you smack on the face.


Instant gratification


Instant gratification is often as a result of lack of forward planning and short term thinking. You don’t think of future consequences when taking current action. Instant gratification comes in many forms. It may be in the form of buying something prematurely or going into a project you are not ready for, including a business. The common denominator is that you take action before fully thinking through.


If you do not have a plan, others will plan for you. You start to do things based on what others would think rather than what your plan or blueprint says.


What’s in it for me?


The poverty mentality always thinks ‘what’s in it for me?’ (aka WIIFM). This is the only FM station they listen to. They think of themselves first. Poverty mentality focuses on getting rather than giving. On the job, they focus on what their employer will do for them rather than what they can do for their employer. In the community, the focus on what they can gain from the community rather than what they can do to make the community better. In business, they focus on how much money they can make from their clients rather than how much value they can add. In relationships, they are looking for what they can get rather than what they can give. When they make a call, it means they need something. They don’t quite get the logic that if you give first you will ultimately get, guaranteed.


Changing the poverty mentality


We were not born with the poverty mentality. We acquired it from our immediate environment. The way to change it is to change our environment. Changing your environment does not necessarily mean packing into a new neighbourhood, although sometimes it is necessary. Who you are is a reflection of who you hang out with. Your circumstances have a direct correlation with the expectations of your peer group. If you drive a jalopy and all your friends drive brand new cars, you will feel uncomfortable, added to the fact that you may be teased ceaselessly if the group is image conscious. After a while, something will give way – either you buy a new car or gravitate away from the group.


There is a positive aspect to this. If the people you move with have higher standards, you will be forced to raise your standards or drop out. If the people you move with have a poverty mindset (no matter how much they earn), find friends who have abundance mentality. You don’t have to fire your old friends (although sometimes it is necessary), but you make new ones who are going somewhere. There is a group of people you cannot fire no matter how much they drag you down – your family. My preferred way is to constantly feed your mind with new material until you start changing on the inside. You start to see things differently. It changes the way you feel about things and ultimately moves you into action. Get a mentor or support group. It could be physical or online. Don’t go solo. Eventually your circle of friends and environment will start to change as you no longer fit in. It can be painful when your old friends are not ready to go on the journey with you. You have to keep moving. It is not everyone that is heading to the same destination as you.


Until you make that journey in your mind, trying to change your actions may not be sustainable. Knowing how to save money does not make you save consistently. Knowing how to lose weight is not enough to make you lose weight. Something needs to change on the inside to propel you to take all the actions you need to take on a consistent basis until you cross the finish line. If you bypass the mental creation and go straight to the physical aspect, you may not recognize what you end up with.

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