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Meditations on A Mind-set Shift from Scarcity to Abundance

July 11, 2017

‘Plant seeds of happiness, hope and success and love; it will all come back to you in abundance.  This is the law of nature.’ Steve Maraboli, behavioural scientist

‘What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.’ The Buddha

‘We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.’  Mother Teresa


There are several well-respected consciousness-based leadership and organisational development models that all point to a major transformation from one tier or level of consciousness to another: a shift in our attention, in our way-of-being-in-the-world. This is a shift from an essentially ego-centric consciousness rooted in fear, separation, scarcity, power-over and control to a soul-centric consciousness rooted in love, connectedness, abundance, power-with, synchronicity and emergence.

In order to become effective and authentic leaders in our future-fit organisations, we must learn how best to embrace this fundamental shift in consciousness.

The root word of ‘leadership’ is ‘leith’ which means to cross the threshold, to let go of old ways, mind-sets and logic in order to embrace the new. Every one of us has the ability to become leaders in myriad ways: managers and midwives, counsellors and CEOs, activists and administrators, entrepreneurs and engineers – the times we live in ask us to ‘know thy self’ so as to reach beyond an ego-centric self-maximising logic into a way that serves life-affirming futures.

With the right attitude and transformational path ahead of us, we can thrive in these volatile times. It is only our habitual ways of thinking and perceiving that hold us back. As leaders in these transformational times, we can-and-must learn to better provide the soul nourishment, head-space and catalytic sparks to activate this shift towards a more soul-centric mind-set through the relationships we influence.

Core to manifesting a life-affirming way of being in the world is a shift in mind-set from scarcity to abundance.  This shift has been articulated elsewhere (for instance, many of us will recall Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People pointing to the importance of a shift in mind-set from scarcity to abundance, and organisational approaches such as Laloux’s Teal/Evolutionary, Barrett’s full-spectrum consciousness, Scharmer’s ego to eco-consciousness, Torbert’s action logics, and Eisenstein’s approach to inter-being, all explain this essential shift). By example, I have previously explored techniques Embodying Teal for Real and the importance of our self-awareness during our search for soulfulness.

This paper explores how we can best encourage a shift in ourselves from scarcity being/thinking to abundance being/thinking.

I say ‘being/thinking’ because first-and-foremost this shift in scarcity to abundance is a shift in our way of being, a shift in our attentiveness, a shift in our dynamic, in how we open ourselves up internally to more of our authentic humanity within us, and also externally in terms of how we relate to others.

This inner-outer attunement relates with living-systems theory and the concept of ‘supercoherence’ (as explored by the scientist Ervin Laszlo and others).

All living systems – from cells, to our bodies, to our organisations, to Gaia – seek coherence. It is inherent within life. Coherence happens when all the inter-related aspects of a living system (or organisation) are aligned with all the other aspects, acting as an integral and purposeful living system.

There are two aspects to ‘supercoherence’:

Intrinsic coherence – how the parts within the organisation relate with each other;

Extrinsic coherence – how the organisation relates with the external environment e.g. through its generative stakeholder relations and degree of life-affirming purposefulness the organisation exhibits within the wider social and environmental systems it is immersed within.

When the living system (either ourselves as leaders or the organisation as a purposeful community) seeks supercoherence, it is consciously aware of how it interrelates within itself and beyond itself, seeking harmony with life through its conscious intent and quality of attentiveness.

This involves a shift in our being (ontology) which comes hand-in-hand with a shift in our knowing (epistemology) – an epistemological and ontological threshold is crossed within us and within our relations and communities.

Ontological ‘being’ threshold: this is about us becoming more receptive, authentic and open. Through daily practices we can shift our state of being (our ‘beingness’ in the world) from an overly analytical, overly egoic, reactive and defensive mode of attention, to more left/right brain hemispheric integration, along with more head/heart/gut integration, and ego-soul integration, which allows for a more receptive and responsive way of being. It is this that enhances our grace and presence, while encouraging generative dialogue and empowerment within the teams we lead.  This grace and presence informs our abundance, our recognition of the synchronicities and co-creative manifestations that each relationship contributes to.

