Billions of people dream of a life like yours.
As you read this article, you’re among a very small percentage of the people on Earth who are privileged to have disposable income, reliable electricity, 24×7 Internet connectivity, and an exhaustive range of choices. You know the joy of indulging at Sunday brunch. The glee of buying a new pair of Jimmy Choos. And you revel in the cool apps on your new smart phone!
Yet if we dig beneath the surface of all these ‘blessings,’ we see one third of our food going to waste, 30% of us are overweight, and we have so much stuff that the self-storage industry has grown 65% over the last 12 years just to hold all the stuff we’re not using!
How did success come to be equated with a culture of more-and-more?
This cultural inertia can be blamed to a great extent on the nature of advertising. Brands employ scarcity messaging across increasingly diverse and omnipresent media. Advertising methodologies focus our attention on the ‘lack’ in our life, instead of the abundance. The result is a growing dominance of the scarcity mindset—a perspective that fosters interpersonal competition and selfishness—neither of which implies connection or community-building.
But marketers can’t be blamed for all of this; we also need to look in the mirror! Most of us assume a linear relationship between consumption and happiness: ‘The more we have, the happier we’ll be.’ Yet, often cited research from the likes of John F. Helliwell, a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, indicates that happiness levels peak at an income level of $10,000 per year in the US. More isn’t necessarily better.
That’s because wealth and material goods are only a small part of the universe of influences that define our experience as humans, and our lives in communities. There’s more to life than the accumulation of things.
Worse still, there are always losers in the game of consumption. Abundance-for-one (more possessions, more options) and abundance-for-many (respect for commons, sustainable availability of resources for the marginalised and future generations) don’t go hand-in-hand. Some lose their homes and culture while others profit from the impacts of sorrow. Indeed, through our quest for abundance, we are driving globalised market forces and the vicious circle that goes with it. We are losing biodiversity and arable soil and degrading other ecosystem services at alarming rates. These are the impacts of what Pope Francis has called the ‘culture of waste.’
It’s time to reset our perspective: An Abundance Mindset
Abundance is not about wealth or prosperity. The abundant life is a philosophy—a mindset. It’s not about having, but about appreciating—and about giving. As Anthony Robbins, life coach and self-help author opines, “When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
There’s a fundamental difference between the two mindsets. The scarcity mindset directs us on a quest to fill the ‘lacks’ in our lives through the accumulation of ‘stuff.’ The ‘abundance mindset’ directs us toward contentment and sharing. The scarcity mindset narrows down our consciousness to things we want to buy. The abundance mindset opens our consciousness to things beyond transactions—experiences, relationships and community.
Abundance is not about wealth or prosperity. The abundant life is a mindset, a frame, a philosophy. It is not about having, but about appreciating and giving.
If we can look beneath our wants for things, and look more deeply at what it is that makes us truly content, we can see the many reasons we are already happy. If we can shift the central frame of our consciousness from ‘my consumption’ to ‘our experience,’ expanding our considerations to the people and the world around us, we can experience abundance of many different hues.
We can see an abundance of kindness in the world: More people are donating, volunteering and helping strangers than ever before. Let’s celebrate kindness and generosity.
We can see an abundance of innovative solutions and ideas that have the potential to change the world for the better. Let’s celebrate ideas that solve problems, not create new ones.
We can see an abundance of social diversity—in people and in their spirits. Let’s celebrate what unites us, and also what makes us different.
We can see astonishing abundance in biodiversity. Let’s value the natural environment in all its majesty, for it is ultimately what sustains us.
And we can see an abundance of optimism. Seventy percent of adults globally are reporting a lot of positive emotion: enjoyment, laughter and respect. Let’s celebrate our successes, our vitality, and our shared experiences.
As we enter the festive season, when so many of us around the world celebrate together, let’s awaken our consciousness and celebrate the kind of abundance that really matters–generosity, community, and connection.