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How to break the scarcity mindset...and thrive

Just over a year ago, my husband David and I set our goals for our year of savings: $10,000 for each of our retirement accounts and $10,000 for a month-long international vacation. They were aggressive, difficult goals, particularly given that we were already working on building a business to support both of us.

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In December, when you're inspired and motivated, your New Year's resolutions seem reachable and exciting. A few weeks later, deep in the new year, the lofty goals seem harder. And, as winter turns colder and darker, they move further and further away, and we question if they were ever ours.

Struggling to meet our goals last year, we realized that, when our goals seem too ambitious, and it's hardest to continue, that's when we must commit to bettering ourselves. Here's what we did.

Have faith

On David's last day working a full-time job, we lost two sizable contracts. We had other sources of income, but those contracts had given us the courage to finally take the leap. With them gone, the urge for David to go back and beg for his job was huge.

We held strong and everything eventually worked out. When we found ourselves losing faith, two ideas helped us. The first was an outgrowth of a quote from Norman Vincent Peale: “When you constantly, consistently think in terms of lack, you thereby create a condition of lack." The opposite, we decided, must also be true: when you constantly, consistently think in terms of possibility, you create a condition of possibility. With our business slowly growing, possibilities were just what we needed!

The second idea that struck us was that everything starts as a thought, and if we believe in that thought enough, then we can achieve it. The challenge was keeping our beliefs strong and our subconscious doubts at bay.

Adopt mind-nurturing behaviors

Our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings create our actions, and our actions create our results. Following that logic, negative thoughts can prevent us from reaching our biggest goals. To maintain our faith and eliminate negative thoughts of lack and scarcity, we committed to a handful of daily practices to help us keep our eyes on our goal. Each morning, we:

  1. Mediated for ten minutes.
  2. Shared our three deepest feelings to curb negative thinking and ensure our thoughts are aligned with positive actions.
  3. Separated and recited aloud our individual affirmations.
  4. Read for 30 minutes.
  5. Listened to motivational podcasts during our morning exercise.

Before bed, each of us would write down five good things about the day in our journals, which we then shared with each other.

Pay ahead

Positive thinking isn't the only thing that's helped us overcome scarcity: we've also taken some practical steps. First, we decided to start paying our rent in advance.

That alleviated a lot of stress, particularly when we were traveling. It also functioned as a form of emergency savings—if we missed or were late on a bill, our advance payments gave us a comfortable cushion. Most of all, it helped with our mindset: paying our rent—and other bills—early calmed us down, eliminated financial stress, and helped us move away from a sense of scarcity.

Maximize and increase your income streams

One of the most obvious ways to make more money is to work longer hours. When we were paying down debt, we used to work overtime at our jobs. Now, as small business owners, we have learned to be okay with long hours, accept more work than we may initially feel capable of doing, and constantly look for ways to diversify our income streams.

Working overtime or building a heavy workload isn't always possible, but the gig economy means that, regardless of your situation, there are more ways than ever to earn extra money. Websites like TaskRabbit and Fiverr make it easy to find jobs that can be done outside of work, while sites like Etsy can help you turn your hobby or passion into a part-time business. And, if all else fails, part-time jobs in retail, service and other sectors are options.

Minimize your cash outflow

David and I used to habitually overspend, which increased our debt and anxiety, and exacerbated our scarcity thinking. To combat this trend, we gave some serious thought to what we wanted in life. Eventually, we identified three goals: we wanted a secure retirement, increase travel and create opportunities to give back to our community.

Once we knew what we wanted, the next step was aligning our spending with our values. We saved for the things we wanted and scrimped on the things that were less important. For example, we've owned the same car for 12 years and haven't had a car payment in eight. We bought a condo 11 years ago that was one and a half times our household income—not three, five or even ten—like our peers. We don't have children or many of the common expenses many people have.

Our determination to only pay for things we really value has kept our expenses down—and our focus on the things that matter to us. We've discovered that we, like many people, have to fight against limiting beliefs and the scarcity mindset. Unloading scarcity thinking has been hard, but the less scarcity we feel the more we seem to thrive—both in our year of savings and into the future.

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