Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Naming the Scarcity Paradigm

A paradigm is a way of looking at things, yourself, or the world which we are often unaware of. Paradigms can remain unconscious or invisible to us – and yet determine how we see things and our actions. One commonly referenced quote on the effect of paradigms from Albert Einstein is “You cannot expect to be able to solve a complex problem using the same manner of thinking that caused the problem.”

Lynne Twist in her book The Soul of Money, outlines two paradigms, the predominant paradigm which she names the Scarcity Paradigm. She says this lie about scarcity is based on what she calls three toxic myths:
1.) There isn’t enough,
2.) More is better, and
3.) That’s just the way it is.
The predominant emotion that results from believing these myths is fear. Here is how they play out.

There isn’t enough. When we fear there isn’t enough, and that someone is going to get left out we try to get as much as we can so we aren’t the one left out. And our fear of not getting enough leads us to keep seeking more, which results in others not having enough.

More is better. If no matter what we have, more is viewed as better then it becomes impossible to have enough. Enough is completely unattainable. The constant pursuit for more and more functions like an addiction.

This is also true with how we view our work. If more is better, and nothing is ever enough – no matter how much we work it is never enough. We mindlessly go from task to task in a race that we can never win or stop.

This myth also places higher value on people with more, and a judgment of inferiority on people that have less. This allows us to blame people who do not fare well in the inequitable distribution of resources for their lack, and feel that they deserve less.

That’s just the way it is. This myth creates feelings of helplessness and hopelessness which lead people to feel resigned to the current situation. And, this myth ignores the fact that things are the way they are -- because people created them this way. Everything, all of our systems, our economic system, currency, the way we measure GNP, all of it was created by people. The reality is that people can change things, but not when they are rendered hopeless and resigned.

The reality is that there is currently more than enough for all. It isn’t currently distributed this way, and there might not be in the future if the current levels of over consumption continue, but there is now.

So what’s the alternative? Viewing the world through a paradigm of Sufficiency, a you-and-me paradigm rather than a you-or-me paradigm. She details the three truths of the Sufficiency paradigm: 1.) Money is like water, 2.) What you appreciate appreciates, and 3.) Collaboration creates prosperity.

Check back for more on sufficiency in the next post.

1 comment:

Bryan ORourke said...

No more apparent are your observations than in health care and wellness organizations. In presenting to industry leaders on related concepts you share in your book and writings it is interesting how few see the truth of what is happening. The system is breaking down because it is increasingly irrelevant to solutions. These are fascinating times and the opportunity to achieve better outcomes with less is only a function of changing people's thinking and choices. Thank you for sharing your vision.