You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend. ― Bruce Lee
by Steve Pavlina, from stevepavlina.com
Many people struggle to shift from a scarcity-based lifestyle to an abundance-based lifestyle. In this article I’ll share some of the shifts that people have experienced shortly before they reach their abundance tipping point, with the intention of helping you reach your own abundance tipping point sooner. I’ve also included some quotes from Bruce Lee for an extra dose of inspiration.
Reclaim Your Dignity
Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. ― Bruce Lee
When people are in scarcity, they often do things that make them feel undignified. They may take actions and subject themselves to experiences they aren’t proud of.
When a person is about to shift into abundance, this sense of human dignity (if it was ever lost) is reclaimed. In fact, one’s personal dignity becomes an important part of the vision of abundance.
Being in scarcity doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. It doesn’t mean you’re unprofessional. It doesn’t make you a second class human being. Scarcity does not dictate a lowering of your self-esteem.
The same year I shifted was the year I decided to stop tolerating the indignities of scarcity. Just because I was broke and in debt didn’t mean that I should tolerate the abuse of creditors calling me 10 times a day and trying to trick or manipulate me. Just because I was behind on rent didn’t mean I had to tolerate a rude landlord. Just because I needed income didn’t mean I had to subject myself to working with unethical or incompetent people.
I couldn’t immediately control my financial situation. It was a mess, and I knew that. But my desperation and the willingness to accept abuse were optional.
Are you currently tolerating any indignities in your life? Do your friends, family, and co-workers treat you with respect, regardless of your income or employment? If you owe people money, do your creditors treat you as a mature and responsible adult? Or are you treated with shame, guilt, and derision for your situation?
Realize that regardless of your current situation, you still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. That is your right as a human being, but you must be willing to enforce that right if people try to violate it.
Reclaiming your dignity also means refusing to beat yourself up, even when you’ve made mistakes. You do not have to stoop over just because some aspects of your life haven’t been working so well. Forgive yourself for any perceived failures. Stand tall once again.
Do not seek shame in scarcity nor pride in abundance. Both are part of the human experience, so allow yourself to retain your humanity across the board.
Reframe the Scarce Times
Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail. ― Bruce Lee
Another aspect of reclaiming your dignity is to recognize that you’re accumulating memories as you go through life, and those memories will be with you for a long time.
You may not be able to control all the pictures that become part of your memories, but you do have control over how you frame them. If you frame your memories with resistance, you’ll accumulate a stockpile of stress, which may cause you to look back on those years with regret. If you frame your memories with appreciation, you’ll accumulate stockpiles of appreciation that you’ll later cherish.
Before people shift into abundance, they often begin to reframe their years of scarcity. They realize that framing those years with stress, frustration, and resistance wasn’t such a good idea because they’re filling their mind with painful memories, which can’t possibly do much good. So they decide to stop accumulating so much emotional baggage and to look for better ways to frame the past and present.
Even if the external scarcity is to continue for a while, it makes no sense to wrap it in stress. The experiences may be necessary, but the added suffering is optional.
When I look back on my scarcest years, I regret that I wrapped so much stress into them. In hindsight it will be obvious to you as well that the stress wasn’t necessary.
After you’ve been living on the abundance side for many years, how will you look back on your scarcest years? Will they still stress you out? That would be silly if those years are in your past. You’ll probably look back on those years with compassion, understanding, and maybe some nostalgia as well. You may also reflect on some of the lessons you learned during those years.
If you can begin to feel such feelings now, even if you’re still experiencing scarce times, it will help you tip to abundance.
Expand Your Definition of Abundance
If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. ― Bruce Lee
When people are stuck in scarcity, they often equate abundance with financial or material wealth. Abundance is money in the bank, being debt-free, having a nice home, and enjoying some quality possessions.
This is the socially conditioned version of abundance we learn from childhood. The problem with this vision is that we’re also conditioned to have mixed feelings about it. Do we really want the life of Ebenezer Scrooge? What’s the point if we end up with lots of money and possessions, but we’re sad and lonely?
When people get closer to their abundance tipping point, they typically go through a process of redefining, expanding, and personalizing their definition of abundance. This process is different for each person, but most of the time it involves replacing an overly narrow definition of abundance with a more holistic version. Instead of abundance being just about wealth, the vision expands to include good health and energy, positive feelings, happy relationships, new growth experiences, fulfillment, spiritual alignment, etc.
Even after you tip into abundance, you’ll continue to revise your definition of abundance. The way you define aspects like quality of life or happy relationships will change as you learn and grow. But most likely your biggest shifts will happen shortly before your initial tipping point.
One reason many people don’t reach their tipping point is because this shift is counter-intuitive. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that a narrower and more limited version of abundance should be easier to achieve. Then we can add more to it after we pass that first hump. But the limited vision kills our motivation and inspiration. It’s only when we ask for the total package that we start summoning the inspired ideas and motivated actions to make it real.
Define a New Relationship with Life
Relationship is understanding. It is a process of self-revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself – to be is to be related. ― Bruce Lee
As you approach your abundance tipping point, it may feel like going through a relationship breakup. You surrender to the fact that the old relationship isn’t working and that it has to change.
This relationship is a mirror though, so you’re the one who has to change. When you change, life will change because life is the reflection.
You can’t just break up with life, but you can renegotiate the relationship. You can choose to stop resisting what life has been doling out, and you can begin to work with life more cooperatively.
For me this shift involved deciding to always give life the benefit of the doubt. I realized that I could believe that life (or the universe) was always on my side, or I could believe it was sometimes against me or indifferent. I thought long and hard about what it would be like to adopt one lens or the other.
