The Washington Post:
It’s that time of year when New Year’s resolutions begin to fade, and even the best-laid plans can become sidetracked as life gets busy. But as psychologists and behavioral economists have found reasons why it’s so easy to let good intentions slide, they’ve also come up with tools to help.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, many resolutions fail due to positive thinking, says Gabriele Oettingen, a psychologist at New York University. Her research has shown that optimistic thinking can actually hamper your drive to succeed.
“We found that positive dreams and fantasies are not only not helpful, but they might actually hurt,” Oettingen says. Further studies suggest that mental contrasting helps goal-setters prepare to deal with potential setbacks, while simply thinking positive thoughts can make them feel less energized to tackle obstacles. “It seems that people who are positively fantasizing about the future might be enjoying future success in the here and now, and they can become so relaxed that they don’t get serious about addressing obstacles,” Oettingen says.
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