Being resourceful gives you the ability to solve problems and create opportunities by using available resources in new ways.
The vast majority of us no longer create—we consume. We don’t explore the future potential of the things we already have—we discard them and buy more. Such unchecked consumption has not only created an environmental disaster, it has weakened our own skills and abilities to leverage and maximize the assets we already have.
Why should we care? There are so, so, many reasons. Here are a few:
1. Being Resourceful increases your skills and opportunities.
All resources can basically be categorized into two types: external and internal. External resources are the things we use or rely on to do our jobs, meet a challenge, or respond to a need: objects, fuel, materials, technology, tools, mechanical assistance, and so on. Internal resources are the capabilities we acquire over time: experience, knowledge, technical ability, perception, skills, insight, and so on. They are investments we make in ourselves.
Resourcefulness increases our internal skills. Increasing our internal skills hones our own abilities and reduces our reliance on external resources. As our internal resources increase, so do the capabilities of our external resources. Increasing our ability to see external resources in terms of what they could be and could do beyond their current state increases their abilities to meet our needs without need to purchase or consume more resources.
2. Being Resourceful builds resilience and reduces vulnerability.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”Abraham Lincoln
In the short term, resourcefulness gives you the ability to look at things differently and creating new associations between an asset’s current state and what it could be, what it could do. It creates opportunity to spawn a new innovation, or simply meet a need using what you already have. Increasing moments of resourcefulness begins to change how you think, allowing new opportunities to present themselves more frequently in your career and daily life.
In the long term, these skills do something else tremendously important – they prepare you for future uncertainty. Because let’s face it—the only thing certain about the future is that it is uncertain. Being resourceful builds the attributes of Agility, Ability, and Resilience. These are skills I refer to as “sustainable attributes” that will see us through to the other side of tough times and help us emerge with greater confidence and ability.
3. Being Resourceful Reduces Waste.
Researchers estimate that approximately half the iron, nickel, copper, and other base metals that have been extracted from the ground have been discarded or are no longer in use[i]. The amount of solid waste disposed of in the US has more than doubled in the last 50 years. In 2018 alone, more than 146 million tons of material solid waste were landfilled.[ii] By being more resourceful, we are able to repair, reuse, and reimagine the things we already have instead of disposing them and buying more.
The most powerful tool I’ve found to increase resourcefulness and build resourceful skills comes in the form of just two words: “This Could.”
“This could…” is a catalyst to reduce waste, increase resiliency, and meet increasing needs using existing resources. There’s proven ability in the words. Studies have shown that introducing an object with “This could…” instead of “This is” makes people ten times more likely to find new uses for that object.
“This could…” maximizes our resources by replacing limited assets with an abundance of creativity. The result of employing these words create new opportunities in a time of budgetary reductions, and new use for existing objects and assets as an alternative to waste and disposal.
4. Being Resourceful Increases Our Creativity
When we were children, we possessed wonderous amounts of imaginative abilities to reimagine anything in the world for new or different use.
Yet as L. A. Vint writes, “As we get older, instead of collecting ‘ideas’, we begin a process of information elimination. We continue to narrow down our relevance, concerns, curiosity, concentration, and awareness.” Imagine if we were able to reverse this closing down of imagination. If we were able to begin a process of information expansion instead of elimination by expanding our curiosity and awareness of the possibilities that exist in the resources we already have.
As we grow into adulthood our world becomes defined by fixed perspectives. We are taught that objects and materials have specific identities and uses. This process is a necessary part of learning about the world, but it creates collateral damage. At some point in our development a playful use of an object is met with a correction: “That’s not what that is for.” As more of these moments occur over time, the imagination closes down and never fully recovers.
We cannot pretend to throw a switch and become five years old again in our mind and begin our journey of creativity freedom all over again. But we can work to free our mind from the trappings of certainty and fixed identity. We can re-engage with something we once had in abundance: an open, curious mind. “This Could…” is a gateway to that open curiosity.
5. Being Resourceful Prepares Us for the New Reality.
That new reality is simply that the Earth’s population is increasing. Increasing populations have increasing needs. What we don’t have is a pool of increasing resources with which to meet these needs. Whether financial, spatial, or material, the Earth’s resources are finite. Resourcefulness provides us with infinite abilities to use these finite resources in new ways.
It all begins with looking at everything we have in a new way. Instead of limiting ourselves to what IS, we need to train ourselves to being thinking what “This Could…” be, what it could do. The two words are a tool that will help us realize that increasing our resources doesn’t have to mean increasing our consumption of them.
[i] Zittel, W. (2012) “Feasible Future for the Common Good: Energy Transition Paths in a Period of Increasing Resource Scarcities”, Progress Report 1: Assessment of Fossil Fuels Availability [Task 2a] and of Key Metals Availability [Task 2b] (Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Vienna)