“The solution isn’t to do away with dreaming and positive thinking. Rather, it’s making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way.” Dr. Gabrielle Oettingen
In 20+ years of research, psychologist Oettingen created various models of how people think about the future. She has distinguished between expectations of future success versus fantasies of future success and has found that these two forms of thinking about the future decisively differ in their impact on actual effort and success. She has completely reshaped how we should think about positive thinking. It turns out that Starry-eyed dreaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and as it turns out, dreamers are not often doers.
“Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.’” Oettingen had to figure out what really works to motivate people and get them through or around barriers and able to handle stress. She developed a model where we contrast a desired positive goal with the very real obstacles to get there, and then form ‘if-then’ plans to overcome the obstacles that might arise.
This concept of mental contrasting absolutely applies in all phases of our lives from child rearing to sports to business wherever one can face obstacles and unknowns.
Performance readiness is essential for when plans go sideways in the face of adversity. The unexpected happens all the time. But if you have to decide in the moment what to do, often it’s too late. That’s why the mental contrasting, i.e., the if-then planning for various scenarios or sequences of events, is so important.
In just ten minutes you can try WOOP – you can download the free app WOOP from the app store and give it a try. When we learned that research shows that positive thinking per se does NOT work, it got our attention!
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