How to appreciate abundance in a world of limited resources
How we can talk about creating abundance when it seems we live in a world of scarce resources? Arenít these in conflict? Isnít an abundance mindset just an exercise in self-delusion?
Certain resources on earth are in limited supply and are being depleted quickly. Perhaps the #1 example of this is oil. Oil is being pumped out of the ground faster than it can be replenished by the earth.
It takes energy to pump the oil out of the ground, and not all of the oil can be retrieved in an energy efficient manner. It doesnít make sense to spend 100 units of energy in order to extract only 90 units.
The easy-to-get oil is already scarce, and companies are going after the harder-to-get oil at much greater risk and expense. Itís easier to pump oil out of the ground than it is to build offshore oil rigs and pump it up through the ocean floor. There would be no rational justification for engaging in costly offshore oil drilling if land-based oil supplies were abundant. The very existence of offshore oil drilling is a clear signal that oil is becoming scarcer. Even oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia are engaged in offshore drilling, which is a tacit acknowledgement that theyíre running out of oil.
Itís only a matter of time before this resource runs out. As it becomes increasingly scarce, shortages will occur, and oil prices will surge. Industries that depend heavily on oil will have to cut back. Arenít we already seeing this happen?
At present thereís no resource that can substitute for oilís versatility or its integration into modern society. Oil is used to run farming equipment and transport food. Itís used in plastics ó your home is probably filled with petroleum-based products. Even the tires on your car are made with oil, about 7 gallons per tire. Itís not a resource that can be easily replaced. As oil runs out, some lifestyle changes are inevitable.
Thereís no need to deny that certain resources are scarce. Scarce resources are part of the story of earth.
If life is a dream, then what sense does it make for there to be scarce resources? Canít you just think your way into limitless abundance?
Limits and constraints make for interesting story. If there are no constraints, thereís no story. Life in a constraint-free world would be incredibly boring.
Abundance isnít the same thing as limitlessness. If you lived in a truly limitless world, would you feel a sense of abundance? More likely youíd suffer from gluttony, boredom, and laziness. It would be a disappointing and uninspiring dream to endure.
This may appear unintuitive at first glance, but abundance requires scarcity.
Abundance and scarcity are equally valuable teachers. They both teach us gratitude, but in different ways.
When thereís a constant presence in your life, youíll tend to take it for granted. Youíll come to expect that it will always be there. But when you have to do without for a while, it gives you the opportunity to appreciate what you have even more.
Itís the shifting between phases of abundance and scarcity that teaches us what we value most.
I take time every day to appreciate the good things in my life, partly because Iíve had the experience of not having them. I know these experiences are temporary.
Iím grateful for the freedom I enjoy because at one point I was in an 8'x10' jail cell, feeling what it felt like not to have that freedom.
Iím grateful for the money that flows through my life because I was broke for many years, went bankrupt, and got kicked out of my apartment because I couldnít pay the rent.
Iím grateful for the friends I have because I know what itís like to feel alone and friendless.
Iím grateful for the health I enjoy because I know what itís like to be sick.
When I use the Internet, I feel grateful for how amazing it is and how it lets me connect with people all over the world. I remember what it was like when I didnít have access to this amazing wonder.
In two days Iím traveling to Bamenda to visit my Jane. We havenít seen each other in a month and a half. Being apart for so long makes it hard to take each other for granted. It helps us appreciate each other much more. Iím very grateful that sheís in my life.
However, when thereís a glut of abundance, Iím more likely to take things for granted. Thatís when scarcity may become the more valuable teacher.
When Iíve spent a few weeks with Jane, for instance, I may not feel as appreciative of her on Day 20 as I did on Day 1. But after saying goodbye to her at the airport and then experiencing a few days alone, I become more acutely aware of just how much I appreciate her, and I look forward to seeing her again.
Itís the contrast between abundance and scarcity that helps raise our awareness of what we value most.
The abundance mindset isnít about acquiring and securing more stuff. Itís about appreciating life fully and feeling grateful for what life is teaching you.
Gratitude for the Story
Can you actually feel grateful for the scarcity you experience because itís teaching you new truths about yourself?
When I was deep in debt, knowing I was going to have to declare bankruptcy, I felt I had nothing more to lose financially, so I decided to stop feeding so much of my power to that part of my life. Iíd been telling myself I couldnít have a good life if the my financial life was broken. So I gave myself permission to feel good about the other parts of my life and not let the lack of money drag me down so much. After all, it was just a number. Why was I giving it so much power over me?
I started paying attention to what I did have, and I learned to appreciate it more deeply. I appreciated the food I was able to eat. I appreciated that I somehow still had a roof over my head. I appreciated the weather. I appreciated the ocean, the beach, and the sunrise.
I appreciate that I could breathe. I appreciated running and meditation. I appreciated my relationships. I appreciated my health.
It was in late 1998 and early 1999 that I began to do that. And 1998 was the last year I felt to be a scarce one (and perhaps the first half of 1999). After that I always seemed to have plenty. Even the money situation turned around within a year. That was my first financially positive year after 6 years as an entrepreneur. I experienced 12 more good years in a row after that.
Iím glad these events were part of my story. If I had achieved lots of good things earlier in life, I donít think Iíd appreciate them as much as I do now. Despite having a lot of good stuff in my life these days, I donít take it for granted. The sweet stuff is sweeter because I know what bitter tastes like.
The Story of Loss
Everything you have in this world is temporary. One way or another, it will vanish from your life. If itís physical in nature, itís impermanent.
Earthís resources will eventually be used up. Your human body will be used up as well. Even the Sun will eventually burn out. And itís expected that the known universe itself will eventually end.
Loss is part of the story of life. When we lose something precious to us, we deepen our understanding of its value.
Humanity is burning through some of the earthís scarce resources. That, by itself, is not a problem. The real problem is that we donít properly appreciate those resources. Itís okay to pump oil out of the ground and use it. The earth doesnít mind. But are we truly appreciating what the earth is giving to us?
Do you realize that all of the ďstuffĒ in your life is a gift of the earth? If itís physical in nature, it was probably made from something that was pulled out of the ground. Human creativity played its part of course, but do you realize that the raw materials of the items in your home came from the earth? Youíre literally wearing pieces of the earth on your body.
Now realize that all of this is temporary. Youíll either lose it before you die or when you die.
The great story of loss is that everything in this physical reality will eventually be taken from you. Do you accept this, or do you resist it?
According to Elisabeth K√ľbler-Ross, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Clinginess shows up in the first 4 stages, but when we get to acceptance, we finally let go and make peace with reality.
I think there are stages beyond acceptance, however, and gratitude is certainly one of them. When we can see the important role that loss plays in life, we can learn to appreciate loss itself. Itís an important part of our story. Loss helps us grow.
Without loss weíd be too likely to take the good parts of our lives for granted. Theyíd eventually become hollow and meaningless to us. When we lose them, however, we become intensely aware of the value we once experienced.
As we move into an abundance mindset, we recognize that the true value we experience can always be recreated. Real value isnít scarce. We may lose a loved one, but we can experience love again.
Scarcity teaches us what true abundance means. Scarcity helps us understand what we value and what we donít.
You may not value oil specifically, but by appreciating what oil has done, you may come to appreciate technology, and by appreciating technology, you may come to appreciate human empowerment, sharing knowledge, making new discoveries, and connecting with people.
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