‘The mind is everything… what you believe, you become’. 

Ever wondered about the psychological science behind the concept of abundance and intention? If so, this three minute read might spark your interest further.

Our mindset is a critical component of success in business, sports and life generally.  The mind can work for or against us.  Let’s take a look at three important mindsets that can change the way you experience life.

Growth vs Fixed mindset

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck examined mindsets among young students.  The study showed that children who have a growth mindset, believing that intelligence can be developed, are better able to overcome academic challenges than those who have a fixed mindset that intelligence is predetermined.

Those with a fixed mindset attribute results to innate ability, discounting learning.   They think people are naturally good at what they do, and either they have it or they don’t.

On the other hand, a growth mindset reflects the belief you can improve at whatever you do through the right training.

Positive vs Negative Mindset

A fascinating study of middle-aged adults, conducted by researchers from Yale and Miami found those with more positive beliefs around aging lived 7 ½ years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging.  This result suggests that having a positive mindset can prolong your life!

Positive mindset involves investing time and energy into finding solutions rather than focusing on finding problems.  That is, finding a way forward and not falling into a pattern of getting stuck, and letting your own pessimism keep you down.

Abundant vs Scarcity mindset

Stephen Covey in his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ coined the terms scarcity and abundance mindsets.

Scarcity mindset refers to people seeing life as a finite pie and if one person takes a big piece, that leaves less for everyone else.  In the corporate world scarcity mentality runs high. Some consequences of this mentality include micromanagement, short-term thinking and unhealthy competition and jealousy to name a few.  When we come from a place of lack or scarcity, then there is not enough to go round (not enough time, money, love, skills etc.)

The stakes for having a scarcity mentality are high! A scarcity mindset:

  • Keeps us from achieving our goals.
  • Leads to obsessive thinking or tunnel vision in regard to a lack of something or unmet needs, (e.g. time, money, skills, appearance, relationship)
  • Makes it tricky to focus on anything else
  • Is the background noise your brain makes when you can’t get what you want or don’t believe you will get it
  • Comes at a cost because focusing on something you don’t have, can take its toll on your mental health and can negatively impact your brain structure and function
  • Can lower your IQ by as much as 14 points, enough to move your score from outstanding to average or from average to deficient
  • Affects your ability to solve problems, hold information, reason logically, make decisions, plan, focus, and start a project or task. This happens because your brain is too busy thinking about something you don’t have.
  • Increases the likelihood of you giving into impulses you usually wouldn’t because tunnel vision reduces the effectiveness of the decision-making part of your brain which controls impulses

In a nutshell, when we spend our energy obsessing over something lacking, other areas of the brain start to lapse.

Abundance mindset assumes there is plenty out there for everybody.

Making the shift from a scarcity to an abundance mindset

Focus on what you have

The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is essentially the gatekeeper of information in our brain. When we focus on something, the RAS will sift through approximately 2 million pieces of information to show only the data that is relevant to that focus.  For example, if you buy a new car of a particular model, you will start to notice that same car everywhere on the road because the RAS sifts through all the (other) cars to highlight only that model and colour and that is what you see.

When we are living life from a place of lack, then that is what we will see! Typical scarcity thoughts might include “I’ll never be as good as…” or “I’ll never find a partner” or “I’ll never be able to afford my own home and get ahead”, “there is so much ‘bad’ in the world”.  In response to such thoughts, the RAS will sift through information to find evidence to support that thought, making it, if you like, a fact (for you).  This process no doubt contributes to a self-fulfilling prophecy to create that outcome through loss of confidence and holding back perhaps….

With an abundance mindset, we become open to possibility and your brain (RAS) will do the heavy lifting for you by showing you evidence that supports your abundant thinking.

In my view, this is the psychological science behind intention; what you believe is what you receive!

Surround yourself with positive people that have an abundance mindset and believe there is enough pie to go round

You know those people who always seem positive and see the glass half-full instead of half empty.  They just have a belief that it’s all going to be okay… they have a ‘can do’… ‘so much is possible’ attitude and they are generous in spirit too!  When you spend time with positive others, I’m sure you notice a different energy in yourself because attitudes rub off. The people around you will influence you, so spending time with abundant-minded people will enhance your capacity to think the same way.  Conversely, if scarcity-minded individuals surround you, the same applies.

So take a moment to check in with yourself and get a sense of the energy of the people you spend time with because wherever you place your attention is where you place your energy. Be around people who inspire and energise you.

Practice gratitude: Incorporate gratitude into your daily life

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” Oprah Winfrey,

Gratitude can change the structure of your brain and thereby change your thinking style.  The regular practice of gratitude can change our thinking style from pessimistic (seeing the black cloud) to optimistic (focussing on the silver lining).  It’s easy to practice and the rewards come quickly.  So make gratitude a part of your daily practice and you will reap the benefits quickly…. It just feels good to be grateful.

Typical gratitude exercises include journaling three to five DIFFERENT daily gratitudes at night before you go to bed.  This daily practice leads the unconscious to search for things to be grateful for during the day.   The cool thing about gratitude exercises is that it gets easier with time despite having to find new gratitudes each day.  That in itself is a great example of the power of abundance; the more you look for things to be grateful for, the more you see!

A wonderful family gratefulness activity involves each sharing one or two gratitudes before a meal.  It’s lovely to hear each other’s gratitude and this exercise can build connections and fill the house with abundance!

Practicing gratitude is one of the most widely recognized methods for improving our mental and physical well-being and impacts our overall experience of happiness long term.  Afterall, it’s very difficult to feel fear or sadness and be grateful at the same time. So which one will you choose to feel?

Create win-win situations

A scarcity mindset believes if one person wins, another loses.  When we live life with abundance, we celebrate others wins and feel inspired and that becomes a win-win.

Train your mind to recognize the possibilities

An abundance mindset allows you to see more in your life: more options, more choices, and more resources.  A Harvard University study showed that when we focus intently on one particular thing, other possibilities, right in front of us, can go unnoticed.  The brain can only absorb so much, so if your belief is “I can’t do it” or “it’s not possible” then any other thoughts contradicting these positions will get thrown out.  So start training your mind to loosen its focus and create an expanded awareness. Try adding the word ‘yet’ at the end of a statement and notice how that feels in your body.  For example, change “I don’t have a partner” to “I don’t have a partner yet” and notice the difference.

Memory for intentions

According to Scientific American, neuroscience has shown we can remember the future through our prospective memory, also known as the memory for intentions.  This memory enables us to bring to mind and action our intentions in the future through the rich tapestry of our imagination.


The power of abundance enables us to bring about change through intention using our imagination. As long as there is the possibility for change, then change is possible.  The biggest obstacle we face is our mindset.  By having an abundance mindset, we believe our desired future can occur and we see what is needed to achieve it.  Combined with the memory of intentions we can bring our desired future into our lives.


1. 5 ways to go from a scarcity to abundance mindset (Caroline Castrillon)
2. What is scarcity mentality? (Dan Brennan, MD)
3. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of Aging (Slade, Kasl & Kunkel)
4. Foresee and Forget: How to Remember the Future By Matthias Kliegel, Nicola Ballhausen, Scientific American March 7, 2018

Copyright © Dr Helen Mursell 2020