10 Tips to Help You Slay Your Scarcity Mindset & Learn to Slow Down
It was a little after 6 AM - the start of another perfectly gorgeous day in downtown Palo Alto, and I had my heavy work tote slung over one shoulder and my gym bag thrown over the other as I sprinted down Forest Ave toward Philz Coffee and the Caltrain station. I could hear a train coming up from Mountain View, and my anxiety mounted. Would I be able to make it in time?
I quickened my pace and raced towards the platform as the train pulled in. My workday hadn’t even started - hell, I was only about 15 minutes into my hour-and-a-half commute - and I had already broken a sweat. I rushed past the people who were exiting the train, on their way to work at SurveyMonkey, IDEO, and the other surrounding Silicon Valley-based companies.
I dove into one of the open cars, and as the doors swiftly shut behind me, I collapsed into a seat, dropped my bags on the floor in front of me, and exhaled with relief. Gazing out the window, I felt my heart rate start to slow, and watched the landscape begin to pass by in an ever-increasing blur as the train left Palo Alto and began flying towards Redwood City.
It was on this particular morning in the early summer of 2016 that I remember thinking to myself, “I really need to stop running through life.” Because, the thing is, I didn't actually need to be running.
And I mean that literally – I hadn't actually needed to run and catch the train that I just had. There was another train scheduled to arrive five-to-ten minutes later that also would've gotten me to work on time.
So, in light of that fact, why did I just run, while lugging fairly heavy bags, at that, break a sweat, and suffer all of that stress and anxiety in order to catch a train I didn't even need to catch?
The fucked up truth? I'm really not sure why I ran for it - or why I metaphorically “run for it” in most areas of my life. But I know it has something to do with having a scarcity mindset - with being fixated on how short life is and consequently feeling a serious pressure to pack as much into it as possible, to make every moment count.
But what does “making each moment count” really mean?
And as I sat on that train, speeding towards my full workday in downtown San Francisco and pondering that very question, I realized that I really needed to slow the fuck down and to start being more discerning about how I was choosing to live my life.
-I needed to stop running to catch the earlier train, simply by virtue of it being a potential option (i.e., I needed to stop fixating on “getting there faster”).
-I needed to stop fearing having downtime (or viewing “downtime” as wasted time).
-I needed to stop having a scarcity mindset with respect to hours in the day.
-I needed to calm the fuck down.
-I needed to let go.
And why? Because this knee-jerk behavior was not serving me. (And maybe it had served me at one time in my life, but it certainly wasn't anymore).
What looked like a good approach to be taking to to life on paper was not as attractive in reality. I was getting overwhelmed and stressed out, sacrificing my happiness and quality of life, and suffering as a result.
I recognized that, at this juncture, learning to appreciate and enjoy my downtime, possessing more of a tranquil attitude, and decreasing my general anxiety levels could all have a beneficial impact on my life.
Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever suffer from this sort of reactive, habitual drive to rush through life and maximize every moment that I found myself suffering from?
And, if so, do you want to change it, like I came to realize I did?
In this vein, I thought I would share the 10 steps that I took to alter my approach to life. In a nutshell, this is how I learned to chill-the-fuck-out:
1. Meditate or practice breathing exercises daily
For longer than I’d like to admit, meditation frankly struck me as “New Age” bullshit. It took me a while to come around and start acknowledging its benefits.
But studies have shown that, over time, engaging in a regular meditation practice can literally change your brain chemistry and help to reduce not only your stress levels, but also your body's reaction to stressful situations.
So I would encourage you to try it out for a while if you haven’t before. It requires daily practice, but its benefits are well worth the investment of time and effort.
2. Inject daily habits into your routine that will force you to calm down
Maybe physical exercise mellows you out, so you could kick off each day or bring it to a close with your favorite form of exercise. Or perhaps you could take a hot bath, or stretch out your muscles with a foam roller. Try to find something that works for you, on a personal level, to calm you down and mitigate your stress.
(Just a quick note, but I would highly recommend not making drugs or alcohol one of these daily habits or routines, because you’ll then be at risk of slipping into a negative dependency).
Fully remove yourself from your daily routine and try living life on your own schedule and terms for a while. (You can attempt to do this in your normal living environment, but it's usually easier to do it in a place where you don't have any previously ingrained patterns, routines, or obligations).
Go explore somewhere new and different – even if it's a town that's just an hour or two away from where you live. Removing yourself from your everyday environment can be refreshing and serve to give you some much-needed perspective.
4. Change up your routine
Try taking some creative or novel approaches to your daily life. Maybe start slow and just attempt to walk more throughout the day. Or maybe experiment with a completely different schedule and see how it makes you feel.
Surprisingly, small changes like these can stimulate your brain and prove to be reinvigorating.
5. Be less judgmental of others
We sometimes develop negative thought patterns and fall into the habit of regularly judging others. Oftentimes, the underlying reason that we are so judgmental of others lies in our own high levels of insecurity. By putting others down, we subconsciously build ourselves up with respect to them.
But if you can learn to be less judgmental of others, you will find that doing so will help you to be less critical and judgmental of yourself as well. Learn to love yourself, and apply that kindness, love, and compassion to others as well.
6. Practice greater self-awareness
In this moment, ask yourself, how are you feeling emotionally? How is your body feeling? Are you sleepy? -tired? -sore?
If you start to notice a negative pattern in your answers to those questions, consider taking some action to address and change it.
7. Respect yourself
Don't force yourself to run in order to catch a train unless you really need to. Don’t hold yourself to any higher standard than you’d hold your close friends or loved ones. Treat yourself well.
8. Get more sleep
It might feel lazy or indulgent to you, but try to add-in an extra hour of sleep to your usual amount of shut-eye and see what impact that seems to have on your life over the course of a month. (Try to note any positive changes or differences that you observe throughout the month along the way to avoid losing sight of them).
9. Find more ways to connect with others
Maybe try holding a games night with friends, or start doing regular lunches or happy hours with others. Reach out to family and old friends to check-in and see how they are.
Make a concerted effort to foster more connection within your daily life.
10. Allow yourself an indulgence each month that removes some modicum of stress from your life
As one example, not long after my realization hit around running to catch the train, I decided to start paying a bit more for a monthly Caltrain pass. I made this call to pay the higher amount in exchange for the added convenience of not having to worry about buying multiple 8-pack passes for the month (which cost less, but required me to keep track of how many rides I had left on my pass and to remember to “tap” my pass on a transponder each time I got on and off the train).
As another example, I try to get a 60-minute massage every couple of weeks to reduce my stress levels and help treat my muscles, given of the variety of physical activities and workouts that I put my body through. Although it feels indulgent at times, getting regular massages prevents me from overworking my body and suffering injuries.
Now, adopting new routines and learning to slow down will be an ongoing process that you'll need to continually work on. Society will try to push you back into your bad habits (of rushing through life and harboring a scarcity mindset) at every turn.
It's much harder to march to the beat of your own drum than you might think it is. It's challenging not to listen to the judgments of others, and it's difficult not to internalize those judgments or take them to heart.
But try to remain steadfast and see this through. Because by learning to let myself slow down and do less, I found that I was actually able to better accomplish my goals.
And, with that, I stopped chasing trains.