To Become Mindful, You Must Know Your Mindsets

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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This is the final article in a four-part series on mindfulness. The first article defined what mindfulness is. The second article listed the 25 research-backed benefits of mindfulness. The third article identified six ways to strengthen your mindfulness muscles. This article covers both the power of mindfulness as well as what I consider to be the most effective way to improve your mindfulness, and correspondingly, your life.

In most of our daily life experiences, we unintentionally let our minds wander, run on automatic pilot, suppress unwanted experiences, worry about the future, or ruminate about the past. In fact, some research has found that 90% of our thinking, feeling, judging, and acting are driven by our non-conscious automated processes. In other words, for much of our daily life experiences we operate mindlessly. While efficient, it is likely that our mindless operation and processes is preventing us from being more effective and successful.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, is entering into a state where one is able to monitor their information processing, and as they do so, they gain agency to adjust what information they process and how they process it, making them able to respond to their world in a much more flexible, conscious, and effective way.

Mindfulness has two primary benefits for us.

First, mindfulness allows us to behave more consciously. By reducing the habitual and reactive responses that we typically engage in, mindfulness enables choicefulness, intentionality, and more effective regulation, improving how we think about and navigate the various circumstances we find ourselves in.

Second, let’s be real, we cannot operate 100% mindfully and consciously all of the time. So, mindfulness allows us to become aware of and evaluate our typical non-conscious automated processes and, if needed, provides us with the ability to adjust those automated processes.

Either way, mindfulness allows for us to upgrade how we operate in and navigate life.

Meet Dave

Let me give you an example to demonstrate the value of mindfulness. Dave is a leader, and he actually considers himself to be a great leader. But, he lacks self-awareness and largely operates mindlessly. As such, he falls into patterns of behavior that he has developed over time that he considers to be what a great leader should do. One such pattern of behavior is driven by his internal non-conscious desire to be seen as being right. This pattern manifests when someone presents a suggestion for how he can improve. In these situations, his non-conscious desire drives him to interpret the suggestions as criticism of his leadership, making him defensive and quick to shut down those suggestions.

If Dave could develop his mindfulness, he could become aware of his internal non-conscious desires and natural inclination to become defensive, and better regulate his emotions, allowing him to become more choiceful and effective in his response to the suggestions and feedback. By doing so, he could actually improve his leadership. But, for now, his mindless automatic thinking and behavior is preventing him from learning and developing, and probably causing frustration to those he works with and leads.

Additionally, by recognizing his non-conscious desires and natural inclinations, he can work on developing and improving his non-conscious automated processes and replacing them with more healthy processes.

Removing Ourselves from being a Barrier to Greater Success

We don’t want to be like Dave, consistently thinking we are being effective, but unaware that we are getting in our own way for greater success.

To prevent this from happening, we need to become more mindful to uncover and evaluate our non-conscious automatic processes.

In my last blog post, I discussed six ways to strengthen our mindfulness muscles, including meditation, breathing, and yoga. While research has shown these practices to enhance mindfulness, I believe that they are limited in their effectiveness because they lack structure and tools to be able to evaluate our non-conscious automatic processes.

To uncover our non-conscious automatic processes, we must develop a vocabulary to evaluate such processes.

To me, the reason why practices like meditation, breathing, and yoga are not as effective as learning about and becoming aware of our mindsets is because if we don’t have a way or a language to be able to evaluate our mindsets, we are unlikely to properly assess the effectiveness of our non-conscious automated processes.

This is not unlike someone trying to figure out how to repair a broken-down car with no understanding of how a car engine works. We can look under the hood all we want, but our ability to diagnose and solve the problem is unlikely.

But, if we can cut straight to the chase and have a framework and language to evaluate our mindsets, we can enhance our mindfulness and improve our non-conscious automated processes much more rapidly.

This is the precise reason I have developed my personal mindset assessment. It is a tool that people can use to discover the mindsets driving their non-conscious automated processes. Specifically, the assessment helps people (1) identify four specific mindsets that drive more healthy non-conscious automated processes; (2) identify the degree to which they possess these mindsets, helping them awaken to the non-conscious automated processes that drive them; and (3) learn ways to adjust and improve their mindsets to become more mindful.

These mindsets include:

  • Fixed-Growth Mindsets

  • Closed-Open Mindsets

  • Prevention-Promotion Mindsets

  • Inward-Outward Mindsets


By taking this assessment, you will become aware of your mindsets and you will learn a language that will allow you to:

  • Become more mindful, conscious, and intentional in your day to day operation

  • Replace your unhealthy non-conscious automated processes with more healthy non-conscious automated processes

Don’t be like Dave, and let your lack of mindfulness be the reason why you aren’t reaching the success you desire.

Quick Thought

In the past few days, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Browns both fired their head coaches. Obviously these coaches are not trying to do a poor job. Rather, they are trying their best. But, whenever I see a lack of success that leads to leadership changes, I can’t help but think that what lied at the root of their inability to be more successful was themselves, and in particular their lack of mindfulness and lack of understanding the mindsets that drive their non-conscious automatic processes.

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