How do you react when you hear about someone else’s good news? Are you the type of person that is happy when someone is promoted to a new rank or upset that you also didn’t get promoted? That reaction indicates whether you have a growth or scarcity outlook. Research shows that “…if the mind is focused on one thing, other abilities and skills—attention, self-control, and long-term planning—often suffer.” In other words, the scarcity mindset causes a tunnel vision to the detriment of other areas of your life. Joshua J. Marine said, “Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” This is the example of a growth mindset. Scarcity sees obstacles and gets upset; growth sees challenges and works to overcome.
Scarcity is also known as a zero sum mentality. This is where a person sees a finite amount of things in the world. For example, a supply of ten apples is free for the taking. If person A takes ten apples, then there are zero apples for person B and vice versa. Any apple that goes to person B must be taken from person A, or in mathematical terms, any additional apples (+) for person B means a subtraction of apples (-) from person A. For the scarcity mindset, a positive change for one person is a negative change for someone else. In the martial arts world, one example is student enrollment. When a student signs up for Master Ken’s Ameri-Do-Te academy, another school might see that as a loss or even an insult. While for sure it’s a missed opportunity for the second school, a student’s enrollment in another program simply means that martial arts has gained another practitioner.
The scarcity mindset focuses on others. It assumes that but for external factors, success, praise, or whatever would be showered upon me. One can characterize the scarcity outlook by its focus on the now or the short term. It focuses on the loss instead of seeing new possibilities and new opportunities. An easy state of mind to fall into, scarcity is reinforced by depression, stress, and loss. In turn, it leads to depression, stress, and loss. It’s a vicious cycle if left unchecked. We all experience this at one point or another in our lives, and it will continually be there lurking in the background. But that doesn’t mean we are doomed to this thought process. There are strategies to switch to an abundant outlook.
A growth or abundance mindset is one that sees opportunities instead of obstacles. For a martial arts student with a growth mindset, a training partner’s promotion is something to be celebrated because it means that 1.) promotions are possible, and 2.) improvements are being made. The growth mindset looks at the world and instead of seeing what is, sees what can be. The success of others is motivation to improve. Whether immediate or long term, an abundance outlook focuses on advancing and developing. The point is to be better rather than to be seen as better.
Personally, I’m inclined toward a zero sum outlook. It’s a knee jerk reaction for me that I have to actively battle, and the good news is that it can be countered. As Counterpoint Tactical System says, everything has a counter. By practicing mindfulness, a change from scarcity to growth is possible. First, before implementing any of the tips that follow, we have to recognize our own mindset. Do I have a zero sum or an abundance outlook? In some parts of our life, we might have an abundant frame of mind while having a scarcity outlook in another. Humans are too complicated to be characterized by one thing all the time. In order to determine our mindset, we have to pay attention to our words and our feelings. Are you inspired by others or do you wonder why you’re not getting more recognition? Does your friend’s success make you happy or worried? If, like me, you’re predisposed to a scarcity mindset, here are four tips to change your outlook.
Actively change your personal narrative. Whether you feel it or not, reframe your negative thoughts in positive ways. This may seem like lying or being false, but I choose to view it as reprogramming myself. Research shows that what we say about ourselves affects our mindset. If you say negative things, you will think negatively. If you say positive things, you will think positively. By reframing your thoughts, you are reprogramming yourself to be positive. This video from Jocko Willink is the best example of how to actively change your language.
Look for opportunities. Instead of seeing what doors are closed, look for the ones that are open. See the challenges that exist to help you improve. Again, this is difficult and requires paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. It also is an active shift of your thinking. I struggle with this aspect more than the other three. Creating opportunities is not only difficult, it’s riddled with things like the imposter syndrome, fear of success, and loads upon loads of self-doubt. But my richest rewards come from finding opportunities where I thought none existed.
Surround yourself with positive people. This is one of the most simple and yet nuanced pieces of advice that I’ve ever heard. Often, I hesitate to even give this because it is incredibly emotional. Does it mean that you should give up your friends? That’s impossible to answer in a blog post. There are many ways to salvage a friendship with a negative person; so, I can’t really answer it for you. But I do know that anyone in your life who is actively working against your goal is creating stress for you. Again because this so complex and emotional, we have to be careful to distinguish between someone who is criticizing or asking hard questions and someone who is negative and harming you. Instead of thinking of who to remove from your life, think about who can I add? Who are the positive people that make me feel better about myself and who challenge me to be better? Those are the people that will affect your outlook.
Focus on your performance. Did you execute to the best of your abilities? If the answer is yes, then you should be proud of yourself regardless of the outcome. Giving everything you have is all you can do; performing as well as you are able is all anyone can ask of you. There is victory in that. Sure, performing your best and losing or failing hurts. But at least you’ll know you did everything in your power to succeed. Sometimes, circumstances are outside of our control, or we’re not good enough. That’s just the nature of reality, but they are not excuses for performing less than our best. Even in winning, there are lessons to be learned. We can always get better. So, after the emotions settle, review yourself. Did I give it my all? How did I perform? What went well? What needs improvement? How do I improve?
By actively changing your language, looking for opportunities, surrounding yourself with positive people, and focusing on your performance, you’ve started down the path to a growth mindset. The only person you can truly control is yourself. All other circumstances are beyond your control. The scarcity mindset focuses on what is unable to be controlled while the growth mindset focuses on the self. So how does this apply to the martial arts?
The graphic above shows that the journey to martial arts excellence is filled with people who quit. At many points in my journey, I quit. As I said earlier, I default to the scarcity mindset, but my journey in Counterpoint Tactical System has helped me shift to a growth mindset. I didn’t know it was happening at the time that improving in CTS was improving my life. It began with being surrounded by positive people. Master Zach Whitson and the CTS leaders showed by example that encouragement can be done positively without patronizing. That a critique was an opportunity to improve not a negative. At the end of every test, the first question Master Whitson asks the students is how they think they did. To me, this placed the emphasis on performance. Slowly, this began to change how I spoke to myself. Instead of making a stupid mistake, I found something to work on. Instead of being too out of shape to do that, I had to improve my cardio. CTS, and the martial arts, have changed my life for the better. Actively pursuing a growth mindset has helped me achieve my goals, and I believe that these four tips can help you achieve yours. Instead of being another of the 9,999, you can be the 1 in 10,000.