The lens you view the world through impacts most everything you do in life. We all fall into one of two camps; we are either promotion or prevention-focused. Knowing which you are can have a profound impact on how you see things.

A client recently experienced this phenomenon while applying for a new job. They were super-excited about the opportunity and pretty unhappy in their current job, so they were doubly interested in moving on. The day of the initial interview, they found out something negative about the company, followed by a disappointing call with the HR representative. This soured him to the opportunity in a big way, to the point where he was no longer interested in the job.

To me, these were minor things that shouldn’t really impact the overall experience. If this were me, I would just continue on with the interview process, gather all of the facts then make an informed decision. I am promotion focused. To him though, the issues that came up were huge red flags and he wanted to avoid the apparent problems that might arise from making a move to this new company. As he recounted his experience during a coaching session, we realized that he is prevention focused. Before the session, he didn’t have language to put around how and why he feels the way he does when confronted with perceived problems. He now has a new sense of why he responds to life the way he does and the tools to change his view of these situations! He’s decided to continue with the interview process and see what transpires. He made a more informed choice.  I love when clients have these realizations!

How would you react in this situation? Would you still see the job as an opportunity (like me) or see red flags everywhere (like my client)? The way you answer could determine whether you're promotion or prevention focused.

So what exactly does it mean to be promotion or prevention focused? Let’s lay it out:

Are you self aware of the lens through which you view the world?Promotion focused:

  • Tends to work towards something positive
  • Sees obstacles as problems to be overcome, sometimes even as opportunities
  • Are motivated by praise
  • Can be overly optimistic

Prevention focused:

  • Tends to work away from something negative
  • Are diligent about not making mistakes
  • Sees obstacles as warning signs…there is danger ahead, to proceed may be a mistake
  • Are motivated by criticism   
  • Can be overly pessimistic


Now, are we slaves to our “focus”…no! Understanding which you are
enables you to make informed choices. If I’m promotion focused, I may need to inject a little realism into my rose-tinted thinking. If I’m prevention-focused, I may be inclined to have very strong reactions to relatively minor events, so being aware of this can help me to be more objective. Say you’re a promotion-focused budding entrepreneur; you may be overly optimistic about how quickly you can grow your business, or dismiss others advice about ways to be successful. If you’re a prevention-focused manager; you may have unrealistic expectations of what your employees will do to avoid making mistakes. You may even feel inclined to punish them. Awareness is key here...if you’re aware that these tendencies are coming from a place of personal perspective, rather than an objective observation, you can make a meaningful difference in how you approach life, and ultimately be more successful in whatever you do.

Here are a couple of tips to help you use this new-found knowledge to your advantage:

  • If one of your goals is to change your diet, a prevention-focused risk avoidance path would be to avoid eating junk food. A promotion-focused gainful path would be to eat more healthy foods.
  • If you want to “get fit” you can avoid known health risks by exercising more OR you can work out more to feel better.
  • Listen to the language others use and try to discern whether they are promotion or prevention focused. It can help you shape your communication, and even help you motivate them.

Here’s another example that might help illustrate the importance of understanding this dynamic. Last year during one of my workshops, an attendee had an epiphany. She had a bad knee and had been told that if she couldn’t strengthen it before October, she would need to have surgery. For those of you reading this saying “so strengthen your knee lady”, you’re probably prevention focused (you would work to avoid something negative). However, she’s not, she’s promotion focused, avoiding knee surgery wasn’t enough to incentivize her to work on it. So, what was the epiphany? Well, she realized that she’s promotion focused, and needed to work towards something positive, not avoiding something negative. She made an informed decision to train to run a 5k, which would strengthen her knee enough to not need surgery. As a positive goal to work towards, she was much more likely to be successful!

Understanding and embracing your focus will change how you look at the things you currently struggle with. Aren’t you tired of saying to yourself “Well, I should be able to___”? Don’t beat yourself up and stop comparing your experience to anyone else’s...when you know why you react in a certain way, you can choose a different path, and that’s the power of self awareness!


Empowerment & Life Coach Ciara GoganCiara Gogan’s passion is to work with women to help them see how valuable they are to the world, and learn to appreciate their amazing capabilities. She loves to see her clients go from overwhelm to focus and help them accomplish their goals. Her clients appreciate her honesty and her kindness, and she gets such joy out of helping them improve. She’s not afraid to challenge you but is respectful and will always honor her clients’ wishes. It’s part of her job to explore the boundaries and see if her client is willing to step outside their comfort zone. She gets such joy out of helping her clients. “Ciara’s Kick-Start Kit” is her most popular package for clients looking to dip their toes into the Life coaching waters.

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