“Dream it. Wish it. Do it” is a popular T-shirt slogan. It is not a very good way to change your life – as countless people who made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, start exercising or improve work habits are learning right about now.
Positive thinking has its merits, but it has been seriously oversold as a way to achieve goals, a growing body of research shows. If you want to change, you might want to confront your dreams with some hard, cold, even negative reality, studies show.
“It’s so pleasant to believe that positive fantasies will work,” says Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University. “But it’s too good to be true.”
Oettingen is the author of a new book Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation. In it, she outlines a strategy for achieving health, personal and professional goals. Her strategy involves some positive thinking, but also a sober assessment of obstacles and a plan to overcome those obstacles – if, and only if, overcoming them ends up seeming realistic and worthwhile.
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