Get More Money & Love with an Abundance Mindset… maybe.


The more you give, the more you get… or so goes the advice around social networking… and community development… and wealth creation,.. and religious teleology… and being good in bed… and just about every other affirmative, non-nihilistic theory used to guide behavior.

Looking for more positive, sustainable results in your social/communal/financial/spiritual/love life?   Just turn on the radio and listen…

Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
Can’t forget
We only get what we give

– New Radicals

There are many variants of The More You Give, The More You Get  idea, such as Give More Than You Receive, or Give With An Open Hand / Heart / Other Bodypart., or Give Without Expecting Anything In Return and, in the version favored by retailers, The More You Spend, The More You Save.

Here’s the problem:  It isn’t always true.  Sometimes. by spending more, you’re spending more.

Sometimes, you are a Giver in a place populated by Takers.

Dirty Dishes Done Dirt Cheap

Sometimes you’re the proverbial roommate who does the dishes… okay, there’s no actual proverb on that scenario…but you get my gist…. the person who does most of the work while the other person lays back and enjoys the ride you’re providing. Everybody got their cups, but they ain’t chipped inas it were.

You might say that the reward is the work itself — and that is often true — especially when it comes to communal and charitable work.

However, sometimes what is supposed to be a reciprocating relationship just isn’t… and so if you discover that it’s “all about them” too consistently, you may need to let go of those disposition effects, forget the sunk costs, pull the plug and move along.  (There’s also the option of being the bitter and annoying roommate who doesn’t do the dishes until the sink is overflowing and then ends up doing them anyway except now with even more bitterness and resentment, but we won’t take things in that direction, at least not today…)  

Tit for One or Two Tats

Back around 1980, Robert Axelrod put together a clever experiment based on previous work by Robert Trivers and others, on the subject of evolutionary biology and game theory: Axelrod wanted to determine which strategies of cooperation and competition would succeed best when pitted against each other repeatedly over long periods of time. In essence, he wanted to model the biological evolution of social cooperation.  He set up a computer-based tournament where competitors could introduce game-playing algorithms that would compete against other in a long sequence of repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma scenarios.  The winning entrant was just four lines of code, written by Anatol Rapoport. It was called “Tit-for-Tat” (TFT) which is a good approximation of the concept of Reciprocal Altruism:  First I try to help you.  Then, whatever you do next — help or harm — I’ll do back to you. The more we give, the more we both get.

TFT was the winning strategy in the tournament, but Axelrod wondered if he could improve on it. He modeled a few variations of TFT, and it turned out that, in theory, there was a strategy that would perform even better than TFT, called Tit-for-Two-Tats (TFTT).

Instead of just helping/retaliating based on one previous round, TFTT would wait a couple of turns before retaliating, thereby avoiding costly death spirals due to an initial misstep by one party.

TFTT was seen as an improvement over the simplistic Generosity + “An Eye For An Eye” strategy of TFT… it was Generosity plus Reciprocity with a bit of Forgiveness thrown in… real sweet, in a Judeo-Christian sort of way.

Unfortunately, the TFTT strategy didn’t play out a well in practice. In a subsequent computer-based tournament, some tough folks had entered the scene with highly aggressive algorithms that could exploit the Turn-The-Other-Cheek forgiveness factor of TFTT. So the original, four line TFT approach of reciprocal altruism prevailed in the rougher neighborhood of later tournaments where players were even more cynically aware of each other’s strategies.

So where does this bring us so far?

The more you give, the more you get… but if you’re expecting to get something back, you’ve got to be willing to hold back.

But wait, we’re not done yet…

Abundance Mindset

Now with all this pragmatic tit-for-tatness under our belts, I feel comfortable enough to discuss the more ethereal concept of an abundance mindset, aka, the Abundance Mentality.

The Abundance Mentality was a term that Stephen Covey coined in order to combat the scarcity mindset, or zero-sum game mentality that can pervade narrow interpretations of life situations.  In other words, life ain’t as simple as the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

In a zero-sum game, both parties want the exact same thing and there isn’t any way to share it.

In most real life situations, sharing is a possibility and/or what each party wants is often different enough — even just slightly different — so that both parties may be accommodated. What the abundance mentality says is that there can be a mutually beneficial outcome if both parties take a  win-win approach.  (Ironically, the term “win-win” has become the victim of its own success as a meme, having won over enough people and sloppy usages so that it has now lost its meaning and exists as a businesspeak cliché… I guess sometimes scarcity is a good thing)

Taking out the social/interpersonal cooperation element, the abundance mentality also works on an intra-personal level.  It says you can always get what you need out of life… and possibly even what you want out of life… if you keep a positive outlook.

