Scarcity & Abundance: Two Sides of the Same Coin

by Zovig Garboushian


hen I began my coaching business, I was deeply concerned about how to make it work, how to find clients, and how to make money. As a solopreneur, everything was on me. I had to make it work because I had left a high-paying job, with benefits and security, for a bigger purpose. At the time, every potential client conversation felt high-pressure; if they didn’t become my client I felt as though I had failed.

My system wasn’t productive. While it’s true one can’t have a business without making money, my all-or-nothing mindset wasn’t serving me. I couldn’t relax into the purpose of my work to let that drive me. Instead, I was being driven by the idea of success and doing it well, doing it right.

I was operating from scarcity.

Leadership FOLO

Scarcity is a lovely little place in my mind that I visit when I experience the fear of not having enough.

It’s full of deep, dark rabbit holes and tight, twisty alleyways where one can get lost for hours, incessantly worrying, dreaming up worst-case scenarios, and catastrophizing everything.

Scarcity is the belief that there is a limited amount of what we want—money, time, love, connection, material goods, praise—and that once we have it, we must hold onto it for dear life lest it evaporate into thin air. Scarcity puts us in perpetual deficit, always playing catch-up.

In scarcity, we imagine every possible thing that can go wrong so that we won’t be surprised when it does. It feels as if it is a responsible, even logical use of our time and energy to pre-plan for inevitable disaster.

Yet, even when things go well, we still wait for the other shoe to drop.

So, we work harder, grip tighter, and worry more. Before we know it, we go down one of those twisty alleyways unsure how we got there and even less sure how to find the way out.

Scarcity is the belief that there is a limited amount of what we want—money, time, love, connection, material goods, praise—and that once we have it, we must hold onto it for dear life lest it evaporate into thin air.
The Fear Factor
As an executive coach, I primarily work with women who are high-performers, entrepreneurs, and C-level executives who are raising the game for their companies and careers. These are women who can do anything they put their minds to (and typically do).

Even high-achievers experience scarcity—a quiet voice in the back of their mind that warns them: This could all go away at any moment, so don’t get too comfortable.

Shirzad Chamine, the creator of Positive Intelligence, calls that voice your saboteur. The field of psychology calls it self-sabotage. Gay Hendricks, the author of The Big Leap, calls it your upper limit problem. I call it scarcity thinking, and it’s a giant pain in the ass.

Scarcity thinking gets in my way and can block me from getting started on something, and when I do start, it blocks me from enjoying my success.

We can often distill our success to the essentials. If we’ve checked the boxes—paycheck, insurance, rent, etc.—then we’re successful.

That’s not success, that’s survival, and it’s fed by the scarcity mindset.

What’s the alternative? Abundance—a mindset that feels brighter, more spacious, even exuberant.

Leaning Inward
Abundance is not about having enough. It’s about being enough. In an abundance mindset, I operate from my truest self, my essence.

The belief that I am enough frees me to think creatively and be myself, without having to prove or force anything. Concern about “doing it right” goes away because the very idea of right and wrong dissolves. Thinking abundantly gives me a chance to consider my choices as experiments, with opportunities to learn and iterate rather than face a finite end.

Abundance is not about having enough. It’s about being enough. In an abundance mindset, I operate from my truest self, my essence.
I know I am thinking abundantly when I find myself both seeking and speaking my truth, and helping my clients seek and speak theirs. When I am focused on my mission, building my business feels like a natural extension of myself rather than a should or “have to.”

I become bold and make big choices and go all-in because the fear of rejection fades. A “no” is just a “no”; it holds no additional meaning about me or my worth.

Trust Yourself to Act
When I am enough, I see potential and possibility, and I trust myself to act where I might otherwise get stuck in analysis paralysis.

Leaders who function from scarcity might aggressively push and relentlessly search for holes and mistakes made by their teams. They might assume that something won’t work before it does. A leader who lives in scarcity thinking holds the belief that everything is important, and every opportunity is the last opportunity there will ever be. They believe there is only win/lose and they will do whatever they can to not be the loser.

There is a difference between a leader who pushes hard to get the best out of her people and one who pushes hard to avoid perceived failure. One works to fulfill a purpose, the other plays a zero-sum game. One moves toward something, the other runs away.

When I see my clients thinking abundantly, they are tapping into their truest selves. They become generous information-sharers, relationship-builders, translators, teachers, and mentors. They lose track of time; curiosity and excitement take the place of worry or concern.

