*** So I am not a therapist, an economist, a fortune-teller, or anything like that. If you need support because you are in a dire mental space, please reach out to a professional to help you navigate this difficult time. ***
Things aren’t looking so hot right now in the music and artist economy, are they? I don’t think I need to restate all the cancelations, lost gigs, and students falling away. We are, for the first time in a very long time, in TRUE scarcity. And if You’ve ever resisted scarcity in a time of plenty, then you’re probably feeling like things are even more bat-shit crazy to resist scarcity in a time of actual scarcity.
I feel the collective deep groan in my bones. The hidden things we are daring to think about… “I will not be able to pay my rent.” “I will not be able to care for my family.” “I will not find food, paper goods, or peace.” “I know someone who is dying.” “I have no hope.” Damn, they feel so much more real now that true economic scarcity is starting to hit.
There are others who are using this time to speak on retaining clients and gaining new ones. I’ll get to that in a few weeks. But for now, I want to focus on you, dear reader, and talk a little bit about how scarcity impacts our thinking, so you have some information and tools around how to resist it in these uncertain times.
Resisting, by the way, is not denying. Resisting is saying, “Hey, Fear! Hey, Scarcity! I see you! Come on in. I’d like to get to know you a little better, to examine you, so I can figure out the best way to draw boundaries around you when you’re getting out of control.” Denying is fingers-in-ears and saying la-la-la. Resisting is full-on “I am no man” Éowyn style.”**
Remember way back when in mid-March (you know, that two weeks that feels like two decades) and we were all bopping around town, and making purchasing decisions with a sense of ennui, picking up extra packages of gum and adding that extra $5 dollar upsell in our amazon carts? Well, we had scarcity then too. It just hid in the corner better. COVID-19 comes along and shines a big ol’ light in that corner. So, let’s talk about it.
Economics, at its most basic, is the study of how people groups/society/nations/etc use limited resources. Scarcity is the gap between limited resources and unlimited wants. This leads us to have to make trade-offs, and decide which thing is more valuable to us at the time. For example… toilet paper or voice lessons.
And there is where the tricky business starts. When scarcity, as a principle, becomes scarcity as a mindset. So let’s dive in.
Thoughts about Scarcity and Scarcity Mindset
Scarcity Mindset is when we make every decision from a place of assuming that there will never be enough for our unlimited wants. It’s when the “glasses” we wear cause us to see everything we could possibly need all at once, and then take actions to assure it in a single moment. Ironically, things like greed and impatience are the center of scarcity. Tough to admit, right?
When there is true scarcity (like now), trade-off thinking goes into overdrive. Because we are fearful of not having what we need or want, we begin to make a million decisions about “which thing is better?” “What should I do?” and “what do I embrace and what do I neglect?” The problem is when we begin to force false choices. For example: toilet paper or voice lessons. Neither of these replaces the other, yet in scarcity and scarcity mindset times, we tend to compare them, and give them equal value. Funny, how just three months ago, if I had said, “A month of SECO is just two Costco packages of toilet paper!” It would seem a lot less “expensive” than if I say that now, right? Why? Because back then, toilet paper was abundant, and now, well, you know.
Our basic needs, like shelter, food, water, medications, zoom to the top of list, even if they are not yet in danger. Priorities shift. Suddenly, the brand of soup isn’t as important as just having some food to eat!
Out of our worry and trade-off thinking, we go into overvaluing “free” stuff – even though we all know that there really is no such thing as free. It costs someone, something, somewhere, to produce a good or service for us to consume. A prepared business builds this into their costs and just tells us stuff is free. A less prepared business may wind up losing money and resources. When we feel the pressure of scarcity, we want to hoard resources, as much as possible, so that we do not have to make trade-offs we do not want to make.
All these trade-offs, especially when we feel the real impact of losing money or resources, lead to mental fatigue. Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D, who studied the science of choice, says, “Poverty taxes cognitive resources and causes self-control failures. When you can afford so little, so many things need to be resisted. And resisting more temptations depletes willpower.” And with willpower depleted, we get tired, grumpy, depressed. Yet we are unable to pull ourselves out of that space. It’s so very hard!
It’s hard because it causes mental myopia. We get hyper-focused on what is happening RIGHT NOW in terms of scarcity. We hold on tight to present scarcity and place greater importance on immediate needs at the expense of future ones. It stops us from taking care of ourselves. From believing that we will get through. We stop making those small investments in ourselves, like exercise, or therapy, learning a new skill, or developing our business. (I am preaching to myself, here!)
