This is not an easy time to be optimistic. Back in March and April—when most people had only started to grasp the magnitude of the pandemic—there was still a sliver of hope that things might get back to normal by the summer. But as we’re nearing the end of the season with no end in sight for COVID-19, it feels more appropriate to operate in survival mode and figure out how we’ll get through the next few months. As tempting as it is to lean into the feeling that the future will be grim, we might be better off adopting an abundance mindset. Here’s what that is, and how it could help improve your thinking.
What is an abundance mindset?
For those of us without financial stability, it can be difficult to even imagine what life would be like without the constant stress and anxiety caused by money (or really, a lack thereof). If this sounds familiar, you may have a scarcity mindset, in which it feels like no matter what you do or how hard you work, you’ll never have enough, and money will always be something to worry about. An abundance mindset is the opposite of that: it’s all about focusing on what we do have and allowing us to see possibilities rather than limits.
How an abundance mindset can help
Back when Andrew Yang was running for the Democratic nomination for president, one of his major proposals was providing Americans with a universal basic income of $1,000 each month. One of his arguments was that doing so could actually make people smarter, or at least help us think better.
Yang pointed to a 2013 study out of Princeton University, in which a group of farmers were given IQ tests before and after a harvest. The farmers who were not worried about money saw a 13-point increase in their IQ, leading researchers to hypothesize that poverty reduces the brain power needed to navigate other aspects of our lives. (Here’s how we feel about IQ tests, but that’s a different story.)
Anyway, Yang used this to illustrate that while a scarcity mindset can create stress about what we don’t have, an abundance mindset allows our brains to focus our attention and energy elsewhere.
How to adopt an abundance mindset
There’s already a lot out there on how to do this, though some of it comes from sketchy self-help “gurus” and people peddling multi-level marketing schemes, so if you want to learn more about it, maybe skip those sources. Instead, these five strategies from career coach Carol Castrillon are a good place to start:
Focus on what you do have.
Surround yourself with other people who have an abundance mindset.
Create win-win situations.
Incorporate gratitude into your daily life.
Train your mind to recognize possibilities.
Like anything else, changing your mindset takes time and patience—not to mention the fact that trying to think this way when you do genuinely worry about money on a daily basis can be incredibly challenging and frustrating. But, according to Yang and Castrillon, reframing how you think about the stressors in your life can free up mental space you can then fill with things like happiness, productivity and more effective decision-making.