The Limits of a Poverty Mindset and Why You Can’t Afford It

Many years ago, at an important period in my life, a good friend and mentor offered some advice that had a profound impact on me. Her words forced me to become more aware of myself than I was; how my thoughts manifested in my behavior. The advice hurt but I am pleased she cared enough to sit me down when she did.

Here is what she told me: The positive, even dynamic image I projected was diminished by my poverty mindset. Her words hit me right between the eyes! When I asked her to clarify what she meant, she acknowledged that I had worked hard to overcome considerable adversity in my life but that, often, during conversation, I still spoke in terms of what “I could not afford”, for example, or “what I was unable to do” often because of costs, even when it was something I wanted to do. Her suggestion was to take the more positive and affirmative posture of asking myself “how I could find a way to afford something” or “how I could make something happen” especially if it was important to me.” This instinctive tendency to frame a response from the perspective of limits rather than of possibilities, she felt, could be detrimental.

At first, because she was a friend, her words did sting. I did not want to be guilty of any behavior or mindset potentially harmful to relationships I felt important or that could inhibit the future I envisioned. As I became more aware of myself, I knew she was right. The point she was making was that I should engage my brain in a different way: be creative, not just appear to accept a condition because it exists.

My friend was the recently divorced spouse of a successful physician. She refused to allow her then diminished circumstances to reduce her emotionally or psychologically or influence her ability to rebuild her life. She did not see herself as a victim, rather a survivor on the rebound to the prosperity she once enjoyed. She was navigating on her own now and language and image were powerful; they conveyed confidence. She was supremely confident, even in her worst moments, and I admired that in her.

How we think often shapes how we see life’s possibilities: on a narrow or move expanded basis. Also, it is true that a poverty mindset is a disease that represents a contagion others avoid. For example, it can repel those from similar life’s circumstances who want to change and experience lives of change and abundance. They want to be around people who speak in terms of what can be achieved and how, and do not remind them of a road once traveled. This is what my friend had the courage to tell me.

You attract what you are or, more importantly, what you choose to become. Project a vital image others gravitate toward. The less I emphasized costs associated with a trip, a purchase, an event, for example, or my limitations in a given situation, the more confident I felt in my ability to bring creative solutions to problems and to rise above residual psychological baggage from earlier years of life at the margins.

I will summarize this way. My friend saved my life because she cared. She rescued me from unconscious behavior important others also may have noticed but were reluctant to bring to my attention. Sometimes, it is important to be aware of, and care about, how “influential others” perceive us. They react to their perceptions. I was able to make the transition from the limitations of a poverty mindset to greater, more positive, self-awareness; a life of greater impact, the abundance that likely would have remained just beyond reach, and the respect and the admiration of new friends, senior colleagues, and future business associates – all because a friend “tugged my coattails.”




George Alfred Kennedy

Author George Alfred Kennedy

Career strategist, speaker, and mentor. George has the experience to help others decide who they are and what they want to do, and build an action plan to reach their destination.

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