Want to Really Thrive? Start by Shifting Your Mindset
Do you find yourself dwelling on what’s wrong or missing more than what's positive and possible? If so, learn how shifting your mindset to one of abundance can help generate a wider range of opportunities, resources, and choices available to you in your life and career.
Looking back on the past year, it’s an understatement to say we’ve had our share of challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, business disruptions, job layoffs, racial tensions, political divisions, etc. These and other concerns to our world and nation are real and significant. So, after all 2020 has thrown at us, it's understandable if you find yourself focusing on what’s bad or lacking in your life as a result of these and other potential threats.
But let’s be honest. Even during calmer times, don’t we tend to pay more attention to what we don’t have versus what we do have? This is often our default way of thinking because our brains have a natural negativity bias to focus on possible threats to our security, health and well-being. After all, focusing on what we lack is how humans survived for thousands of years. While a scarcity mindset might have been necessary for our species to survive, it now gets in the way of our ability to thrive, especially in our careers.
Our Scarcity Mindset
Have you ever noticed when communicating with others how the conversation quickly turns to what's wrong or what’s missing? The problem with operating from a place of scarcity is we don’t clearly see the bigger picture of what’s positive or possible. Similar to narrowing a camera’s lens, a scarcity mindset constricts one’s “field of view.” When we see our lives through a more myopic perspective, we fail to see the opportunities, options, choices and resources available to us.
I see this scarcity mindset operating within many women attorneys and leaders who, as a result, limit themselves and end up settling for less than what they want and deserve in their careers. It may be that they don’t pursue the dream career they really want because they don’t think they have the resources or opportunities they need to make the changes they desire. Or they may not advocate for the promotion they rightly deserve because they see these opportunities as rare or too competitive.
Instead of moving forward toward their goals and full potential, they stay stuck and powerless because of obstacles they perceive to be in their path. In other words, they don’t pursue the “forest” of possible options available to them for the “trees” limiting their view.
Shifting to an Abundant Mindset
Individuals with an open or abundant mindset intentionally choose to broaden their fields of view to include what’s positive and possible rather than what’s not. Like a camera’s widening lens, an abundant mindset expands one’s awareness so a fuller range of options, resources, and possibilities can be seen. An abundant mindset can help you better envision your possible path forward, see other solutions to a problem, and boost your level of confidence and control. In essence, this shift in mindset can effectively counter those feelings of doubt, helplessness, frustration, and anxiety when challenges do arise.
What type of mindset do you have? If before your feet hit the ground in the morning you find yourself dwelling on what’s missing or lacking…thinking, for example, “I didn’t get enough sleep”… “I don’t make enough money”… or “I am short on time!”… then maybe you’d benefit by shifting your mindset to one of abundance.
Here are four ways to develop an abundant mindset to achieve a more successful and satisfying life and career:
#1 Reframe Challenges as Opportunities
The key to developing an abundant mindset is in reframing challenges as opportunities rather than impediments or obstacles. It’s not so much about the actual circumstances you are facing, but how you view and respond to them. Take for example the situation of being let go from your job.
Those with a scarcity mindset are likely to see themselves as victims of their situation.
They feel powerless because they see their job choices as limited and scarce. As such, they feel resigned to settle for something less than optimal: “The job market for my skills is really competitive; so my options are limited. Even if it’s not a great fit for me, I’ll have to take the first job I can get because I need to pay my bills.”
I’ve witnessed first-hand how those with an abundant mindset view and respond differently when faced with similar challenges. Rather than seeing their circumstance as something they “need to” or “have to” do as a result of their situation, they re-frame it as an opportunity they “get to” do: “This as a fresh start for me and job opportunities are limitless! I finally get to pursue a career that’s a better fit for me.”
#2 Adopt a Win-Win Approach
People with a scarcity mindset often see life as a zero-sum game. For them to win, others must lose. They are often fiercely competitive and constantly measure themselves against others. I see this mindset manifest in how we, as women, sometimes engage in destructive gossip about our colleagues and why we often have difficulty being genuinely happy for others’ successes.
An abundance mindset, on the other hand, believes there is plenty of room and a multitude of opportunities for everyone to be successful. While healthy competition is appropriate in certain situations, people with abundant thinking look for more opportunities to collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths for mutual gain.
If you believe there are more than enough promotion opportunities to go around, you’ll see others’ successes as having little bearing on your own chances. As such, you are more likely to stay energized and focused on elevating your own performance rather than comparing or competing with others.
One of my best examples of this is the partnership I’ve developed with another executive coach with whom I’ve collaborated on several projects over the past several years. Although some would consider us competitors since we serve the same clientele (women attorneys and leaders), we prefer to collaborate as our win-win approach to working together has resulted in many more business opportunities (and a close friendship) for both of us.
#3 Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is probably one of the most effective ways to experience the feeling of real abundance in your life. Not only does it help in rewiring your brain to focus on the positive, but it also just helps us to feel happier overall and more grateful for what we already have.
If you are wondering how to start, know practicing gratitude is really just a habit, like exercising or brushing your teeth. Each day, try spending a few minutes reflecting on the things (big and small) you most appreciate in your life and bring you joy. Whether it's a simple reflection or something you routinely jot down in a journal, over time you’ll start to notice how it changes the way you see your life.
If you look at what you have in your life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough."
~ Oprah Winfrey
In the beginning of the pandemic, I started a daily gratitude practice and have to say it has truly helped change my perspective on life. While I admit to sometimes having more of a “glass-half-empty” view when things don’t go according to my plans, this practice has brought into clearer focus all the good things in my life I might otherwise take for granted. So, even in the midst of all the challenges of the past year, I can honestly say I’ve been remarkably content. Was it the gratitude practice? Probably not the only reason, but I’m pretty sure it helped.
#4 Acts of Generosity
In addition to practicing gratitude, acts of generosity can cultivate an abundant mindset. In fact, abundance and generosity mutually reinforce each other in that the more generous you are, the more abundant you feel and vice versa. While it may seem counterintuitive, the act of sharing with others what we find scarce actually helps condition your subconscious to believe there is enough of it to go around.
Take the example of time and money – two resources we often associate with scarcity. How often have you said to yourself “I don’t have enough time to volunteer” or “I don’t have enough money to share”? However, when we take small steps and allow these resources to flow through us by giving it to others, our sense of abundance grows deeper because we realize how much we actually have to give and its impact on the welfare of others.
But here’s the dilemma. What do you do if you don’t feel particularly abundant or generous? Remember our minds are hardwired towards scarcity! So, how can we be generous even if we aren’t particularly motivated to be so? They key is to just start “acting” generous because our actions tend to influence how we feel. So, the more we act generous, the more abundant we’ll feel and so forth.
A personal example of this is our family’s practice of doing random acts of kindness. While doing a small favor or purchasing a meal for a stranger is a relatively small act of generosity, it generates such a feeling of abundance that we are inclined to be even more generous with our time, talent and treasure.
Want to Develop an Abundant Mindset?
Could you benefit from a more abundant mindset? If so, know it can be developed through increased awareness and a little practice. Start by noticing how your natural response to life’s little challenges either limits or expands your ability to see the options available to you. If you find yourself feeling stuck by the perceived limitations of your situation, try to flip it around and reframe these “problems” as “opportunities” instead.
If you’d like more information on how I can help you develop a more abundant mindset or any of your other career-related goals, please contact me. You are also welcome to schedule a 30-min consultation call with me to learn how coaching can help you "get out of your own way" so you can realize your full potential.
Jill Lynch Cruz, PhD, PCC, GCDF, SPHR
Executive Coach & Career Development Facilitator