|The Jardin Lecocq, in Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne (France).|
According to the happiness MOOC I just completed (A life of happiness and fulfilment on Coursera), there are roughly two ways to approach life: with a feeling of scarcity, or with a feeling of abundance. Cultivating a feeling of abundance (of love, opportunities, blessings…) makes people happier in many ways. But what’s that?
Scarcity vs AbundanceA feeling of scarcity means that you think resources are finite, and you need more in order to be happy or satisfied. This comes in the form of material wants of course (“I’ll be a way more organized student/freelancer once I have this great Oakwood desk”), but also in terms of love we give and receive, opportunities or feeling of luck…
For example, jealousy comes from a feeling of scarcity. Say you are jealous of your parents’ love for your siblings. That stems from the idea that the love “pie” your parents have is limited and if they give a slice to your siblings, it’s one slice you don’t get for yourself.
On the other hand, a feeling of abundance is when you think there are plenty of resources on earth, that your life is already blessed with enough, or even more than enough, and that there is enough for yourself and everybody else. In terms of material items, it would mean feeling grateful for the comfort we live in and stop waiting for the perfect chair or cardigan to start living fully.
In terms of love, it would mean you recognize there is enough love for everybody, and the resource multiplies itself. There isn’t only one “pie” of parental love to share among siblings. If your parents give a slice of love to your siblings, they will produce a new slice for you. Can you see how jealousy can’t emerge from this line of thinking? Even without going into the details of research that has been done on the subject, it is easy to see how one is happier when they feel they’ve got everything they need, versus one that runs after always more.
A society of scarcityHowever, one of the problems we are facing today is that we live in a society that cultivates the feeling of scarcity. Of course, most of us do not live in an environment of actual scarcity. I am assuming that if you are reading these words, you are among those who are well off on this planet.
And most of us are well off: we have enough to eat, a roof to live under, clothes on our backs, most of us have a loving family and/or friends, we live in a safe country with many opportunities… So how does society cultivate a feeling of scarcity in such a situation? I have already written on the topic with Serge Latouche concept of fausse abondance (fake or false abundance).
Basically, the idea is that despite having everything we need, most of us feel like we are lacking – of the newest gadget or outfit, of a better paycheck… The way our current growth economy is built, we need to buy things in order for society to prosper, as buying items provides income and profit for companies who in turn employ people to make those items, etc.
Of course, the system is much more complicated than that, but the bottom line is: for our economy to thrive, we need to be good consumers. And how else will you make someone buy your products, if not by telling them they lack of it in their life and therefore should buy it? Ads make us think we live a life of scarcity so that we end up buying more things. And of course, they play on emotions, on our innermost needs (for love, family…) for that. I suggest you to watch this School of Life video for more details on that concept. It’s very clearly explained.
The result of that is, our environment tends to feed our feeling of scarcity in general (not only for material items) and we build wishlists and dream lives and perfect careers in our minds. Often we tend to forget how much abundance we already live in.
Cultivating a feeling of abundanceThankfully, we don’t have to keep following the consumerist spirit and feed our feeling of scarcity. Many happiness studies show that instilling a few simple habits help cultivate a feeling of abundance in our lives.
Here are a few ideas:
- Write 2-3 good things that happened to you today before going to bed (gratitude journal)
- Learn to practice gratitude with the people around you: thank them for the help, support and love they provide you
- Some religious rituals also help – like thanking for the meal before eating. This is something that you can do in a non-religious way too – for example thanking the farmers who grew the vegetables.
More generally, remembering on a daily basis how many people helps bringing what we have around us: the company who provides electricity, the craftspeople who designed and built our everyday objects, the scientists who discovered the technologies we now use daily…
It is a way to remember that we are a part of a whole, that the comfort, love and support we enjoy is made possible by hundreds, thousands of people around us. You can also watch David Steindl-Rast explain how and why gratitude significantly improves happiness on TED.
I hope this simple concept, made very clear to me thanks to the happiness MOOC, brings some positive ideas to your life as well. If you are interested in some of those habits, practices and exercises to improve that feeling of abundance, please let me know and I can turn some of these into a Level Up mini-challenge!