Since then, I've realized that a passion for life can do a lot for your ability to experience it. When you view the world as full of things to do, friends to see, experiences to be had, then your overall energy level rises to match that sense of possibility. When you view life as a careful balancing act, where you must be constantly watching your intake and output, your experience constricts accordingly. This is the difference between a perspective of abundance and one of scarcity, except we are talking in terms of spirit and experience.
A Feeling of Scarcity
Those who view life through a lens of scarcity seem to share certain characteristics:
Overprotection of self, risk averse
Less generous with money for fear of being left stranded
Concerned with being self-sufficient (sometimes to the point of shutting others out)
Afraid of trying their hardest, or extending their best effort, for fear of being totally spent
Trapped by their material possessions or their jobs, worrying that they can't be replaced
Often are over-dependent in their relationships, which they are afraid to lose
Ironically also afraid of meeting new people, for various reasons (they probably don't need more friends, they probably already have a girlfriend, I don't have time, etc.)
Clearly, this is a fairly constrained way to live. The truth is though, there is nothing inherently incorrect about this worldview. Many of the fears of the scarce-minded are in fact true and reasonable. For example, the reluctance to start a business, based on fears of the inaccessibility of the market, the difficulty of making time, the very real and large possibility of failure, is based on accurate conceptions of reality.
Scarcity-minded people also make poor athletes, because they are afraid to push themselves to their limits for fear of injuring themselves. As a result, they often tense up and get injured anyway, but the refusal to push past comfort zones prevents them from improving much. They see health as a fixed quantity from which they draw on, with no ability to replenish through their lives.
On the other hand, there is another set of realities that are just as valid. By choosing to focus on the difficulties and the scarcities, the scarce-minded make these more pertinent, ignoring the opportunities to overcome challenges. They never grow, because they always save something in reserve. Thus their minds, bodies, and spirits never see a need for increased capacity, and thus never develop it.
This is not to say that the scarce-minded only have bad traits. Their drive to self-sufficiency, for example, leads them to develop a lot of skills, and can lead them to widen their experiences. Nevertheless, they tend towards close-mindedness.
An Overwhelming Sense of Abundance
Traits that characterize those with an abundance mindset include:
Trust that there is always enough to go around, that they will be taken care of
Tend to be generous with money (sometimes to the point of self-ruin)
See great opportunities and possibility arising out of small means
Don't cling to single relationships, because they know there are always other options (this can sometimes lead to undervaluing relationships)
Have an easier time trusting others, and are more generous with their trust and love
Not tied down by material possessions, less afraid of job loss, feeling that things can be replaced and there will always be other jobs
Generally see the world as full of possibility, and emphasize the possibility of success over failure
Abundance-minded people are clearly open to new experiences, and are more willing to go to their limits and risk more in life, because they feel secure that anything they lose can easily and quickly be replaced. For them, travel is an opportunity to see new things and experience new cultures, while for the scarce-minded, travel is often seen as full of extra risks and dangers. Both interpretations are true, but one leads to a better experience.
The mindset of abundance has effects on one's experience of life in very concrete ways. To return to the example I opened this article with, in terms of physical activity, I was thinking in a scarcity-mindset at that time, while my friend was thinking in a mindset of abundance. For him, there would always be enough energy to enjoy hanging out with friends as well as to exercise in the mornings. To me, it seemed like sleep and rest was scarce, and thus I was hoarding my energy. Sleep is certainly precious, and energy finite, but by focusing on its finiteness, my brain would be quicker to call for bedtime, fearing things were getting too low. By focusing instead on the belief that I have enough energy and would actually have time to replenish, I would be able to go for longer before the red 'gas-low' light goes off in my head.
Finding a Balance
Obviously, there is the danger of taking either mindset to an extreme and getting in trouble. Staying awake all night partying and trying to do three sports at once will take a toll on your body. The difficulty comes in getting our mental perception of our ability, and life's opportunities, to match with the reality. In general, I have found that people tend to believe themselves less capable than they really are, and so cultivating a mindset of abundance will do most people more good than harm. Often, the willingness to take risks, holding on to the hope that they will pay off, serves you better than avoiding the risk for fear of the cost. In most cases, I've discovered that the cost of not taking a risk is less than the potential payout if the risk is successful, even if the chance of success is low. Asking that smart, beautiful girl out is risky because of the possibility of rejection, but on the off (possibly minuscule) chance she says yes, the potential relationship is worth so much more than the small and temporary hurt of rejection.
So believe yourself capable of anything, and believe that the world is just bursting to give you the opportunities you want. It's just as true as the opposite, and a lot more fun.
Do you recognize any of the above traits in the way you perceive the world? Are there any from the abundance list you'd like to see yourself adopt? Any traits you'd like to add to one or both lists? Post thoughts to the comments.