Positive thinking needs a healthy dose of doubt to create motivation. More often than not, the motivation behind success is a positive thought. The latest research finds that positive thinking may limit true success.
Positive Thinking Needs Realism to Create Motivation
Want to succeed? Your optimism might be getting in the way.
The power of positive thinking has been a guiding principle for business leaders at least since 1936 when Napoleon Hill published Think and Grow Rich. Two decades later Norman Vincent Peale wrote The Power of Positive Thinking, which has sold more than 21 million copies worldwide, and more recently Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret has gripped business leaders and others with its promises of success based on positive thinking.
According to these positive-thinking tomes, negative thoughts or doubts stand in the way of success. But, in fact, a new crop of research finds that positive thinking has its limits — and even brings its own pitfalls. Positivity could be limiting your success.
Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University who wrote Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, says that when she started studying positive thinking, she discovered that energy, measured by blood pressure, drops when people generate happy fantasies about the future like landing a job or earning money.
“The problem is people don’t get up their energy to fulfil their wishes,” says Oettingen.
Often when people fantasise about achieving their goals they may not exert enough effort to actually achieve them, she says. Oettingen found, for example, that two years after university graduates fantasised about getting a job, they ended up earning less and receiving fewer job offers than those graduates who were more filled with doubt and worry. It turns out they also sent out fewer job applications.
“They fantasise about it and then feel already accomplished and relax,” and lose the motivation it takes to make things happen, she says.
Using her two decades of research, Oettingen developed a tool called WOOP, which stands for wish, outcome, obstacle and plan. The tool, also available as a website and smartphone app, walks people through a series of exercises designed to help them come up with concrete strategies to achieve their short- or long-term goals, mixing positive thinking with attention to any downsides and barriers.read more at bbc.com
Balancing positive thinking with realism seems to be the key. I’m definitely checking out the WOOP tool, are you?