Rethinking Retirement  

The Scarcity Mindset


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.

Avarice is not only one of the "seven deadly sins," it is also one of the consequences of the mindset of "scarcity." Avarice is defined as "too much desire to get and keep money; greed for riches."
Certainly, acquiring and keeping money alone in no way guarantees a fulfilling life, and excessive amounts of money more often become an obstacle to it.

In her book, The Soul of Money, Lynn Twist writes: " my fund-raising work with the very wealthy taught me that, surprisingly, wealth is no protection from human suffering. ...People with excess wealth ---not all of them, but many --- struggle in lives disconnected from the qualities of the soul. They live trapped in a prison of privilege in which material comforts are plentiful, but spiritual and emotional deprivation are real and painful. ...For some, wealth only serves as a weapon that expands their capacity to do harm." Consider the CEO's of WorldCom and Enron.

The roots of avarice run deep into our cultural consciousness. It does not matter if we are rich or poor, if we have the mindset of scarcity, then we begin to function from a chronic sense of insufficiency and inadequacy about life. Scarcity becomes our basic assumption through which we think, act and live in the world. Again, Twist writes: "[Scarcity] becomes the lens through which we experience life. Through that lens our expectations, our behavior, and their consequences become a self-fulfilling prophecy of inadequacy, lack, and dissatisfaction."

Avarice is one's fear-driven response to the mindset of scarcity.
Greed becomes the primary driving force in our lives. Greed becomes that force that shatters our wholeness (integrity), distances us from our own core values, traps us in a cage of chronic dissatisfaction, and diminishes our highest commitments. Is it any wonder that avarice is a "deadly sin?"

What is one of the antidotes for avarice? Compassion for the welfare of others! Stop believing the profit-driven commercial messages that permeate our culture. Start believing in compassionate capitalism. Compassionate capitalism? Even the 18th Century philosophical father of capitalism, Adam Smith, argued that the benefits of the "free market" should not serve only the individual, but the society as a whole. In his book, Business and the Buddha:
Doing Well by Doing Good, Lloyd Field writes that "Smith presented this moral philosophy: 'The average man and woman, along with the society in which they lived, should be the primary beneficiaries of a wealthy nation.'"

Too much desire to get and keep money is diminished when we replace the mindset of scarcity with one of "sufficiency." When our entrepreneurial and business success is based on monetary sufficiency rather than the endless acquisition of profit, then the foundation is formed for a just and sustainable society. A socially responsible enterprise focuses not on making a profit, but on having a decent and healthy relationship with the employees, the environment, the community and the "common good" of the society.

If we are not dying, then it is reasonable to assume that our personal resources are sufficient. When we, as individuals, begin to let go of the fear of not having enough, then our lives are open to receive and appreciate what resources we already have. When we let go of fear, we lose the desire for the transient relief and comforts that money can buy, and focus our energies on following that still small voice within that says "happiness and contentment are found elsewhere than the pursuit of more and more money." Replace avarice with compassion and you begin to truly live a fulfilled life.

Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and Licensed Psychologist. He is available for personal life coaching and can be contacted at (970) 568-0173 or E-mail: or

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