From Book: My Shift From a Prevention Mindset to a Promotion Mindset

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

Shifting Mindsets scaled

My book, Success Mindsets, is officially available in print (click here to get it at your favorite retailer). To highlight the launch of the book, I have been sharing portions of my book. This week I share a section about how I shifted my mindset from a prevention mindset to a promotion mindset.

Chapter 16

The key to and a necessary condition for developing a promotion mindset and becoming the driver of your life is to possess a clear goal, destination, and purpose.

As I mentioned previously, a time when I had a promotion mindset was when I was in high school. My “destination” was to play basketball at the collegiate level. Fueled by this goal, I built a series of cascading goals, my stepping stones, to provide direction. One higher-level goal I set was to lead my basketball team to a winning season. To do this, I developed lower-level goals that included reading books about leadership and practicing daily, with each workout focused on developing specific skills. I saw myself as the creator of a bright future as a college basketball player.

During my senior year, we started the season strong and were a top-ranked team at the end of the preseason. Then, as we entered season play, we struggled to win. Looking back, there was two contributing factors. First, our head coach had to take a leave of absence because of a family emergency, and our assistant coach did not have the same level of knowledge, skill, and expertise. Second, during the summer prior, my high school jumped up a level in the state’s classification system, from 4A to 5A, the designation for the largest high schools in the state. We were actually the smallest 5A school in the state that year. We were competing against great programs that pooled from larger student body populations.

Ultimately, we didn’t perform up to my hopes and goals, which prevented me from getting the looks from college scouts I wanted.

The following summer, I continued to chase my goal. I traveled to a variety of junior colleges working out with different basketball teams. I was offered a partial scholarship at an out-of-state college but decided to try walking on at an in-state junior college with one of the best athletic programs in the country.

Tryouts began with the start of the fall semester. More than 60 athletes battled for five spots. I became one of seven people who made it to the final cut. When the list was posted with the names of the five people who made the team, my name wasn’t there. I was devastated! Looking back, I don’t think I was devastated because I didn’t make the team, but because my purpose was yanked out from under me. I felt rudderless and devoid of meaning.

Between losing my purpose and learning that living on my own was not as easy as I thought it would be, I defaulted into a prevention mindset. I thought, “If I can go through college and life with few problems, I would be doing better than most.” That became my overarching and prevention-minded purpose for the next 15 years, until I stepped back into academia after my foray at Gallup and began developing a promotion mindset.

In Chapter 13, I stated that my transition from possessing a prevention mindset to a promotion mindset occurred because of three changes in my life: I went through a job transition; I had time to reflect on my life, purpose, and habits; and, with a looser schedule, I was able to dive deeply into learning about mindsets. This got me through the first half of developing more positive mindsets: awakening and coming to terms with the idea that I do not have the most optimal mindset and identifying a better alternative.

However, the second half of the battle required that I move the needle on my mindsets and improve the lenses I use to view the world. I needed to rewire my brain.

Cognitive psychologists have found that the differences between chronic prevention and promotion mindset are associated with asymmetrical activity in our prefrontal cortex. Specifically, when people operate with the right side of their prefrontal cortex more than the left, they are more cued in to the negative and avoiding problems, indicative of a prevention mindset. Conversely, people who operate more with the left side of their prefrontal cortex are more cued in to the positive and seeking gains, indicative of promotion mindset. (This is different from right-brain/left-brain functioning related to one’s dominant handedness).

What this suggests is that if we want to go from a prevention to a promotion mindset, we need to rewire our brain to rely more heavily with the left side of our prefrontal cortex. The good news is that our brain is incredibly plastic, making the task possible.

Let me walk you through [one of three] actions I took and the tools I used to engage in small repeated practices that quickly helped me shift from a prevention to promotion mindset.

Right after I stepped away from Gallup and reintegrated with CSUF, I took on a role as assistant director for my college’s Center for Leadership. In this capacity, I made the rounds with the center’s director to meet the center’s board members. In one visit, I met Charles Antis, the charismatic and promotion-minded CEO of Antis Roofing and Waterproofing (whom you will meet in Chapter 19). Within minutes, Charles handed me a book that he called one of his “secrets to success”: The Five-Minute Journal. While I appeared enthusiastic when he first handed me the book, on the inside, I was thinking, “There is no way I am journaling!” But he went on to describe the book as a tool designed to get into the right frame of mind to conquer your day—and it only takes five minutes. Specifically, the journal includes a morning practice of writing down three things you are grateful for, three things that will make your day great, and a daily affirmation. Then, at night, you write down three amazing things that happened during the day and how you could have made that day even better.

I told myself I would give it two weeks. If it helped, great! If it didn’t, no harm done.

I started the daily practices. I immediately realized that by writing down three things that would make my day great, I became much more purposeful. Then, as I reviewed the amazing things that happened each day, I grew competitive with myself to create more amazing things day after day, which in turn made me even more purposeful. Through this practice, I had begun to learn the language of a promotion mindset.

Today, I credit this journal with providing the fuel for my decisions to write this book and start my own business.

If you would like to get the newly released paperback version of my book (or ebook or audiobook), click here to find it at your favorite retailer, plus several promotion giveaways (e.g., free mindset webinar)



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