Epistemological ‘knowing’ threshold: as we open up to more of our natural authenticity, and learn to get out of our reductive heads, we enhance our natural ways of knowing. Carl Jung referred to our natural ways of knowing as our intuitive, our rational, our emotional, and our somatic intelligences. We are born with these intelligences; they are the natural gift of life.  Yet, because of the overly rationalistic managerial logic dominating much of today’s organisations, we have largely suppressed these other ways of knowing. As leaders, we can create the conditions within ourselves, within our teams, and within our daily meeting conventions and decision-making processes to encourage more of these natural ways of knowing to flood into our interactions and relationships making our organisations richer for it.  This enhances our abundance and resilience, improving our ability to thrive in times of volatility.

Our enriched ‘beingness’ and ‘knowingness’ gained from crossing this ontological and epistemological threshold allows us to more readily tend towards supercoherence through our everyday relations and interactions.

The good news is, this is simply (though not necessarily easily) us learning to become who we truly are as human beings in our more-than-human world.

Now, let’s bring this out of the abstract and into the mundanity of the everyday perceptions and constrictions that we each encounter within ourselves and others.

Let’s characterise ‘Scarcity Mentality’ – it is inherent in today’s culture, in and out of work, and we ought not critically judge ourselves or others as we all display scarcity-mentality at times, especially in times of stress and within fast-paced goal-orientated business climes.

One example of scarcity mind-set: envy and jealousy, finding it difficult when someone else is sharing their success or reliving a happy moment. Perhaps someone has just been invited to attend a private party or meeting that we would have liked to have been invited to, or a colleague receiving praise, or sharing something about themselves that invokes a pang of jealousy in us.  This reaction is a natural part of our humanity.

What creates the ‘scarcity mind-set’ is not this reactive pang of jealously, but what we then choose (consciously or unconsciously) to do with this pang – do we let it drive our reaction, or do we become aware of the pang, perhaps make a mental note-to-self (as these pangs inform us about something within ourselves, perhaps some lack of confidence or self-worth, and so the pang can provide useful insight in our journey of ‘knowing thy self’ if we so choose).

Or, we can let the pang take over our attentiveness, our ego-soul dynamic gets hijacked by the pang as we feel a need to either undermine the other, or defend, close-down and retract in some way due to the uncomfortableness of this pang of envy.    The result being, the relationality is in some way undermined and the potential for a co-creative emergence in our conversation or exchange is reduced. The evolutionary dynamic of life is in our hands. In this fraction of a moment we either contribute to a co-creative dynamic of deeper sharing and unfolding exploration, or we reduce that potential due to our ego-reactivity, stifling the exchange and ourselves in the process.

The problem is not out there, but in here.

Yes, we might find ourselves or others too verbose with our/their accomplishments or overly exuberant in our/their successes – and yet these are usually signs of a lack of self-worth or tension inside.  This is not to be judged or criticised.  It is real life, and part of our learning process.

We cannot attempt to rid the world of people saying things (whether egotistic or not) that may or may not invoke jealousy in us.   Yet, we can each endeavour to deepen our being and knowing-in-the-world through enhancing our self-awareness and self-mastery, so that these jealous pangs inform us rather than hijack us.

Another example of scarcity mind-set: short-termism and over-excited intensity (or the reverse, apathy). Overly focusing on the immediacy of getting the job done without taking into account the wider circumspect, the wider holistic inter-relations one is participating in (or the reverse, overly-criticising the situation we are in, blaming others and being a victim, and not proactively engaging at all).

It is interesting to note that many passionate and driven activists working for noble causes, sometimes struggle to come from an abundant love-based level of consciousness, instead they are overly-fuelled by anger, polarisation, us-versus-them blame, and so can often embark on intense activities that actually undermine their own authenticity, presence and grace while also undermining their inter-relations with others.