With all this information we are armed with, about scarcity and scarcity mindset, how can we use it to our greatest advantage and use it wisely and appropriately?
Using Scarcity to our Advantage – Pro-active ways to Resist
Back to that whole “our brains double down in setting priorities” thing. In many ways, this is good – for example, with time. I have a script due for an online masterclass next week; I will double down and focus my attention on how much time I have left and how to use it most effectively. I’ve even created a resource for this, called the ESS (Emergency Scheduling System) to help me effectively use my time when it is limited! (Let me know if you want to know how to get your hands on that.)
When we know we have little time left, we work to squeeze the most out of every moment. Right now, we have the weirdest relationship with time because of social media and the 24-hour news cycle being what we perceive as our only “real” connection to the world. Add to that, many of us now have two jobs: Homeschooling AND our regular work.
My encouragement to you is to develop a schedule that will allow you to be more mindful of how you use your time – since it’s actually more plentiful than before (WAHOO NO COMMUTE!). Try out Zero-Based Scheduling, a concept that means being accountable for all the time in your day. I’ve been doing this for a few years, and it’s truly given me a leg up now that we are in a “schedule-less” season of time.
Be sure to include things in your schedule like going for walks, school for the kids, your work time, practice time, meal prep and meals, relationship development, time in your virtual community, time to learn new things, REST, REST, REST, etc. Include everything you can think of. Shoot! Even plan time to plan!
This will allow you to see how truly full your day is and steer you away from the frantic hustle of “what do I do next?!” It will also help you release the sense of false productivity. The hustle muscle isn’t necessarily the best muscle to bulk up right now. Go for flexibility and tone, instead. You’ll see you can get *quite* a lot accomplished without feeling insignificant!
Now about that mental myopia… let’s use it and add to it. I call this playing the long game and the short game at the same time. It’s like hiking! We watch our very next step while we are also aware of the peaks and valleys ahead of us.
Many times, we are reacting to things that are not yet happening, or will never happen. Coming up with a plan, in the relatively safe here and now, about how we will handle the worst-case scenario for then, allows us to be better prepared.
Let’s do an exercise:
- Get super grounded in the present. Like, specifically present. Notice your surroundings. Call them out. “In this immediate moment, I am present. My phone works. My computer is on. My chair is hard. My coffee needs a refill.”
- Now, while being powerfully aware of your “right now”, allow yourself to look ahead to the actual scenario that is causing worry or fear. Imagine the worst possible thing that could happen. Seriously, allow yourself to go there. Feel alllll the feels.
- Now, make a plan. Decide how you will respond if those things actually happened. How would you take responsibility for yourself and your needs? How would you care for yourself? What would you do to ensure your safety? Which skills and tools would you rely on and how would you implement them?
- Accept these things as potentials, and what you’ve learned about what you have available to you if these things were to happen. Take a moment to release, in gratefulness.
- Bring yourself back to the present. “The dog is barking, the kids are laughing, my coffee still needs a refill.”
This exercise is used a lot in the coaching world… it’s called the “worst-case scenario” exercise. When I do this exercise, I take myself into some pretty awful spots… and then find my way out of it. It’s really helpful and empowering to take the time to HAVE to see how resourceful I am. Especially since I am a person who has trauma around not being allowed to see myself as capable and resourceful!
I think I’ll wrap up this blog with one more way to pro-actively resist scarcity. I’m gonna give you a cheesy mantra. You can eyeroll me, but we both know you’ll print it out and put in on your computer and bathroom mirror. (Unless of course, you’re a rebel type, in which case you just clicked off my blog for telling you what to do. HA!)
Here it is:
I am wise. I give from my supply. I choose to be generous, trusting that generosity will be returned by the global community. I meet needs and my needs are met.
AH! One last thing… (I know, it’s like I’m a voice teacher or something.. last one! HA!) spend money, every day, if you can. Drop a few dollars in a virtual tip jar, or sign up for program. Whether it’s pennies or four figures, do your part in this new emerging economy. Keep the flow going with wisdom and grace.
NOW! I see it’s 8am, so it’s time to wrap up and go homeschool the kids! As always, leave your thoughts below. This is a wonderous and unsure time. You aren’t alone. We are waiting to see so many things. We wait together, with love, open hands, and support for one another. May we be serious and intentional… and at peace.
All My BeastyBoss,
** please note, my fellow nerds, that I am well aware that this “I am no man” line in the films is but a mere whisper of the powerful words of our brave Éowyn in the books. There’s a great old blog on it, here.