Research Paper By Camille Gold
(Communication and Relationships Coach, UNITED STATES)
As I anticipate graduation and certification from ICA, as well as future credentialing from ICF, there is a mix of emotions. When I envision myself coaching, helping others to find solutions currently locked within themselves, and consider that this will be my profession, I am filled with excitement and anticipation. There are few things more enriching to me than helping others. On the other end of that spectrum, however, is a different type of anticipation. I find myself confronted with mysteries encompassing websites and business licensing, marketing and payment platforms, and the ever nebulous questions surrounding clients. Sophisticated websites and easy payment options mean nothing without clients. I must admit to having fears and worries swirling like the winds of a hurricane around this empty space where clients are supposed to be. How do I fill that void and still the storm inside my heart and mind as I prepare to launch my coaching practice?
In Stephen R. Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he describes character traits essential to a win/win habit of thinking. One of these character traits is to have an Abundance Mentality vs. a Scarcity Mentality. Since it’s an original publication in 1989, the ideas of Abundance vs. Scarcity have become buzzwords incorporate and coaching worlds. He writes that the Abundance Mentality is “the paradigm that there is plenty out there for everybody.” On the other side of the Abundance Mentality, he notes most people are deeply scripted in 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”(Covey, 1989).
The ideas of Scarcity vs. Abundance have vast applications in all walks of life, including coaching. They also have extensive ramifications in how they affect daily life and general happiness. In a recent article on passiveincomemd.com entitled, “The Abundance Mindset vs. Scarcity Mindset for Physicians,” the two mindsets (a blend of Covey’s “mentalities” and Carol Dweck’s “mindsets”) manifest in various ways:
- Since there is only so much to go around, they try to hoard resources.
- Competition is more important than collaboration.
- Any sharing of knowledge will only help their competition beat them.
- Others should be helped, but only if they receive something of equal or greater value in return.
- They’re worried that people are always after them, seeking to tear down their accomplishments.
- Fear of risk often paralyzes them from making big moves and decisions.
- They truly fear change.
- They may feel a deep anxiety about budgeting and saving, taking frugality to the level of deprivation.
- An understanding that life is less about competition and more about collaboration.
- They’re generous with their time, knowledge, and support.
- They freely give more of their finances to worthy causes.
- They gain the trust of others and develop valuable relationships.
- Risk is seen as a necessary part of growth as well as change.
- They are adaptable and optimistic.
The article also outlines the “cutthroat” world of a physician’s journey: only so many “A” grades given out in university, only so many spots in medical school, residency, and fellowships, followed by only so many jobs, all of which are fertile soil for a Scarcity Mindset(Passive Income M.D., 2018). This pattern is mirrored in a corporate setting where, according to Caroline Castrillon, “promotions and raises are “scarce”, resources are limited, managers hoard information, micromanagement abounds, and generally short-term thinking is the norm” (Castrillon, 2018).
As a new coach launching a business, it is all too easy to become ensnarled in the same claggy muck of a Scarcity Mindset. What if there are too many coaches in the area? What if there are not enough coaches in the area, which means nobody knows what coaching is all about, and so there are not enough clients because people don’t know to look for a coach? What if my area is too traditional and tight-fisted? people won’t pay for something as “whoo-wee” as life coaching, and especially not in the amounts that coaching is worth. What if my area is too expensive? people can barely afford to maintain their families, let alone pay for coaching. What if another coach has already thought of my coaching model, and what if they do it better? What if my website isn’t as attractive or marketable as that of another coach? What if nobody wants to “buy” what I am “selling?”
The effects of the Scarcity Mindset on a new coach can be crippling, and I fear too many coaches give up on their business and practice early in their careers as a result of it. A closer examination of how to identify Scarcity Mindset and methods for transforming it into an Abundance Mindset can help coaches hold fast to their practice through the three phases of a successful business outlined by ICA trainer Lorna Poole: first a trickle, then a stream, then a flood(Poole, 2019).
The biggest indicator of Scarcity Mindset for a coach (or anyone), I believe, is fear. When actions and decisions are motivated by fear – fear of failure, fear of risk, fear of change – chances are, the coach is living in Scarcity. This fear can alienate a coach from others in his/her profession. When a coach is afraid that sharing knowledge or ideas about what works for their business, or about products that they use for marketing, workshops, or courses offered“will only help their competition beat them,” they isolate themselves from their professional community. They avoid joining groups and organizations with other coaches for fear that they’ll lose their competitive edge, and by embracing that fear, they miss out on the shared knowledge and collaborative ingenuity of being part of a team.
The Abundance Mindset includes “an understanding that life is less about competition and more about collaboration.” In order for a coach to embrace an Abundance Mindset, they have to let go of their fear, let go of the competition fueled by fear, and share what they have in terms of knowledge and experience. The act of sharing itself indicates a sense of abundance in that there have enough for yourself and others. Sharing with others in the professional community can require an effort of trust, especially for those operating under a Scarcity Mindset: trust that collaboration means that others want your success as much as you do because when one succeeds, all succeed. “The rising tide lifts all boats.”