It’s not that their responsibilities go away. It’s that they trust themselves to create what they need to succeed, even when success takes time.

Looking Forward
Scarcity has us running from what we don’t want; abundance has us running toward the things we do.

I work with an organization that offers HR consulting and executive coaching. They thoughtfully choose the clients they work with, and they have let go of clients that didn’t align with their values and mission. There isn’t a rushed urgency to make sales and get new clients. Instead, they are committed to creating deep relationships. They partner with and uplift firms that might otherwise seem competitive, and they celebrate their employees.

There is an understanding that when they do good and stay on mission, they win and their clients win. There is no undercurrent of fear, nor is there a requirement to hustle and prove like there is in scarcity. Instead, what exists is a clear expectation that everyone shows up and does the work with intention and excellence, with the desire and expectation to learn and generate opportunity.

When a leader thinks from abundance, they look for what’s working and build on it. If something doesn’t work, rather than judging or forcing, they experiment with other options and consider it all part of the experience.

The result is powerful as well as kind, and it feels like a creation, not an aggressive push.

The challenge with shifting to abundant thinking is that so much of our culture is built on being the best in comparison to others, both individually and in business. Significant value is placed on winning and getting specific results, and everything else—the learning, the growth, the resilience—is forgotten. Good results are rewarded, and bad results are punished.

Being Positively Focused
As a culture, we look to avoid bad things.

At an individual level we needn’t look further than our day-to-day experiences to see where we lean into avoidance instead of moving toward creating what we love. For example, instead of focusing on creating financial stability and freedom, we work to avoid going broke. Instead of striving to create deep connection and intimacy, we focus on avoiding being alone. Instead of generously inviting others into our space, we keep ourselves small to avoid rejection.

While it might seem safe or wise, this approach can put us in the position of taking what we can get, settling or tolerating what’s okay or good enough rather than what we truly desire.

I want to acknowledge there are certainly times in our lives when we need to check the boxes to ensure our security. There is no question I’ve experienced times when paying bills or making it through layoffs was the priority. While I’m not there anymore, I notice that if I’m not careful an echo of that time prevails, and it might keep me stuck in the past trying to plug holes that no longer exist. Scarcity is sneaky—it can often come from memories of when things were scary and uncertain.

To be abundant, put those memories in check and change the story as soon as you’re aware you’re feeling scarce. To put them in check, interrogate your thinking so you can get back to your truest self, your essence.

One of the signs that I am in scarcity is when I notice that I’m clinging to something, like a plan or a specific result. It’s likely that I’ve stopped moving forward and am trying to avoid what I perceive as a potentially bad outcome.

When I catch myself doing this, I like to pause and physically walk away. I get up from my desk and make some tea or just go outside to put space between myself and the situation. My goal is to shake loose from my thoughts so I can examine what’s really going on versus the meaning I’m giving it.

When I create space, I can interrogate my thoughts: What is this really about? How true is the worst-case scenario? What else could be possible right now?

When I assert some discipline around my thoughts, I am able to slow the scarcity train and become more present to my situation. I can tap into my natural problem-solving capabilities and take the focus off what might happen so I can focus on actively creating what I want.

Scarcity and abundance are two sides of the same coin. They are neighboring mindsets, and the road between them is self-awareness. Because they are both connected to our emotions it’s easy to get swept away and forget to assert discipline around our thoughts. Bringing awareness to any experience is a powerful tool to stop the scarcity spiral and redirect ourselves back to possibility, back to abundance, back to our truest selves.

portrait of Zovig Garboushian
Zovig Garboushian is the founder and CEO of Boldness Ablaze Coaching. She is a coach, a speaker, and a trainer specializing in coaching to advance women in leadership. She began her career in New York City working in magazines and digital marketing, and after 13 years shifted to focus on career development, organizational change, and building leaders. She has 20-plus years of multidisciplinary training and experience in coaching, communication, organizational change, and leadership development. Her vision is a world where women go after what they want boldly and unapologetically, and she is tireless in helping her clients embody their roles as leaders so they can make conscious, powerful choices that positively impact themselves and the organizations they serve. Garboushian has a BA in psychology from CSU Sacramento, is a certified professional coach (iPEC, ICF) and a Prosci Certified Change Manager, and is certified in the Narrative Big Five Personality and Energy Leadership Index Assessments. She lives in Woodinville, WA with her husband and their two dogs.