The Power of Scarcity
One of the things that I have always admired in successful entrepreneurs, great leaders, and innovative thinkers is how they accomplish so much with so little. In a world where the answer to almost every problem is to ask for more, these special people seem to do miracles in an environment of scarcity. When I look at the Performance Mindset skills of creativity, problem-solving, challenging the status quo, curiosity, continuous growth, trying the untried, courage, and many others, I can’t help but see how scarcity is like MiracleGro to these skills. At the same time, abundance has the potential to destroy them.
In many ways, scarcity drives new thinking, better results, and even more satisfaction and happiness. A recent white paper looking at work hours and productivity showed reducing work hours down to 32 hours/week actually increased productivity per hour, led to less sick leave, improved engagement, and decreased work injuries. At the same time, our experience has shown us that when work hours exceed 50 hours/week, job satisfaction, fulfillment, and productivity go down. All of this leads to the conclusion that more is not always better... even if we've convinced ourselves it is a badge of courage to do more.
I remember a client I was coaching who read about all of the benefits of meditation (improved calmness, enhanced emotional control, better focus, etc.) but claimed there was no way she could invest 30 to 45 minutes a day to do it. I took her through her day pointing out where she could simply be more mindful during her meals, purposefully place her focus during conversations to avoid distractions, and insert 1-minute breathing breaks throughout her day between meetings. She was shocked at the benefits she experienced with virtually no additional time invested. Scarcity of time didn’t prevent her from enjoying these benefits; she just needed to be more creative in her solutions.
So often, people say that they could get back in shape if they only had more time. We challenge this thinking by showing them what can be done in 15 minutes, 10 minutes, or even 5 minutes. Time after time, we see people increase their fitness, reduce their injuries from overtraining, and improve their physical performance by capping their training time. In a study out of the UK, they compared people who did three 30-second intervals at 100% effort on an exercise bike followed by 2 minutes of rest to people who ran 5 km three times a week. The three-minute workouts yielded equal or better enzymatic, metabolic, and cardiovascular results in most subjects. The lesson here is that the scarcity of time can actually lead to more efficient and effective solutions.
When we have less (time, money, people, etc.), we figure out a way to do things smarter and more creatively, often getting better results. Research even shows that kids with fewer toys are happier and overindulgence is actually a sure fire way to create boredom, reduce creativity, and stunt problem-solving. Similarly, research from the University of Utah suggests that there is a tipping point where having more money diminishes people's quality of life and happiness.
At TIGNUM, we have seen how our clients in situations of scarcity have created some of their best work. They optimized their impact on themselves so they could multiply their impact on others. They stepped back and said: "How could I do this smarter?" "What would this look like if it were easy?" "How would I accomplish this with fewer resources?" and "What am I currently doing that I could stop doing?"
As you develop your Performance Mindset, try applying some scarcity to see the impact it just may have on you. As always, I'd love to hear what you think.
To read more about The Shorter Work Week, click here
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