Another main indicator of Scarcity Mindset is a focus on the short term of every decision. In an article by Trent Hamm,
The scarcity mindset revolves around the idea that there simply isn’t enough to go around. There can be only one raise at work and if one person gets it, everyone else can’t have it. My paycheck only has a certain amount of money in it and if I don’t spend it now, it will “go away” – the “man” will take it. If I don’t party now when I’m young, I will never have the chance to party later. Thus, the scarcity mindset always focuses on the extreme short term of every decision. What is the most fun option right now? What uses up the resources I have right now so that they can’t be taken away later? (Hamm, 2014).
When a coach is focused on the short term of every decision, they may find themselves in negative situations which will only feed the fire of a Scarcity Mindset. A focus on the short term can make coaches prone to falling for gimmicks and services that claim to “guarantee clients” or “hits” or “likes” all for a fee. They may end up spending more time, money, or energy on things that they can’t afford for fear that it will go away and not be available to them later. Additionally spending too much time, money, or energy on “fun things” like designing business cards, decorating a website, or creating flyers can take away from time spent improving the practice of coaching through collaboration, peer-coaching relationships, and continuing education. Such schemes and practices can lead a new coach to feel disenchanted and discouraged, and it may lead them to give up on their business before it has a chance to thrive and grow. Mr. Hammstates that the Scarcity Mindset “ignores the long term of every choice, too,” whereas “Typically, the abundance mentality focuses on the long term.”
Adopting an Abundance Mindset means that the coach doesn’t get snagged by “get clients quick” schemes because they can rest assured that there are plenty of clients out there and that they will have enough to make their business grow; “they are adaptable and optimistic.” There isn’t a sense of panic or rush typically involved in a focus on the short-term. The coach who embraces an Abundance Mindset is playing the long game. They know that building their business is more like golfing 18-holes on the green, using different irons and woods to meet different circumstances, watching their form and technique, and keeping a mindful and consistent pace, than a quick game of miniature golf at an arcade.
The final indicator of a Scarcity Mindset is a reluctance to create. This seems to stem from the idea that there are only so many good ideas out there, so they fall into the trap of trying to replicate another person’s coaching style or product. This can result in less than effective offerings because 1) they didn’t create it, so they don’t understand all of the mechanics, and 2) their heart isn’t in it because it isn’t their own. Scarcity, fueled by fear, says that what you have to offer is not enough, that anything you might create is not adequate, and that “no one will buy it.”
An Abundance Mindset recognizes possibilities and provides fertile ground for creativity. Abundance says that there is more, what you have is only the beginning. Creation and invention flourish in an Abundance Mindset, which can lead a new coach to a new awareness of coaching practices, of what serves their clients best, of their individual niche, and of what makes them powerful as a coach. It can also lead to new products, courses, or offerings for your clients. Focusing on what you do have in terms of life experience can open your eyes to possibilities previously not considered.
The following quote by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, gives ample evidence of what an Abundant Mindset can do for a business:
If you want to get to the truth about what makes us different, it’s this: We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented, and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things. They’re focused on the competitor, rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don’t work in two or three years, they will move on to something else. And they prefer to be close followers rather than inventors because it’s safer. So, if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is why we are different. (Meis, 2018).
It’s not too far a stretch to apply the same principles to coaching:
- Focus on the customer rather than competitors; avoid competing with other coaches or programs for clients, and focus instead on being the best coach for your clients because there are plenty of clients to go around
- Stay long-term oriented; avoid panicking if the business is not booming in the first several months, and remember, “first a trickle, then a stream, then a flood” – success is coming
- Be an inventor/creator; avoid focusing on what might seem problematic or impossible, and create room in your heart and mind for expanded awareness and new possibilities to emerge
Beginning a new coaching business can be daunting, but applying an Abundance Mindset can alleviate and eliminate much of the stress and fear surrounding a bold new venture.
Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill
Castrillon, C. (2018, August 10). How to Shift from a Scarcity to an Abundance Mindset. Retrieved from Thrive Global: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-to-shift-from-a-scarcity-to-an-abundance-mindset-3/
Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Free Press.
Hamm, T. (2014, July 29). From the Scarcity Mindset to the Abundance Mindset. Retrieved from The Simple Dollar: https://www.thesimpledollar.com/financial-wellness/from-the-scarcity-mindset-to-the-abundance-mindset/
Meis, C. (2018, July 31). Jeff Bezos Says These Are the 5 Secrets to Success. Retrieved from Success: https://www.success.com/jeff-bezos-says-these-are-the-5-secrets-to-success/
Passive Income M.D. (2018). The Abundance Mindset vs Scarcity Mindset for Physicians. Retrieved from Passive Income M.D.: https://passiveincomemd.com/abundance-scarcity-mindset-for-physicians/
Poole, L. (2019, October 2). Integrated Coaching Model Lab.