Stop thinking positively and start thinking like this instead

The adage that if you think positively you can achieve your goals is well known. But according to a new book from Gabriele Oettingen, it's also wrong.

As the New York University professor of psychology and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation explains in Harvard Business Review, thinking positively does not always reap results.

Across dozens of peer-reviewed studies examining the effects of positive visions of the future on people pursuing various kinds of wishes — from health-related, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or recovering quickly from surgery, to the improvement of professional or academic performance (for example, mid-level managers wishing to reduce job-related stress, graduate students looking for a job, or school children seeking to get good grades) — we’ve consistently found that people who positively fantasize make either the same or less progress in achieving attainable wishes than those who don’t.

Focusing on challenges doesn't help either, Oettingen says. Instead she argues the best method of achieving goals is "mental contrasting", which brings together positivity but with an understanding of obstacles that can arise.

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