Is the gas tank half full or half empty?


Originally posted in May 2013, “Scarcity Culture” has become one of the most popular of my web posts.

Have you heard the phrase “scarcity culture”? It seems to be big right now – something that’s regularly popping up on blogs and my Twitter feed. As I understand it, our living in a scarcity culture means that we’re always focused on what we lack rather than on what we have.

It’s ironic, right? We Americans who have so very, very much are completely focused on what we’re missing. I think we’re all guilty of this, though maybe to greater or lesser degrees. I know I can be quick to complain that I just don’t have enough time when I’m asked to do another volunteer job or pick up a snack for Youth Group at church when I’ve already done the weekly shopping. Could I have done it in the thirty minutes I spent noodling on Twitter? Sure, I could. But I didn’t.

But that’s not really the point I want to make about this idea of scarcity, otherwise I’ll be writing yet another article about how to budget your time wisely. You can Google time management if you’re looking for advice about that. I can tell you; there’s a lot out there on that particular subject.

No, my thoughts on living in a scarcity culture when the reality for so many of us is luxury have little to do with fixing problems that might lead to scarcity thinking – problems like time management or money management or stuff management. My thoughts have much more to do with changing how we’re thinking about our lives and what’s happening in them. As I’ve considered what I’ve read about scarcity culture, I’ve realized that it’s really a kind of pessimism. It’s an eagerness to see the glass half empty rather than half full.

Though I succumb to scarcity thinking some of the time, I’m naturally an optimist. It’s a family trait, passed down from my dad’s family. I once overheard a conversation between the in-laws at a family reunion. They were discussing how annoying it could be that this family was so darned cheerful and optimistic all the time, so unrealistic! And yet, there’s much to be said for counting one’s blessings.

May is my birthday month. As I embark upon this newest year of my life, I’m making a resolution. In this culture of scarcity I’m going to redouble my efforts to notice the incredible amount of luxury we have. For the next year I’m going to try to notice the things that I have more often than I notice the things that I lack. It’s easy to try to do six fun things on one weekend and fail because there really, truly isn’t enough time. It’s harder, but oh so much more rewarding, to do one fun thing in a weekend – to be really present, to enjoy every second. That’s my goal, to focus on that one fun thing, and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll have time to give the bathroom that really good scrubbing it’s been needing. And maybe, when I’m finished with that, I’ll feel good about that, too.

2 thoughts on “Scarcity Culture

  1. I think I must have missed this post the first time around, Sarah. Such a wonderful outlook you’ve inherited! I, too, have been working on becoming more mindful and appreciative this year, though I admit to having a long way to go. (Ack! There’s that darn half-empty glass again!) Will I ever “get there”? Probably not, but that’s not really the point, is it?

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