Experiencing Abundance in Times of Scarcity
There’s an eerie feeling that accompanies walking through your local grocery store and seeing entire aisles completely empty. I had this experience early last week when I went to the store to pick up our groceries for the week, and only a few items in completely gave up on my list. As I came across empty bin after empty bin, I felt this pang of fear in my gut, and this quiet little voice said, “what if there isn’t enough?” Not enough. It’s the very definition of scarcity and one of the things we fear the most. And it’s all-around right now. There aren’t enough ventilators, enough masks, and apparently enough toilet paper.
It has been an odd few weeks to be a financial advisor, and I find myself grappling with the tension of managing wealth for a living and dealing with huge market swings even as those without wealth to lose are losing their livelihoods. It’s tempting to try to hold all of that tension in my own two hands; to try to feel the appropriate amount of guilt for how lucky I am to still have my job and to beat myself up over how helpless I feel when it comes to others who aren’t as well off. In my worst moments at home, I question if I have enough patience, enough energy, enough grace to get through this. And yet, if I’m going to preach and live abundantly, I need to find a way to rise above these narratives of scarcity.
In a recent article I wrote for our corporate blog, I shared that one of the best things we can do in times of market chaos is to cling to investing truths. I believe the same applies here. I have found that one of the best ways to ward off feelings of hopelessness, depression, and scarcity is by clinging to the positive things we know to be true and then to live from those truths. On my own, I cannot fix everything. But I can choose to be kind and to live generously even when this moment tempts me to hold onto what I have more tightly.
This last year I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on the intersection between wealth and happiness. Positive psychology, or the study of what makes us happy, has a lot to say on the topic. One of the things that seem to come up over and over again in the research is the importance of gratitude as well as kindness and social connection – things that could so easily be missed right now. In her book The How of Happiness, positive psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky writes:
The expression of gratitude is a kind of metastrategy for achieving happiness. Gratitude is many things to many people. It is wonder; it is appreciation; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is “counting blessings.” It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented. Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, avarice, hostility, worry, and irritation.
I don’t have all the answers right now, nor do I have a perfect solution for what’s going on. Our present situation, like so many other things in life, is complicated. But what I do know to be true, at least for me, is that gratitude is experiencing the perspective and reality of abundance in my life. It’s taking the time to think through all the good things that we still have going for us, and when I look out and see so many acts of kindness and connection, it gives me hope.
Earlier this week, my mom and I washed our hands and bought a bunch of Starbucks gift cards to hand out to grocery store employees to say thank you for having the courage to work so that we could buy food for our family. As we handed out the cards and shared our gratitude, we were the lucky recipients of so many smiles - not because people were desperate for a cup of coffee so much as they were desperate for someone to acknowledge their fears and their bravery with kindness and reassurance. In her book, Yes Please, comedian Amy Poehler writes: “The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone.” It is one of my favorite quotes of all time. The best way forward is to be grateful and kind. The only way we will get through this is through the help we give and receive. Let’s offer our best together.