When starting a business, it's generally necessary to have at least one phase where you tighten your belt: saving for when you go out alone, transitioning from paid employment to self-employment, or riding through times when there's a lull in business. Tightening your belt isn't something that makes most people super excited, and in this consumerist, scarcity driven culture, it goes against the flow. Choosing not to buy the latest gadget that all your friends have can feel limiting. However, there is a hidden opportunity here; an opportunity that has the potential to feel more like freedom than limitation.
Scarcity tells us that something is lacking, that we don't have enough. It's a semi-constant chatter in the back of our brains telling us that in order to feel complete we need something from outside ourselves, something that generally comes with a price tag. This is the same mind chatter that tells us we aren't good enough or worthy enough to do our dream job or to own our own business. Conquering the fear of not being worthy enough is a huge hurdle for many people and a particularly relevant hurdle for folks who are self employed and don't have the benefit of a manager or boss providing positive reinforcement from outside our own minds. Quieting your mind's script around scarcity is not only a tool for managing finances responsibly, it's also a key skill for being a successful solo entrepreneur.
So, how do we get our minds out of the scarcity mind set? There's more than one answer to this question, and different approaches will work differently for different people. Here are my current thoughts on it:
What if, instead of looking at what you lack, and wishing you could have more, you focus on the things in life that you really care about. Instead of striving to cultivate belongings, strive to cultivate value. This may be easiest to explain by doing, so work through this little exercise with me:
Make a list of your top 5 core values. Whatever 5 core values speak to you. Put some thought and consideration into it and then move on; this is just an exercise. Your list can have less than 5, but try to keep it to no more than 5. My list looks like this: integrity, connection, creation, growth, balance.
Next, consider the important things that take up your time during a typical week, and how they relate to the 5 core values you just listed. My week is filled with a few key activities, and each of them support my core values. Here are the activities and how they relate to my core values:
connection, integrity, growth
Working with clients feeds a very basic sense of connection: it’s working with people. It also requires integrity, that I’m providing the service the client desires and protecting the coach-client relationship. This process creates growth in the client, and also in myself.
working on my coaching business
creation, integrity, growth
Working on my business is a process of creation and manifesting. Many business activities test one’s integrity in subtle ways. And managing a business always requires refinement and growth.
Cooking is an important part of my self-care practice, proving work-life balance, and it’s inherently creative.
The flip side of growth is that you need time to recharge; this is also an important part of a balanced life.
seeing friends / fostering relationships
The community of friends I’ve gathered is critical for providing an outlet for connection. It’s also a place to exercise integrity, and provides a balance to work and self-care.
working on my dance business
integrity, connection, creation, growth
Like my coaching business, this requires creation, integrity, and growth. Since I do this business with other people it also provides connection, and a whole different way of looking at integrity.
Crafting is also an important part of my self-care practice. It’s a tangible form of creation, which is different from a lot of other ways that I create.
brain-less activities to unwind
Unwinding provides a balance to work, social life, and other forms of self-care. The flip side of growth is that you need time to recharge, and not only when you’re sleeping.
Map out for yourself how your typical activities support your core values. If some activities don't line up with core values, why is that? Do you need to reconsider your core values, or do you need to reconsider why you spend time on that activity? (Both options are an important part of this exercise.)
If a full and fulfilled life comes from your values, then these activities are going to make your life feel more full than any gadget you can purchase. Keeping this in mind can help you put your energy towards the things that really matter.
Furthermore, when you're looking to budget, this becomes a frame work for what purchases should be reduced and which need to stay. Examine which parts of your budget support your core values, and which are only nice-to-have. Get creative about was to support your core values in ways that cost less money. For example, I like to connect with friends, and that often happens over a meal. If we go out every time we get together it ads up fast. Dining in is a more affordable option which still fosters connection (and fosters my value of balance, too!) Perhaps you can make a plan to meet your core values in ways that involve less money? (and then try it out!)
In another way, you could use these core values as a decision making tool when considering a purchase. How does this purchase support your core values? Sometimes the answer might be that the purchase is necessary and that's ok. There are probably also purchases that have nothing to do with your core values, or where a more cost-effective solution exists.
The point is that there's a lot more important things in life than what you can buy. By focusing on the important things, it can relieve the stress of a limited budget. In this way a limited budget can actually spur life choices that give us more purpose and higher satisfaction in our lives. So try living your values, instead of your scarcity.