Professor Gabrielle Oettingen believes that we should all dream a little smaller. According her research positive Fantasies work well to comfort us and give us hope, but fails to help us accomplish our goals.
In her new book, Rethinking Positive Thinking, Oettingen guides readers into the new science of motivation. Originally from Germany, Oettingen was raised in a culture where being realistic was the norm. However, when Oettingen arrived in America, she was pleasantly surprised to see how positive Americans were compared to Europeans.
Follow Your Dream and Passion – Is It Really Good Advice?
Gabrielle began to research on positive thinking, believing that it actually helps people achieve their goals. It was during her research she found out that positive fantasies seduce us to feel accomplished.
Oettingen brought people to her lab and asked them to positively fantasise about their goals. Her research indicated that those who continually participated in positive fantasies, tended to perform poorly when it came to actually accomplishing their goals.
Oettingen’s work on positive thinking is extensive; she found that in every study positive fantasies would prevent people from achieving their goals. Some of the more interesting findings include the following results:
- Women who enrolled in weight reduction programs who positively fantasised about their weight reduction, lost fewer pounds three months later than those who didn’t.
- Students who thought more positively about getting good grades performed worse than students who didn’t exercise in positive fantasies.
- In health, hip replacement surgery patients who fantasised positively about an easy recovery recovery did not recover so effortlessly as judged by their physical therapists.
(More info on her findings here)
Turning Positive Fantasies As A Tool For Productivity
Positive Fantasies aren’t completely bad. In fact, if you use them correctly with Mental Contrasting, they can be a powerful tool for productivity and motivation. Here’s how mental contrasting works:
- Think about what you really want to accomplish in the next four weeks. It doesn’t matter what type of wish it is, as long as it is challenging and achievable.
- Think about what would be the best outcome if you fulfil that wish.
- Now switch gears and you ask yourself what’s actually stoping you from fulfilling your wish and what are the inner obstacles you have created that’s stopping you from achieving your goals.
When you acknowledge the difference between your ideal self and your current circumstances, it creates a necessity to act. It forces you to close that gap through action. Once you identify those obstacles, you can then develop strategies to overcome them and accomplish your goals. And the best strategy you can apply is called an implementation intention, otherwise known as an IF-THEN plan.