Paradoxically, while the activist may be seeking a brighter future beyond tyranny, violence and domination, because of the immediacy, reactivity, intensity and short-termism of focus, these activities can violate the person’s integrity and the integrity of those they are attempting to influence.

This is a different dynamic to being fully present in the immediacy of the moment, as presence comes with trust rather than scarcity and lack.  What we are exploring here is a grasping goal orientated short-termism that becomes too narrow-minded.  As we shall explore when we get to the abundance way of being, the presence we cultivate then, is not coming from lack or grasping.  Rather than coming from the place of ego or head-logic that separates and polarises, we come from a deeper more open and trusting place of heart-and-soul. Here, the presencing in the moment opens us up to all that is in that moment, the inter-relationality, the synchronicities, the wider repercussions, and the dynamic is one of service to what is emerging rather than of enslavement to the singularity of the goal.

‘Unlike the egoic operating system, the heart does not perceive through differentiation. It doesn’t divide the field into inside and outside, subject and object. Rather, it perceives by means of harmony…When heart-awareness becomes fully formed within a person, he or she will be operating out of nondual consciousness…where they will discover the resources they need to live in fearlessness, coherence, and compassion – or in other words, as true human beings.’ Cynthia Bourgeault, contemplative and priest.

Many leaders are goal-orientated, and have learnt that being goal-orientated enables us to get the job done. Yet, when we become overly goal orientated we can focus too much on the end point and not enough on the unfolding journey in our midst. Rather than being open and responsive, we may become too acquisitive, exploitative and grasping in our tenacity. This reduces our generosity, our reciprocity, therefore undermining our abundance-dynamic.

Sometimes, we can get overly excited too (or the reverse, overly deflated) and become too dominant in the thrust of our relations with others, perhaps not providing adequate space for pause, to really listen to the other, to sense into what is being shared beyond the spoken word.  This again is an interesting threshold to notice in ourselves as when we are in flow we may become energised and exuberant. And yet we need to be aware of overly pushing (or the reverse, overly abandoning) as again this can move us away from an abundance-dynamic and into scarcity if through our exuberance or rushing we do not provide adequate space for the other to open up and share, and for ourselves to pause, rejuvenate, and find flow within ourselves once again. We see scarcity in the impatient moment rather than perceiving the abundance of opening up into the unfolding spaciousness of the moment.  This scarcity dynamic undermines the potential for co-creativity, it may grab a quick-win, but the deeper co-creativity is undermined in the rush to hurried conclusions.

‘From our immersion in scarcity arise the habits of scarcity. From the scarcity of time arises the habit of hurrying. From the scarcity of money comes the habit of greed. From the scarcity of attention comes the habit of showing off. From the scarcity of meaningful labour comes the habit of laziness. From the scarcity of unconditional acceptance comes the habit of manipulation.’ Charles Eisenstein, sacred activist

Another aspect of scarcity mind-set is not being able to let-go of control.  This is rampant amongst our business leaders today and I empathise with the challenge of learning to let-go of control especially when there are so many pressures put upon us to perform, to manage, to achieve on pre-defined outcomes, results and deadlines.  When I led a consulting practice in a high-pressured environment I regularly found myself challenged by the ability to let-go – and still do now as a father of two young children.

And yet, until we can start to let-go of the desire to grasp, to control the outcome, we are bound by the scarcity mind-set.  To be clear, letting-go of control does not mean letting go of responsibility or caring. No. It is a transformation in our desire to ‘control’ into a desire to create a nurturing and authentic environment for others to do the work in the way they would like to, and to be able to find their flow through their own soulfulness without being overly cramped by our watchful eye.

This ‘letting go’ is not just a relational dynamic with others, first-and-foremost it is a relational dynamic within our own selves. If we are successful in business, we have most likely learnt to be goal-orientated, to drive things through with a relentless focus and energy, and yet we also need to balance this with an opening up to the emergence of what unfolds all about and within us, otherwise we close ourselves off to the potential field of possibilities.

