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The Scarcity Experiment

[Listen to me read this reflection here]

There is a scene from the movie The Iron Lady, the story of British Prime Minister Magaret Thatcher, that has stuck with me now for over a decade. Thatcher, now in her old age and retired from public life, walks into her doctor's office. The doctor innocently asks her, 'how do you feel?'. She turns to look out of the window, and begins her brief, but powerful and memorable, monologue...

Watch your thoughts for they become words

Watch your words for they become actions

Watch your actions for they become habits

Watch your habits for they become your character

And watch your character for it becomes your destiny

What we think, we become

And I think I feel fine

I love the reminder hidden in this poetic monologue to pay attention to what I think.

This is why mindfulness practices really have spoken to me over the past decade. Not necessarily as a tool to calm down and relax, but rather as a tool to become more aware of my thinking. My thinking becomes my life and my experience of it.

We currently live in a culture of abundance.

Capitalism encourages abundant consumption, especially at this time of the year. Corporate life has become increasingly abundant in privileges and perks for the professional class. Even mindfulness circles and self-help books promote an abundance mindset.

Abundance is abundant.

This is clear everywhere around me, and even within me. When I observe for a moment my daily lifestyle, an abundance mindset guides my choices, without a doubt.

Earlier this week, during my morning journaling, an experiment idea arose. I often find these intellectually pleasurable, and allow myself to explore these in my mind freely, without constraint.

The experiment is to adopt a scarcity mindset in 2023.

The purpose of this experiment is to see what I might learn and what might change inside of me, by challenging the current norm of abundance.

The construct of the scarcity experiment would be to artificially constrain my choices. For example, what if in 2023, I decided that I could…

Take only 1 trip all year?

Watch Netflix only 3 times all year?

Read only 3 books all year?

Invest in only 5 stocks all year?

Have only 10 people at my birthday?

Eat at a restaurant only 10 times all year?

Order Uber eats or Amazon only 5 times all year?

Eat popcorn only 3 times all year?

You get the point. The intention is to add constraints that challenge my unconscious choices and habits. Once I get over my immediate anxious dismissal of this experiment idea, and ask myself what might change, I begin to uncover a few things.

First, I would have to be a lot more discerning and selective with how I spend my time, money & attention. To do this, I would need to really know myself, and what it is that I truly desire or need. Inspiring in thought, scary in practice.

I would better appreciate the need to make trade-offs. And equally important, learn the skill of how to make trade-offs. Instead of my current default of, 'I want it all'. This default is a way to avoid having to be honest with myself about what it is that I really desire or need.

I would learn a lot about acceptance. I would learn how to let go of feelings of FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out), and embrace JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out).

And most of all, I think I would be happier with the choices I was making, because there would be a lot more intention up front, a lot more presence during, and a lot more gratitude afterwards. Intention, presence and gratitude are helpful ingredients for happiness, and they all can be grown from scarcity.

Now despite its many potential benefits, I do not believe that I will actually do this scarcity experiment, with hard and fast rules that are self-imposed.

I am inspired though to sprinkle some scarcity into more of my life in 2023, despite the initial discomfort and resistance that I feel. That is usually a sign that there is some growth ahead waiting for me.

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