The Five-Step Process to Develop Positive Qualities

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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To Develop More Positive Qualities, What Must Change?

I recently read an article that suggested that the most important leadership qualities for the 21st century are mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion.

As I read this, the following question came to mind: If I do not possess the qualities of mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion, and I want to develop such qualities, how would I go about doing so?

Or, in a more basic form: How does one improve in any positive quality?

This is a big question, and one that I want to provide an answer to. But before I do, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What qualities are you interested in developing? (Here is some potential options: empathy, compassion, humility, self-awareness, driven, creative, resilient, courageous)
  • How well have you done at developing these qualities?
  • What have you done to develop these qualities?

When people are being honest with themselves, they (1) usually wish that they were more effective at developing certain qualities, and (2) have largely taken a passive approach to developing such qualities because they either do not know the techniques or steps to develop such qualities or they think that they are “stuck” with their qualities and unable to change them.

While there are surely different approaches one can take to develop positive qualities, I will suggest one approach, along with five steps, that you probably haven’t thought of before.

To introduce this approach, we must ask ourselves, what changes need to occur within us in order to develop or enhance a specific quality? For example, what needs to occur in order for someone to go from being:

  • Selfish to Selfless
  • Non-mindful to Mindful
  • Unfocused to Focused
  • Timid to Confident?

Doesn’t the root of developing such qualities involve seeing things in new, different, and improved ways? For example, in order for one to go from selfish to selfless, non-mindful to mindful, and/or timid to confident, doesn’t one fundamentally have to change how one sees themselves? Further, in order to go from unfocused to focused, doesn’t one have to change from seeing many options to seeing fewer options?

Recognizing this, we are left with an understanding that in order to develop positive qualities, we need to change how we see things, our perspective.

If only there was an attribute that we possessed that determines how we see and interpret the world around us…. Oh wait, there is! Our mindsets.

Our mindsets are the mental lenses that we use to view the world. These lenses selectively organize and encode information, which in turn orients and directs us toward a distinct way of operating.

Since our mindsets shape how we see the world, and how we see the world shapes the qualities we possess…

…then we can surmise that if we can improve our mindsets, we can improve our qualities.

Here is what is amazing about this approach: There are potentially dozens of different qualities that we may want to develop, yet there are only a few mindsets that drive nearly all of these qualities. This suggests that rather than focus on potentially dozens of different qualities, which can be daunting, we can instead focus only a few mindsets and arguably obtain better results.

Research over several decades have identified four sets of mindsets that have repeatedly been found to drive our thinking, learning, and behavior. Each of these mindsets rests on a continuum from negative to positive. They are:

1. Inward (negative) and Outward (positive) Mindsets:

  • Inward mindset: Seeing others as objects and valuing them as such
  • Outward mindset: Seeing others as people and valuing them as such

2. Closed (negative) and Open (positive) Mindsets

  • Closed mindset: Being closed to the ideas of others and the possibility of being wrong
  • Open mindset: Being open to the ideas of others and to the possibility of being wrong

3. Fixed (negative) and Growth (positive) Mindsets

  • Fixed mindset: Having the belief that one is unable to change his/her talents, abilities, and intelligence, and that others are also unable to change their talents, abilities, and intelligence
  • Growth mindset: Having the belief that one is able to change his/her talents, abilities, and intelligence and that others are able to do the same

4. Prevention (negative) and Promotion (positive) Mindsets

  • Prevention mindset: Possessing a focus on not losing and avoiding problems
  • Promotion mindset: Possessing a focus on winning and gains

As we shift our mindsets from negative to positive, this shift will naturally translate into the development of the positive qualities we are seeking to develop. Let me demonstrate.

As an individual goes from having an inward mindset to having an outward mindset, they naturally go from being indifferent, selfish, and insensitive to being empathetic, selfless, and compassionate.

As an individual goes from having a closed mindset to having an open mindset, they naturally go from being non-mindful, egotistical, and non-self-aware to being mindful, humble, and self-aware.

As an individual goes from having a fixed mindset to having a growth mindset, they naturally go from being non-resilient, fearful, and a micromanager to being resilient, confident, and an empowerer.

As an individual goes from having a prevention mindset to having a promotion mindset, they naturally go from being lazy, unfocused, and not creative to being driven, focused, and creative.

Thus, it appears that in order for one to develop positive qualities, one must improve one’s mindsets.

This prompts the question: How do we improve our mindsets?

The answer to this question is the Five-step Process to Developing Positive Qualities, which may more accurately be called the Five-step Process to Develop the Mindsets that Drive the Development of Positive Qualities (yep, a mouthful).

Five-step Process to Developing Positive Qualities

1. Identify and understand the mindsets that drive the development of positive qualities.

Just as it is difficult to develop and give a great speech if you do not know the elements of effective speech-writing, it is difficult to improve our mindsets if we are unable to identify them or put a label on them. But, if we can put a label on our mindsets, and objectify them, then they become something that we can focus in on and improve.

2. Identify the mindsets you currently possess

In order to improve your mindsets, it is essential that you awaken to the mindsets you possess, and come to an accurate understanding of the mindsets that you currently possess. Most people are not conscious of their mindsets. And, similar to wearing sunglasses for a long period of time, most people have lost consciousness of the mindsets they are wearing, and they have lost awareness that their mindsets cause them to see things differently than others.

(I have developed a personal mindset assessment designed to help you identify the degree to which you possess the positive mindsets identified above)

3. Identify the mindsets you want to possess

Next, it is essential that you identify the mindsets you want to possess.

4. Switch your current mindsets to the mindsets you want to possess

By identifying and coming to an accurate understanding of the state of your current mindsets and also identifying the mindsets you want to possess, this empowers you to create a switch. You see, changing our mindsets is a choice, and not unlike making the conscious choice to change the glasses we are wearing. If we are wearing glasses that are scratched in a way that affects our vision, but we are unaware of it, we are unlikely to do anything about it. But, if we become aware that the glasses that we are wearing are hindering our vision, then it is natural for us to take off our glasses and replace them with upgraded and better glasses.

5. Let go of your current and prevailing mindsets

But you might be saying, “That is too easy.” Well it is, and it isn’t. What is difficult about switching our mindsets is not putting on new mindsets, it is letting go of our prevailing mindsets. You see, people get attached to their prevailing mindsets. They come to identify with them, and they believe that their mindsets are an important part of them. Further, they believe that if they put on different mindsets, they will be a “sellout,” someone completely different. For example, think of the stereotypical “my way or the highway” parent. This parenting style is driven by their mindset; it has likely become part of who they think they are; and if they were to change, they might think that they are betraying themselves. The reality is that, while they will likely change, they would not be betraying themselves; rather, they would be improving themselves. But admittedly, becoming someone different than what one has been can be a scary proposition.

But, if the whole point is to develop qualities that we currently do not possess, and that is something that we want, it is essential that we let go of our prevailing mindsets, which many people refer to as our “limiting self beliefs.”


The difference between the qualities that you have and the qualities that you want to possess is in how you see your world or, in other words, your mindsets. Thus, if you want to develop certain qualities that you do not yet have, it is essential that you change your mindsets.

In this article, I have identified four mindsets that drive almost any positive quality you may want to develop: outward, open, growth, and promotion. Additionally, I have given you a five-step process for improving your mindsets, which in turn will allow you develop the qualities that you want to become.

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