When I first became aware that my marriage was over, and realized that both a separation and a divorce were in my future, my mind immediately painted a picture of me, out on the street, destitute, cold and alone. It was a very negative image and it left me feeling both sad and pathetic as well as fearful and panicky. This was probably my first real experience with how strongly a scarcity mindset can influence my emotions!
Going through a separation and a divorce is difficult. In separation or divorce there are rarely any real winners, but how you think about the situation makes a big impact. Are you feeling scarcity or abundance in your life during your transition? Let’s examine the two mindsets and how they may affect your thinking, feelings, and actions during separation and divorce.
What is a scarcity mindset?
Stephen Covey first defined this concept of scarcity in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
“Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there was only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. The scarcity mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.
People with a scarcity mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people. – even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends…”
The Scarcity mindset has a short-term focus, and according to some recent studies, decision-making also suffers when you believe resources are scarce. Feelings of sadness, fear, anger and jealousy are common. We all know people who have gone through a divorce and have taken on the role of victim, clinging tenaciously to their ‘divorce story’ – how their life was ruined by others and how everything was, and still is, out of their control. These victims feel scarcity everywhere. Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough energy. Not enough attention. Playing the victim at their own pity party can quickly become a crutch and, like most bad habits, it will become difficult to stop. A scarcity mindset discourages them from taking responsibility for their situation. Since they are not responsible, they also feel no need to take any actions to improve things. Scarcity really just encourages more scarcity.
Stephen Covey defined the opposite way of thinking or abundance mindset this way:
“The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision-making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity. “
If you are in an abundant mindset your focus is usually long-term and your thinking is open to a bigger picture, more opportunity, and greater creativity. Your decision-making skills are usually optimal as you are able to see more possibilities. When feeling abundant, you are basically in a better place to handle a separation or divorce. There are no true winners in a divorce or separation, but with abundant thinking, you get much closer to a win/win or fair situation where both ex-partners can feel like they will be okay with the outcome. Like they will both have enough. Abundant thinking encourages us to improve our situation as best we can and move into action. Abundance encourages more abundance.
I like to use the following scenarios to demonstrate how the two mindsets can impact a separation or divorce.
Picture one pie (your combined assets). Picture two people (the unhappy couple separating). Picture the pie placed in a big empty room with two plates. A door opens and the couple enters. They then proceed to divide up the pie as they think it should be divided fairly between them. Picture a professional cleanup crew coming into the room to clean up any mess (the professional team needed during the divorce). I will outline my two simple scenarios below:
1. Abundant Mindset:
Our unhappy couple feels like there is enough pie for both of them to share fairly so they use cooperation and divide up the pie neatly. None of the pie ends up on the floor or on anyone’s face. In fact, they end up with about half of the pie on each plate. When the cleanup crew enters the room there is little work to do so they do not get any pie except maybe a few crumbs on the floor. They look around, check out the pie on the plates, declare it fairly divided, nod and bill a small fee for their assessment and tidy up. The ex-partners and the cleanup crew all happily move along with their lives.
2. Scarcity Mindset:
Our unhappy couple feels there is very little pie, they enter the room and both grab for the pie. They fight desperately for as much pie as they can get and end up with a big mess all over themselves and the floor. Little pie actually ends up on the plates for either to enjoy. The pie is ruined. There are bits of mangled pie and crumbs everywhere that the cleanup crew comes in and carefully cleans up taking a very long time. It is a messy and painstaking job to clean up such a big mess. Most of the pie ends up with the cleanup crew. The bits that do get put on the plates are unappetizing and not very satisfying. The cleanup crew happily bills the separated couple a lot of money for the clean up of the pie mess. The separated couple becomes even more unhappy because neither of them has enough pie and they now have a big clean up bill to pay. They both are resentful, angry at the outcome, and take a long time to move away from the scene of the destruction. They never forget what happened and how horrible it all was to experience. Only the cleanup crew is happy as they depart with the money they earned cleaning up.
You can quickly see that an abundant mindset is a big advantage in the above scenario, as it truly is during a separation and divorce. In this scenario, things work out okay because everyone expected that they would have enough, so they were patient, calm and cooperated more. They each got enough pie and made sure that their ex-partner also had enough. Not only does each ex-partner end up with more assets, they are usually able to get along better if they need to co-parent or be civil in the future, they feel less stress and negative emotions so there is less impact on their health and well-being and there is less cost to get through the legal business of separation and divorce. They move on better into their new situation and know they will be okay. Any children will have happier co-parents and a higher standard of living with each parent than in the second scenario.
In the second scenario, much of the assets were lost in the struggle and ensuing fight, so only a few assets are left. This is like going to court and having the judge make the decisions for you. The two people do not benefit much from the assets they have created together but the professionals that have to come in and clean up the mess end up with most of the assets paid to them in fees. The separating couple may take years to recover financially and emotionally. The entire family will struggle much more with the adversarial aspects of the situation and may never get over their hurt and resentment. Health and wellness may suffer for the whole family. If there are children, they may have years of difficult situations ahead of them, as their co-parents may not be very co-operative.
In divorce, on average, each person ends up with approximately one-third of the assets they had before the marriage break up that were earned during the marriage. This is because approximately one third goes to the costs of the divorce and the extra costs of maintaining two households so everyone loses some of their affluence and standard of living may decrease. Looking at it logically, it becomes clear that if anyone receives much more than 1/3 of the assets that it may not be a fair settlement! Can you see how some people that do end up with their fair share still look at the whole pie they once had and think they were treated unfairly? The scarcity mindset distorts their thinking.
Where are you on the scarcity/abundance spectrum? Please share your thoughts in the comments below as you become aware of how your thinking may be impacting you and your situation. Next month, I will write about specific strategies to increase abundant thinking during separation and divorce.
If you are feeling scarcity about separating or divorcing, I can help you find your best path through and a more abundant mindset for the journey.
Please contact me.
I do offer a free strategy session.
The Divorce Coach in Dundas