Taking ‘Initiative’ is a good quality while having a ‘scarcity mentality’ is a poor quality. The teachings of coaching academies often misguide the defence aspirants. The wrongly coached aspirants display a ‘scarcity mentality’ rather than ‘abundance mentality’ because of their misunderstood concept of ‘initiative.’ In this blog I will explain with examples the differences between the two to help the defence aspirants clear the SSB and not fall prey to the misguidance of coaching academies.

Let us first understand the meanings of the two terms being compared.

Initiative. The ability to originate purposeful action. It has the following aspects: –
(a) Ability to take the first step in an unfamiliar situation.
(b) In the right direction.
(c) Sustain it, till the goal is achieved.

 Persons with high initiative display plenty of originality in thoughts & actions. Persons with positive initiative never get stuck, they are pushing, enterprising, persistent and will come out with numerous fresh ideas.

Scarcity Mindset versus Abundance Mindset

Abundance Mindset Scarcity Mindset
Thinking big-picture Thinking small
Focused on opportunities Focused on costs
Optimistic about the future Neutral or pessimistic about the future
Trust, not fear Fear-based outlook
Life is about flourishing Life is about survival
No limits Significant limits
Mindset of gratitude Mindset of lack
Long-term focus Short-term focus
Expansive vision Constricted vision

Cultural Problem in India

Indian society has lived with scarcity and poverty for a long time. Things did improve in the 90s and 2000s. However, the present government has created unemployment. The unemployment problem has embedded, ‘scarcity mentality’ in the society. Thus, paucity of jobs and opportunities and the reality of far too many people competing for very limited jobs are embedded in the subconscious minds of a large number of SSB aspirants. This subconscious mental state is an ideal breeding ground for misinterpreting the concept of ‘initiative’.

Concept of ‘Initiative’ Misunderstood by Coached Candidates at SSB

The first group interaction takes place in the Picture Perception and Description Test (PPDT) at the SSB during the Screening Test. The coached candidates in their desire to display, ‘initiative’ actually display, ‘scarcity mentality’ by the following actions:

  • Out-shouting others and not allowing others to speak, (because they fear that others will take their opportunity-time is less, opportunities are few, competitors are too many).
  • The group is required to nominate a leader to narrate the common story on behalf of the group. ‘Scarcity mentality’ is displayed when individuals quite shamelessly nominate themselves to represent the group (it appears an acceptable act when they see shameless self-promotion in contemporary public life).

In the Group Tasks the ‘scarcity mindset’ is again displayed by individuals not allowing others to speak or act in the group and be dysfunctional members of the group rather than effective team members.

What Genuine Initiative Would Be?

Genuine initiative would be displayed by the following acts:

Psychology Tests, Examples of Situation Reaction Tests (SRT)

  • Situation 1: “You find a group of men misbehaving with a girl. You would—-” Taking initiative would be displayed when the aspirant writes: “You would call the police helpline number and report the incident. Rush and rescue the girl by threatening the men of the arrival of the police. Drop the girl safely home and register an FIR enroute.”
  • Situation 2: “You find a passenger has fallen off the moving train. You would—-“. Taking initiative would get displayed by the following: “You would pull the chain to stop the train. Rush to revive the fallen passenger and get him back to the train with the help of other volunteers. Handover to Railway staff for further treatment.”
  • Situation 3: “Among a group of friends you are not getting an opportunity to convey your point. You would—“. A ‘scarcity mindset’ person would write: “He would raise his voice and convey his point or convey that he should be given an opportunity to make his point.” A person with good initiative and ‘abundance mindset’ would write: “He requested that everyone should be allowed to make his points because that is in the interest of everyone and also in the collective interest of the group.”

 Examples of Taking Initiative in Group

  • A candidate with a well-developed quality of initiative will articulate good reasons for choosing the topic for discussion from the two alternatives given by the GTO.
  • In the PPDT, Group Discussion or in the Group Planning Exercise, when the group is straying away from the main agenda or wasting time in discussing insignificant things, the person guides the group in the right direction with calmness and logical articulation of thoughts.
  • In performing various tasks as a group, the individual with good initiative will do the following:

o   Not get frustrated when the group gets stuck and comes up with creative ideas to get the group going.

o   Remain calm and focus on whatever he/she can do and with his/her actions influence the team to be more effective and finish the assigned task, rather than get frustrated by the actions of the dysfunctional group members and give up.

In Interview

In the interview the aspirant need not try to impress the Interviewing Officer (IO) with his/her great sense of initiative but allow the IO to find out the same from his/her past life actions. In case a candidate with good initiative is not sure of an answer, then he would not give up but tell the IO, “Sir, I am not sure of the answer, but would like to give a try,” and then go on to convey the answer.


I request SSB aspirants to please understand clearly the difference between taking initiative and working from a ‘scarcity mindset’. Thereafter use this knowledge to become good team members, succeed in life and also advise your friends to do so. Good luck!


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