It’s the mentality that says, “There’s enough out there for me to work with.”

It’s the person who says, after achieving a financial goal,  “I have always been wealthy… and now, I have  some money too.”  

The abundance mindset works when applied to a person’s internal dialogue, because a person’s attitude and beliefs inevitably affect their behavior on a conscious and unconscious level. A person’s behavior — especially unconscious behavior — has a big effect on a person’s reality.

Mind over matter? Thoughts of wealth generating wealth, and thoughts of poverty generating poverty? What about thoughts of disease or health? Thoughts of hurricanes or sunny days? Where does the influence of the mind end? Are you a fan of NLP? What about the Law of Attraction, or the Power of Prayer?  Where do you draw your various lines of cause and effect?

Halevai means that I wish and hope and pray
And if you really wish and hope and pray
Luck is bound to come around your way

– Shtreiml

Ah well, perhaps you’re only willing to stick with the current set of experimentally controlled, documented psychological phenomena, such as Self-fulfilling Prophecies, the Pygmalion Effect, Placebo Effect, Nocebo Effect, Observer-expectancy Effect and a whole bunch of other special effects… as well as the inner game of Sports Psychology and the outer game of Reflexivity.  Or perhaps you, like me, know enough people whose image of themselves is a kind of self-reinforcing identity, both positive and negative.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, it is in fact possible to learn how to be lucky.

People grow into the narrative they tell about themselves and the world around them.

The personalized abundance mentality concept connects with the advice of The More You Give, The More You Get into the following feedback loop:

  1. You get the things that you “give” yourself internally… e.g. think wealthy, become wealthy
  2. What you think of yourself, you do… e.g. give more outwardly, reinforces an identity of being wealthy, see #1 above

Again, where to draw the line on this?  Even as a skeptical thinker, I’m not willing to throw out all of the abundance mentality baby with the bath water of cheesy pseudoscience-filled infomercials.  My opinion is largely colored by personal experience, as every wonderful thing that has happened to me professionally has come as a result of being generous with no expectation of reward. (Skeptical voice: “Yeah, and every horrible thing that has happened to you also came as a result of your generosity… that’s just your default strategy in a statistically random universe.”  Skeptical-on-skeptical-voice: “Yeah, well, it’s been more wonderful than horrible so yay for the default strategy, and anyway, some wonderful stuff and some horrible stuff is better than no stuff at all… stick that in your statistically random universe and smoke it..” )

Regardless, on a purely intellectual level, I know that my brain does a good job of following the patterns or habits I install in it. 

But who needs intellect when you’ve got a 1970’s funk classic to back you up?

Be careful of the thought-seeds you plant in the garden of your mind
For seeds grow after their kind
Play on, children
Every thought felt as true
Or allowed to be accepted as true by your conscious mind
Take roots in your subconscious
Blossoms sooner or later into an act
And bears its own fruit
Good thoughts bring forth good fruit
Bullshit thoughts rot your meat
Think right, and you can fly
The kingdom of heaven is within
Free your mind, and your ass will follow
Play on, children

– Funkadelic

In summary:

The more you give, the more you become someone who has the means to give well.

,,or as some others have put it,

Fake it ’till you make it.”

(hey, if it rhymes and if Wikipedia has a stub for it, then it must be true.)

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on August 25, 2011, in Career, Life, Positivity, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thinking about my initial reaction, and our conversation. The most important point, I think, in terms of the back-end of this mentality, is the practice of gratitude. One has to see/feel/remember/acknowledge the real areas of abundance in one’s current life in order to move into the attitude you’re describing. You say this in the post, but not in so many words.

    • Thanks for this thoughtful comment, R, as well as the earlier conversation. There is definitely a blog post in the making, to cover some of the counter-points to this post, e.g. how the “you get the things that you focus on” concept can be abused, blaming the victim, and so on.

      As for bootstrapping this attitude by utilizing gratitude, you’re right on the mark. Gratitude… the antidote to Anger…

      There’s also Positive Focus as an Act of Defiance against the Gravitational Pull of Depression (aka, “Don’t Let the Bastards Win”), but we’ll cover that another time…

  1. Pingback: End-of-year Taxes and Tithing, aka, The time has come, A fact’s a fact, It doesn’t belong to us, Let’s give it back « Meme Menagerie

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