I heard this story on NPR about scarcity. The story explains how psychologists have researched the effects of scarcity on our ability to make good decisions. It turns out that when we experience greater scarcity - when it is is most important that we make good decisions to end the condition of scarcity - we actually make poorer decisions. When scarcity sets in, we develop tunnel vision and the only thing we can see is the immediate need. When we're hungry, all we can think about is getting food. When we're strapped for money, all we can think about is buying the immediate necessities we need right now. When we're busy, all we can think about is getting the most urgent tasks completed. This is a good thing when the condition of scarcity is short lived. It helps ensure we meet our immediate needs. However, when the condition of scarcity is not quickly resolved, this can become dangerous because the focus on short term needs can prevent us from meeting our deeper, long term needs.
To break this cycle, we need to see outside of the tunnel. I have prayer and family to be particularly effective at helping me to see outside of the scarcity tunnel vision. My most intense experiences of scarcity have been scarcity of time. When the crushing weight of a massive to-do list settles in on my shoulders, I find it hard to see anything beyond the next deadline. When this condition lasts for a long time, I end up spending all my time on urgent tasks and neglecting the truly important. In these times of my life, prayer has helped to break me from that tunnel because it takes my vision from the next deadline and points it at God. Somehow the immensity of our Creator tends to make the make the next deadline look a little smaller. It also helps me to see my family. The love and joy that I experience when I am with my family can make my burdens feel a little lighter. When the weight of my to-do list is not crushing me, I make better decisions.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
- Matthew 11:28-30