Why positive thinking is overrated

CATEGORY: , , , 20.02.18

Research shows that fantasizing about your dreams coming true isn’t always helpful and can ultimately interfere with your ability to achieve your actual goals.


“The problem with positive thinking is when it disconnects you from reality. If you have achieved your goals in your mind’s eye, studies show, you are less likely to consider the concrete actions you need to take and the possible obstacles in the way. Psychologists refer to positive fantasies of virtual achievement as “mental attainment.”


As we all know, mentally achieving a goal has nothing to do with actually achieving that goal. In other words, all the daydreaming in the world won’t help you land that job, meet your soul mate or get an A in physics”

says Dr. Samantha Boardman


Gabriele Oettingen, professor of psychology at New York University, has been researching the problem with positive thinking for years and her research proved that, consistently, there is a correlation between positive fantasies and poor performance.


The more that people ‘think positive’ and imagine themselves achieving their goals, the less they actually achieve.


People who positively fantasize about the future don’t, in fact, work as hard as those with more negative, questioning or factual thoughts, and this leaves them to struggle with poorer performance.

If positive thinking doesn’t work, what does? 

Oettingen recommends a four-step exercise that combines positive fantasies with reality that can be applied in everyday situations. She calls it WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.

Here’s how:

  1. Define the Wish
  2. Identify and visualize the desired Outcome
  3. Consider all the potential Obstacles in your path
  4. Formulate a Plan to work towards and achieve the wish


So if you’re serious about your goals, stop daydreaming and WOOP it up.





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