Hence, this letting-go is a shift of our internal dynamic, a shift that comes with trust, a knowing trustfulness in the unfolding emergence of the situation before us.  This is a subtle shift from a fear-based pushing, grasping, reacting attention to a love-based, receptive, responsive attentiveness.  Again, self-awareness and self-mastery are key here. And when challenges inevitably come our way they act as crucibles for us to sense the tensions within ourselves so that we can learn to move beyond ego-reactivity into a soul-responsiveness.  Easier said than done especially amid time-pressured fast-paced situations, and yet this is the essential ground from which we create more regenerative life-affirming cultures able to adapt and evolve amid unfolding emergence.

Another aspect of scarcity mind-set is struggling to see beyond win-lose relationships where we perceive gains come at the expense of something else. We seek first-and-foremost what we can gain or get for ourselves from a relationship or undertaking, the what’s-in-it-for-me mind-set.

This dynamic, while on-the-one-hand is understandable as it helps us filter through all the requests and activities that press-upon us in a busy business environment, on the other hand, can erode the potential of what could have emerged from a relationship if it had been approached in a way that looks beyond personal gain and looks into how can we might serve, might open up beyond our small-self-view.  This service does not need to be open-ended, but related to our purpose in life, our desire to contribute to and serve life in some purposeful way. Then relationships are seen through a win-win lens or even a win-win-win where not just both parties learn and develop from the authenticity of the interaction, but the wider environment (business, society, world) is enhanced due to our deeper sharing and opening up. A co-creative venture between us means that something beyond ourselves is created that is a purposeful contribution to the organisation and wider world.

The Power of Pausing

The essence of being able to shift beyond the scarcity mind-set is in our ability to pause, to become self-aware of how we are feeling, and cultivating our presence as situations unfold.  Then we are able to subtly shift from reactivity, where we may seek to defend or judge, be on-guard or overly grasp, towards a more receptive and responsive way-of-attending to the unfolding situation.

‘When those anxious, self-protecting

Imaginations leave, the real,

Cooperative work begins’   Rumi, mystic

Now we have explored the ego-traps of the scarcity mind-set, let’s explore what an abundance way-of-being feels like.

This abundance dynamic is a way of being that flows from a coherence, presence and authenticity within us – a soulfulness beyond ego-entrapment.  This way of being is open, vulnerable, receptive,  co-creative. It feels like flow.

It is regenerative in that this way of being not only enhances our well-being but allows for others to enhance their well-being if they are able to open up and embrace the abundance-dynamic we exude.

Receptive openness is an intimacy and vulnerability of our heartfelt openness to what is, where we relax into the unfolding moment, and fully unfurl to the wonder of reality.

‘The true ground of all being is the infinite, intangible, spirit that infuses all living beings.’  David Bohm, physicist

This is a radical attentiveness whereupon our receptive openness allows for wise responsiveness. We are able to observe our ego-desire to react, control, grasp, postulate, cover-up, overly-project and we go through this superficial reactivity into a deeper presence beyond, into the ground-of-all-being within and all around us, a spontaneous aliveness, a radical receptivity of openness.

‘This divine ground is within and all around us. We need to create a sanctuary within ourselves to listen to its guidance.’  Anne Baring, psychologist

This requires the patience to learn, learn and learn, to be dedicated to self-reflect daily practices, to trust the flow of life, and have humility.

We may start to allow ourselves to melt into the intimacy of the moment.

As Rumi poetically noted:

‘Be melting snow,

Wash yourself of yourself’

This is the mystical wisdom of crucifixion and resurrection, the primordial death and rebirth any quest calls of us.  Where we know ourselves, sense into our selves, notice ourselves, so that we can be open beyond ourselves, beyond our constrictions which crowd and confine the moment.

As we unclutter our attentiveness, a visceral expansiveness may be felt within us as we open up to our souls, and to the wisdom and grace of Nature, right here right now: the gift of life before our very noses.

