Photo: Scarcity to Abundance

Our Power Lies in our Perspective

Posted on May 21, 2020 by John Ferguson, TPF Fellow 2020/21
Our perspective guides our actions, but what guides our perspective?

Have you ever noticed how certain situations bring out either the absolute worst in people or their very best? Let’s take restaurants as an example. In a previous life, I was a restaurant manager at a well-known national chain. In that role, I dealt with a vast array of issues, including handling all guest complaints and compliments. Oh, the stories I could tell.

With Mother’s Day in recent memory, I am reminded of how insanely busy restaurants get on celebratory days like that—think of previous non-COVID-19 restricted years. Undoubtedly, many, if not all of us, have been a guest at a busy restaurant on a special day like that.

It can be intense. Loud. Even chaotic.

Employees are running around doing the best they can to deliver a great experience for every person, and once in a while, things go awry. They forget your water or side of ranch. Food comes out incorrectly or cold. In short, for one reason or another, something goes wrong and ruins your day.

You ask to speak to the manager.

Enter me.

Then one of two things would typically happen. Either one member of your party or the whole group would begin chastising me, berating the server or kitchen staff, and blaming us for ruining their Mother’s Day -OR- in a beautifully surprising moment of grace, they would acknowledge how busy it was and how hard people were working and explain what did not go as intended. Both approaches led to resolution but were very different experiences for all involved.

But why?

We are not responsible for every situation or circumstance we as human beings encounter. We cannot always control what happens. We can, however, control what perspective we choose to take on. Consider there are two main viewpoints that guide our perspective: scarcity and abundance.

Each lens provides a very different view and guides our actions in immensely different directions.

When we view our circumstances through the lens of scarcity, it elicits a certain response which generally tries to protect what we believe is ours—or should be ours. Something was stolen from us. We did not get what we deserve. We have been wronged. Scarcity almost always is focused on ourselves and what we have or should have, need, or deserve. It’s neither good nor bad, just our most basic human instinct: fight or flight.

In this perspective, we need to win, and someone else needs to lose. Whether it’s a sense of pride or a free meal, we deserve something.

Then there’s abundance.

If we come from a perspective of abundance, our circumstances cease to be adversarial towards each other, an institution, or even ourselves. Instead, they become a creative and empathetic exercise in problem-solving where the possible results have no loser, only winners. People feel heard and validated, and we become the very best versions of ourselves.

Take The Five C’s that guide The Patterson Foundation’s work during this unique time: caring, connecting, collaborating, contributing, and creating. These five constants guide each of us in our daily lives—professionally and personally—and ground us firmly in possibility. Imagine how much your mindset and approach to the challenges life brings each day might shift should you “try on” viewing them through a lens of abundance. What could become possible for you and those you care about as a result?

From a perspective of scarcity, there is only so much, and we must protect what little we have. We only have so many options. There’s nothing we can do. From a perspective of abundance, it becomes not about what we have or lack, or what we deserve, but what is possible to create together.

There’s nothing we can’t do. And the possibilities are endless.

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