This isn’t a question of truth. You can’t objectively know whether the universe cares about you or not. You can always find evidence on both sides. So this is purely a subjective decision, albeit one that will have objective consequences for you.
I concluded that I would likely enjoy a better quality of life if I did my best to give the universe the benefit of the doubt, regardless of what situations and events happened to me. This meant trying to view every setback as a lesson, perhaps even a gift. Instead of being frustrated and disappointed when I didn’t get what I wanted, I’d try to be curious. I’d live my life as a perpetual student – in wonder, open, and flexible, and never sour or bitter towards life’s apparent transgressions. I could always find a way to interpret life’s attitude towards me as being helpful, playful, or educational.
I decided that the universe wants me to be happy and to enjoy an abundant existence. The only thing that might get in my way is my own stubbornness and inflexibility.
Your renegotiation process will probably be different than mine. The pattern I’ve seen in others is that they admit that the old relationship with life has been broken and that it has to change. They realize that it makes no sense to go another one year, five years, or ten years with the relationship the way it is. Something has to change.
To tip into abundance, you need to find some way to make the universe your ally. In your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, you must stop resisting what the universe is bringing you. Learn to welcome whatever arises with as little resistance as possible. See all experience as a gift.
Bruce Lee did not have to cultivate a positive relationship with life. He could have succumbed to a dysfunctional relationship if he didn’t do his part to stay conscious. He had his share of potential disappointments. For instance, he helped develop the TV series Kung Fu but was not allowed to star in it. Warner Brothers was concerned that American audiences wouldn’t accept a Chinese actor in that role, so they hired David Carradine for the role instead, and Carradine wasn’t even a martial artist. Bruce responded with incredible understanding: “They think that business-wise it is a risk. I don’t blame them. If the situation were reversed, and an American star were to come to Hong Kong, and I was the man with the money, I would have my own concerns as to whether the acceptance would be there.”
When people approach their abundance tipping point, they see that they can never hope to experience abundance without the commitment to give the universe the benefit of the doubt. How can you possibly fight with life and expect to win?
This kind of surrender is not passive. It is not giving up. It is kung fu in the true meaning of the term.
It is not a shame to be knocked down by other people. The important thing is to ask when you’re being knocked down, “Why am I being knocked down?” If a person can reflect in this way, then there is hope for this person. ― Bruce Lee
As an extension of the previous item, there’s a newfound feeling of humility that often arises before tipping to abundance. You admit that maybe — just maybe — you don’t know everything there is to know about abundance yet. You admit that there must be more to learn, despite how much you may have read, studied, and worked towards abundance already.
It can take a long time to reach this point. You may go through many cycles of pushing, pushing, pushing, then feeling disappointed with the results, and then taking a break for a while. This pattern is especially common if you read a lot of books about wealth building.
When you recognize that you’ve been running through repetitive cycles, you may feel inclined to step off the treadmill for a while. And that’s when you know you’re getting closer to tipping. The treadmill stops when you relax your mind and allow yourself to become a true student of life once again.
When your mind is filled to the brim with ideas about what should work (but hasn’t), it’s hard to release scarcity because that constant churning drains you and keep you from feeling strong and centered. When you shift to humble curiosity instead of frantic scrambling, you’re getting close to a powerful transition.
You can never invite the wind, but you must leave the window open. ― Bruce Lee
Impatience is like yelling at the wind to blow. It creates more tension, but it only perpetuates scarcity. The wind will blow when it’s ready.
If you exhaust yourself trying to force the wind to blow, then when the wind finally does blow, you won’t be ready for it. You’ll be watching for a tornado, and you’ll miss the gentle breeze of opportunity.
When people shift from scarcity to abundance, they stop trying to stir up tornados. Even if you manage to catch a tornado, it actually just blows you in circles at high speeds and deposits you (somewhat bruised and battered) roughly where you began. You race ahead like a maniac, time passes, and later on you realize that you’ve dragged your scarcity mindset with you the whole way.
When you’re in a state of abundance, it will feel more like a gentle breeze that carries you along. When abundance is your normal, everyday reality, you won’t be flailing your arms and screaming. You’ll just relax and coast.
If you want to tip more easily, relax into long-term patience. Free yourself of demands and expectations. Align yourself with the breeze, not the tornado. Feel the subtle energies of abundance, and seek to release the perpetual thrashing of scarcity.
Channel Your Creative Power
As long as I can remember, I feel I have had this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this dominating force which I hold in my hand. ― Bruce Lee
A final sign that a person is ready to shift is that they begin to reclaim their creative power. They stop using scarcity to disempower themselves, and they see that they are stronger than scarcity.
To leave scarcity behind, tune into that great creator spirit that’s been lying dormant inside of you. Let it out to play, without trying to put a leash on it. Stop trying to force your creative spirit to solve your petty financial problems, and let it soar in the direction it wants to go.
Allow the scarcity to be there, and turn your attention to that which is incompatible with scarcity. A scarcity-minded person cannot create, cannot express, cannot shine. So shine in the face of scarcity, and scarcity will no longer have power over you.
As Bruce Lee shared, “It is not, ‘I am doing this,’ but rather, an inner realization that ‘this is happening through me,’ or ‘it is doing this for me.’”
Are you ready to let this creative spirit flow through you – without trying to harness it to your oxcart of scarcity woes? If you’re ready to let this energy run freely through you, you’re ready for abundance.
* * *
In 2010 I visited Bruce Lee’s grave in Seattle, which was a moving experience. He only lived for 32 years. His son Brandon is buried next to him, and Brandon only lived for 28 years.
On Brandon’s grave the following words are inscribed:
Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
Enjoy your journey, my friend.