In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the scientifically proven system that demonstrates positive thinking and dreaming are not enough to achieve goals – dreaming actually works against you!
First a quick update:
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You Can Do It! You Have The Psychological Capital Within You!
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Now, let’s talk about the scientifically proven system that demonstrates positive thinking and dreaming are not enough to achieve goals, and dreaming actually works against you!
“Dream. Dream. Dream. That’s all I have to do!”
For decades pop music, pop psychology, politicians, commercials, social media and even New Age teachers have been promoting dreaming and positive thinking as the Holy Grail: ‘Dream it and it will be yours!’
The reality is that dreamers are not often doers!
In fact, science reveals that the more you dream or fantasize about your goals and wishes, the less action you will take – your brain believes you have already achieved it and therefore there is less motivation to act on your dream. Fantasizing even lowers blood pressure – excellent if you need to relax or escape – not so when you need to get motivated to achieve goals. Visualization is effective for small tasks, not large goals.
More than 20 years of research in the science of motivation reveals that you need to equally focus and imagine the obstacles to your goal which, in turn, will actually help you to realize your goals.
In 1991, German psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen studied a group of women in a weight-loss program by first asking them to predict how well they would do in the program. The results were shocking: the women who were pessimistic about losing weight, thinking that the process would be difficult and that they might not succeed, actually ended up losing an average of 24 pounds more than the positive thinkers!
Again, most of us have been taught to: ‘think positive…believe in yourself and your capabilities…stop being so negative…imagine it all working out…ignore the negative…don’t be a pessimist…etc.’
Why did the pessimistic women succeed at losing weight more than the optimistic women?
“The solution isn’t to do away with dreaming and positive thinking. Rather, it’s making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way.” – Gabrielle Oettingen
The pessimistic women identified their inner obstacles to succeeding in the program and they took specific and planned action to overcome those obstacles.
They were answering the question for themselves, “What is it that holds you back from fulfilling your wish?”
They understood and accepted that they would need to make an effort and not be fooled into thinking that all they need to do to lose weight is take the first step (imagine themselves being thin) and stop there.
Oettingen went on to spend decades researching motivation and behavioral change, culminating in her book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking.” She identified a system of mental contrasting which she refers to as WOOP which I will share below. You can use WOOP to become healthier, nurture personal and professional relationships, and perform better at work. Using this system and having a plan to overcome your inner blocks helps increase coping skills and reduces stress.
“Ceaseless optimism about the future only makes for a greater shock when things go wrong; by fighting to maintain only positive beliefs about the future, the positive thinker ends up being less prepared, and more acutely distressed, when things eventually happen that he can’t persuade himself to believe are good.”
– Oliver Burkeman, “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”
Incidentally, it is critical to note that Oettingen did test multiple approaches – the person who just focuses on the positive, the person who focuses only on the negative, the person who simply dreams and the person who dreams and focuses on the negative possibilities with a plan of action. The latter was the person who had the success and achieved his/her goals!
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
– Mike Tyson
The WOOP exercise
Oettingen reminds people that the WOOP exercise “involves thoughts and images rather than rational or effortful thinking. It involves going slow, creating time and space for thinking and imagining.”
Wish: What is your wish, a wish that is challenging, but feasible?
Over the next 4 weeks, what is your one dearest wish that you would like to fulfil and that you also think you could fulfil during this time frame? Fulfilling your wish should be challenging for you, but you should feel that it is possible for you.
Note your Wish in 3-6 words:
Outcome: What would be the best outcome of fulfilling your wish?
How would fulfilling your wish make you feel? What would be the best thing about achieving your wish?
Note your best Outcome in 3-6 words:
Obstacle: What is your main inner obstacle that holds you back from fulfilling your wish?
What holds you back from realizing your wish? What is it in you that stands in the way of you making your wish come true? What is the obstacle in you that stands in the way of you fulfilling your wish? What behavior of yours or what emotion could hinder you from fulfilling your wish? Dig deeper, what is in you that stops you from realizing your wish? What is your one main inner obstacle?
Note your main inner Obstacle in 3-6 words:
Plan: What can you do to overcome your obstacle?
What can you do to overcome your obstacle? Identify one action you can take or one thought you can think to overcome your obstacle. What can you do? Identify one action or one thought. Find it, summarize it in 3 to 6 words, and keep it in the front of your mind. Now make an if-then plan: Take your obstacle and place it after the word “if.” Similarly, place the behavior to overcome your obstacle after the word “then”: If … (obstacle) … then I will … (action or thought to overcome your obstacle).
Note your action or thought in 3-6 words:
Fill in the blanks below:
If… , then I will… _____________
(your obstacle) (your action or thought to overcome obstacle)
Imagine once more: If… (obstacle), then I will… (action).
‘Individually for every athlete I work with, I try to have what I call a performance readiness plan.’
– Alex Cohen, Senior Sport Psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee
If you would like help to change your thoughts and beliefs, to be set free from the past, to overcome pain or trauma, or to improve your relationships, book a one-on-one session with me.
You can add to the conversation below.
I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.