Small steps taken from a soulful place requires us to be open to these intuitive perturbations and synchronistic signs.  Hence, the ego can get in the way here unless it has been adequately tamed, as the ego can overly dominate our daily consciousness with desires to control, to keep us safe and secure, to keep us on the straight-and-narrow of the status quo, and to overly-grasp while ignoring the guidance and learning being revealed to us amid a challenging tension.

With vulnerability, humility and courage, we step into the emergence while letting go of ego-control.

The path that our cultural upbringing sees as safe, which is usually the one that benefits our ego through status and material security, is different than the one that enhances our ability to be of service to the world – this soul-path, the true path of happiness-and-humanity, demands a different  mind-set, a different way-of-being in the world, a shift from scarcity to abundance.

This is a real challenge for us, as walking a different path than what our dominant ego-centric culture portrays for us challenges acculturated norms and status measures.  Along our soul-path, success is no longer what we achieve ‘out there’ in a material-wealth sense, but how we relate in-and-through the moment, step-by-step we succeed on a path of psycho-spiritual well-being. Our inner being enriches our outer doing. It is the courage to walk that different path that creates brighter futures for ourselves, our families, our communities and our more-than-human kinship.  Our very evolution depends on this journey beyond ego-centric acculturation.

To summarise, abundance mind-set is a way-of-being-in-the-world. It’s a way of relating to ourselves, those around us and our wider world.

If we focus too much on what we don’t have, what we perceive as lacking in our current situation, we may seek to grasp for material goals and to ‘pursue happiness’ by seeking out what we can gain or get from others. Our relationships become exploitative and we start to become envious, judgemental and greedy. We create a scarcity mind-set within ourselves that undermines our presence, our being-in-the-world. It unsettles our ability to open up receptively and responsively to what is emerging in our midst (whether it be challenging and testing or comfortable and easy). We find that our ‘centre of gravity’ tends towards reactivity, judgement, criticism and a desire for certainty through control. This undermines our ability to flow with the grace and synchronicities of life. We exacerbate our ego-tendencies which then self-fuel anxiety, separateness, defensiveness, impatience, lusting, controlling – enter the contagion of consumerism in our midst.  It is this scarcity mind-set that is at the heart of our problems in our largely meaningless socio-economic systems and stressful workplaces.

Instead, if we encourage ourselves to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, to be grateful for what we have got, for what each unfolding situation can offer us in terms of learning, growth and the opportunity to be present, authentic and reach out more deeply to the other through a discerning acceptance of what is unfolding in our midst, then we shift our centre of gravity.  We shift our being-in-the-world towards deeper fulfillment, a sense of purpose rooted in service to life, and a deepening in courage, curiosity and compassion.  We transform our path in the world.

Letting-go of control while learning to be more receptive creates space in our attentiveness for something deeper to come through us beyond the superficial ego-drama. It is here that we may begin to learn to cultivate a more soulful dynamic which is more authentically who we are.

We start to learn more from the unfolding situations during our day-to-day busyness, we become more self-aware, and there is more opportunity for us to learn and develop. As leaders, we are encouraging those around us to open up and grow more through our conversations, meetings and decision-making processes.

The relationships of our day-to-day are the life-blood for ourselves and others to become more present, more soulful, more curious, creative and wise.

Through our attentiveness we create the conditions conducive for life to flourish within and all about us – we are ‘life affirming’, and happiness ensues from this.  We are no longer in the ‘pursuit of happiness’, it naturally comes from within us and through our relationships as we learn to become more human in our more-than-human world.  We allow the light within us to shine more brightly into the world, and it is this that brings happiness to ourselves and others.

‘When the light within the heart is awakened, we begin to experience a whole different world.’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher

The more we practice and the more self-aware we become, the more we shift our centre of gravity. It starts to become more noticeable to ourselves when we are off-centre and we are more able to take on-board the learning from such situations.  We contribute to creating our own resilience; we take responsibility for ourselves and our environment.  We begin to take small yet vulnerable and courageous steps along the path of love beyond fear.

‘Each morning we are born again.  What we do today matters most.’ The Buddha


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and for Giles Hutchins’ personal website




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