If you feel like a mindset novice, before reading this article, you might find value in reading this article: What are Mindsets & Why are They Foundational to Our Success? It lays the groundwork for why I am focusing on and summarizing the benefits of a promotion mindset.

Prevention and Promotion Mindsets

We possess a promotion mindset when we are primarily focused on winning and gains. To have a promotion mindset, we need to have a clear goal or destination that we are shooting toward.

We possess a prevention mindset when we are primarily focused on not losing. When we do not have a clear goal or destination, this becomes our default mindset.

To better appreciate the difference that these mindsets have in our lives, let’s compare ourselves to a ship captain in the middle of the ocean.

If we are a ship captain with a prevention mindset, our primary concern is not sinking. Thus, we are sensitive to problems, we don’t want to take any risk, and we want to maintain the status quo. In other words, we don’t want to rock the boat.

But, what happens if a storm comes on the horizon, how are we likely to respond? We are likely to go away from the storm to a port of safety as a way to ensure our comfort and safety.

Is that port the destination we likely set out for when we first set sail? No.

When we have a prevention mindset, we are essentially as good as a life raft, at the mercy of the winds and currents of the sea.

If we are a ship captain with a promotion mindset, we obviously don’t want to sink, but our primary concern is getting to a specific destination.

So, when a storm comes on the horizon, we are going to ask ourselves, “Does that storm stand between me and my destination?” If so, we are going to make preparations to face the storm (e.g., batten down the hatches), and we are going to take the risk of braving the storm, because that is the only way to reach our destination.

It is only when we have a promotion mindset that we become willing to brave the winds and currents of the sea, and it is the only way we are going to get to the destinations of our proactive design.

Research Benefits of Possessing a Promotion Mindset

Fortunately, we have 30+ years of academic research on prevention and promotion mindsets that have been able to clearly demonstrate the effect these mindsets have on how we operate. This research has repeatedly demonstrated that those that have a promotion mindset think and process much more effectively than those with a prevention mindset in three primary ways.

First, a promotion mindset positively influences how we interpret situational cues.

Those with a Prevention Mindset:

Those with a Promotion Mindset:

Seek to minimize pain

Seek to maximize pleasure

More prone to negative thinking

More prone to positive thinking

Sensitive to cues that indicate the likelihood of negative affect, safety, and security

Sensitive to cues that indicate the likelihood of positive affect, growth, and accomplishment

Focused on fulfilling duties and obligations, maintaining acceptable standards of performance, and limiting mistakes and errors

Focused on accomplishing goals and aspirations, advancing and making progress, and fulfilling one’s ideal self

 

Second, a promotion mindset activates specific processing dynamics to navigate our situations in a manner aligned with our interpretation of situational cues.

Those with a Prevention Mindset:

Those with a Promotion Mindset:

Motivated to avoid problems and losses, programming them for vigilance, avoidance, stability, exploitation, and maintaining status quo

Motivated to seek winning and gains, programming them for eagerness, speed, achievement, exploration, and change
Negative and/or weak relationships with job satisfaction, affective commitment, and engagement

Strong positive relationships with job satisfaction, affective commitment, and engagement

Moderate positive relationship with continuance commitment (the most negative form of commitment)

Small positive relationship with continuance commitment (the most negative form of commitment)

Small positive relationship with normative commitment

Moderate positive relationship with normative commitment

 

Third, a promotion mindset activates specific behavioral dispositions to navigate our situations in a manner aligned with our interpretation of situational cues.

Those with a Prevention Mindset:

Those with a Promotion Mindset:

Generally underperforms relative to those with a promotion focus

Generally outperforms those with a prevention focus

Less likely to set goals and exhibit persistence

Sets more challenging goals and exhibit greater persistence

Small or non-significant relationships with task performance, organizational behavior, and innovative performance

Moderate positive relationships with task performance, organizational behavior, and innovative performance

Moderate positive relationship with counterproductive work behaviors

Moderate negative relationship with counterproductive work behaviors

Strong positive relationship with safety performance

Moderate negative relationship with safety performance

 

Overall, 30+ years of research on prevention and promotion mindsets demonstrates that if we have one person/team/organization that is promotion-minded, they will outperform another person/team/organization that is prevention-minded every time.

Want to learn the degree to which you have a promotion mindset relative to 10,000+ people who have taken my FREE personal mindset assessment?

In my next article, I will be focusing on how we develop more of a promotion mindset to capture more of these benefits in our lives.  

If you want to dive deeper into these ideas, check out my book that just became available:

Success Mindsets: Your Keys to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work, & Leadership