Ruminations on Scarcity

by Chase on January 3, 2014

I heard this fascinating news clip on Thursday about the concept of scarcity.  If you have 5 minutes, please do listen to it.  If you’re not in place where you can listen today, here is the gist:

Not having enough money and not having enough time, might not seem like similar things, but psychologically, they are similar. You’re running low on something you desperately need, you feel the pinch of scarcity.

When you have scarcity and it creates a scarcity mindset, it leads you to take certain behaviors which in the short term help you manage scarcity, but in the long term only make matters worse.

…each delay made things worse the next day. Scarcity, whether of time or money, tends to focus the mind on immediate challenges. You stretch your budget to make ends meet. People in the grip of scarcity are tightly focused on meeting their urgent needs, but that focus comes at a price. Important things on the periphery get ignored.

This fascinated me because it answered exactly why it was that I kept making choices that weren’t in line with my long-term goals.  I blogged about this back in May of last year.  I couldn’t connect why I was falling short of my desired outcome, regardless of the fact that the outcome was what I wanted more than any other material possession or experience I could imagine.  It made no sense. There had to be a reason for the disconnect.

I didn’t understand it back then and I still don’t purport to have it fully analyzed, but the concept of Scarcity gave me a true A-ha! moment.  Working 6 days a week for upwards of 12 hours a day, I was under the stress of time-based scarcity.  I put everything off because I could only focus on what was in the here and now in my life.  I didn’t have the luxury of being able to think things through or worry about long term goals, (i.e. getting back into my clothes, per my post from May) because I was hyperfocused on the needs of the moment.

So, as of December 31, in an effort to end this time-based scarcity, I quit my part-time job. 

The pull of the desire to rid myself of the time-based scarcity stress burden was greater than any other desire:  greater than the desire for the supplemental income, greater than the desire for doing the job (which is something that falls in line with my life’s passion) and greater than the fear of letting people down (which was a palpable fear). 

Many years ago, when I was in my early 20’s and still working entry-level jobs, I remember the pull of financial scarcity.  I would spend too much money out with my friends at the bar or at the mall, not because I could afford it, but because it seemed to offer some immediate, short-term stress relief to free me from the feeling of financial scarcity.  Of course, it came back to bite me tenfold when I got the credit card bill that I couldn’t afford or didn’t have the money to pay rent.

Enter, part-time job.  The very same one I just quit after 10 years.

Working part-time helped me make up some of the difference.  It was enough money to bridge the gap and give me a little breathing room.  I loved the job and it paid well.

Of course, as humans are wont to do, I changed my spending habits to fill up usage of those funds to the point where I found financial scarcity all over again.  I’ve blogged about this before, but it took until I was 27 to realize that I would never free myself from the financial debt without making major lifestyle changes.  So, when I was 27, I moved out of where I was and when I was 28, I moved home with my parents.

It was the catalyst I needed to pay off my debt, get back on my feet and remove the daily financial scarcity stress.  And in 2014, in order to rid myself of the time-scarcity stress, I quit that very part-time job that helped bridge the gap of financial scarcity.

So here I am, early 30’s, with ten years of my own personal scarcity research, finally pursuing some balance.  I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 s July 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm

i remember that article!!! i even wrote an essay about it, lol. scarcity has such a profound effect on the brain. i try to count my blessings, and even though i occasionally end up feeling bad for the world’s problems, i feel like it’s a lot healthier than feeling like there’s never enough of things.

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