This study illustrates the central element of the scarcity mindset: scarcity captures the mind. When we experience scarcity of any kind, we also become absorbed by it. The mind orients automatically, powerfully, toward unfulfilled needs. For the hungry, that need is food. For the busy it might be a project that needs to be finished. For the cash-strapped it might be this month’s rent payment; for the lonely, a lack of companionship. Scarcity changes how we think. It imposes itself on our minds.
Scarcity captures us because it is important, worthy of our attention, but we cannot fully choose when our minds will be riveted. We focus on scarcity even when we do not want to. We think about that impending project not only when we sit down to work on it but also when we are at home trying to help our child with her homework. The same automatic capture that helps us focus becomes a burden in the rest of life. Because we are preoccupied by scarcity, because our minds constantly return to it, we have less mind to give to the rest of life.