Small Mindset Shifts that Mean the Difference between Life and Death

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson


I find it remarkable that small imperceptible shifts in how we choose to see things can mean the difference between life and death.

I recently started listening to a fascinating book called “The Choice” by Edith Eva Eger.

Here is a description of the book:

“It’s 1944 and sixteen-year-old ballerina and gymnast Edith Eger is sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive. The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience. The Choice is her unforgettable story.”

In the Foreword of the book, Philip Zimbardo says:

“Perhaps the best comparison for Edie’s book is…Victor Frankl’s brilliant classic Man’s Search for Meaning…Victor Frankl presented the psychology of the prisoners who were with him Auschwitz. Dr. Eger offers us the psychology of freedom.

I don’t know why I love books where people share their stories of surviving such horrific conditions. But, they move and inspire me.

How Did Eger Survive?

In her book, Eger promotes the idea that survival in concentration camps at least partly came down to a choice: how the prisoners viewed their situation.

When in concentration camps or POW camps, individuals can view their situation in at least two ways: first, freedom is eminent by a certain date (e.g., “By New Year’s I will be free); second, who knows when freedom will come, but I will stay alive tomorrow.

From her experience, Eger suggested, and studies have confirmed, that when individuals set a deadline for their liberation, they tended to die shortly after the deadline.

Eger, on the other hand, kept a more realistic view of her situation. While optimistic about liberation, she couldn’t be certain that she would ever get out. So, rather than focus on liberation, she focused on surviving until tomorrow. This led her to survive some of the most horrendous conditions imaginable.

It is a fantastic demonstration of how our mindsets can mean the difference between life and death.

But, this shift in mindsets (from liberation is eminent to liberation may never come but I will survive until tomorrow) isn’t the only one that can save us. Let me share three others that can save our work, relationships, and financial well-being.

Shifts in Mindsets that Can Save our Work, Relationships, and Financial Well-being

Mindset shift that can save our work

What sets apart a top performer from a low performer. There are a variety of factors, but at its core is how they see their work. Low performers see their job as something they HAVE to do. High performers choose to see their job as something they GET to do.

How do you see your main responsibilities? If you see them as things you HAVE to do, you have the freedom to choose a better perspective that will save your work experience.

Mindset shift that can save our relationships

Earlier this week, I read a great article: How One Word Transformed My Marriage.

In it, the author described her long-term marriage with her husband as something she had largely “managed.” Not the best way to described a marriage relationship.

But, she has learned something that has saved her marriage. Instead of seeing her spouse as a hindrance, she chose to see him as a gift.

“Gift” is the one word that transformed her marriage.

Now this advice isn’t healthy for abusive relationships. But if you are ever in a funk with your spouse, changing your perspective of your spouse being a hindrance to being a gift may just save your marriage.

Mindset shift that can save your financial well-being

In her fantastic book, You are a Badass at Making Money, Jen Sincero tells her broke ass-to-millionaire story. It is a fantastic book. In fact, I think it is the best book I have ever read related to money management. This is because she identifies a subtle shift in mindset that is crucial for improving one’s financial well-being.

The shift she talks about is the difference between a deficit mindset and an abundance mindset.

When we have a deficit mindset, we see our finances as a fixed pie. With this perspective, we feel that the best way to grow wealth is to spend as little of our pie as possible, and save the rest, which will accumulate over time.

A better approach is an abundance mindset. With this perspective, we see our finances as an expanding pie. Rather than try to grow wealth by constraining how much we spend, we seek to spend our money in ways that grow our pie, allowing for an ever-increasing pie that we can tap into for wealth development.

For more on abundance mindsets, check out this post: The Difference between an Abundance Mindset and a Scarcity Mindset.


Survival and success across all aspects of our life are often a matter of mindset.

And, just as important, our mindsets are a choice.

Choose good ones.

Are there any other small imperceptible shifts in mindset that you are aware of that can dramatically improve your life, work, or leadership? If so, please comment below for future readers.

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