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Reflections for the future

The New Year has given me time to reflect about the last year at West Virginia University and in West Virginia.

One of the most striking issues that has come up is the many challenges our state is facing in the upcoming year — projected economic deficits, loss of energy-related jobs, drug infestations and deaths from overdoses and overall a consistent state of self-reported lack of wellbeing. 

I think, however, that we are about to see ourselves as the ancient Phoenix rising from the ashes to fly high again. 

How can we realistically accomplish this?

Well, I am struck about the connection of health metrics and a person's perception of wellbeing.

West Virginia has consistently rated worst in the country in wellness, according to Gallup's yearly poll on the subject.

So what is wellbeing? It is a perceptional state self-reported by citizens to the Gallup poll that consists of questions that identify purpose, financial health, physical health, social environment, and community. 

Our state is consistently last, as self-reported. 

We have also been close to the bottom on many health metrics. 

Why is this? Well some of it is obvious - there have been hard times for many of our citizens. 

I think that our long-term scarcity mindset is an underpinning variable that can be successfully addressed. 

Scarcity comes from feeling a lack of some resource — time, money, purpose, positive relationships. 

From the feeling of scarcity comes an increasing focus on a survival mentality around this issue and a feeling of lacking. 

This scarcity mentality results in what is known as cognitive constriction or a narrowing of mental focus from all the important issues in your life to this one. 

For many, this can lead to escape from this worry through alcohol or drugs.

For others, it reduces their ability to see alternatives and in fact, it is proven that having a scarcity mentality and going into survival mode actually reduces your intellectual processing, as happens when you have too many programs open on your computer.

The computer becomes slow and less responsive to new inquiries.

So does your brain in scarcity mode. 

At its peak, this cognitive constriction leads to tunnel vision about the problem, which is also described in people thinking of committing suicide. 

It also may be at the root of not caring about many issues in one's life, and not caring about healthy behaviors or ingestion of cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, or foods that may shorten their lives. 

So, what is the solution?

We need to grow an abundance mindset that helps our citizens believe there is light at the end of the tunnel - that there are better days ahead. 

This seems to be a secret for people that rise above their past, like JD Vance did in his terrific book "Hillbilly Elegy."

How do we create this abundance mindset?

Surround our friends, family and neighbors with love and safety, and help them re-gain purpose, positive relationships and a feeling of hope for a better future. 

At the same time, lets get people jobs, clean up communities and educate our workforce and children. 

This may help people start to see many alternatives and solutions to their troubles. 

Replacing scarcity with abundance is not only about changing perceptions, it is about changing lives.