Does Positive Thinking Really Work?

does positive thinking really work

Positive Thinking - does it work?

Positive thinking is one of the newer philosophies in psychology. But how does it affect our performance - that is, what we provide and achieve in daily life both at work and in private life?

The latest research indicates that positive thinking does not improve our performance at all. In fact, it does the opposite - unless you remember to think of the obstacles in the process.

Many managers in their daily lives trying to make employees think positively in the belief that they thereby increase employee engagement and performance so that they can achieve greater performance.

Professor of Psychology, Gabriele Oettingen, in Harvard Business Review believes that care should be taken to add so much value to positive thinking. Over the past two decades, she and her colleagues have gone through research to suggest that positive thoughts are not helping us as much as we think.

The researchers have done surveys among people who have deliberately used positive thoughts to achieve their goals. Goals have ranged from losing weight to reducing stress levels on the job or improving their professional performance.

The conclusions showed that the people who fantasize positively about the future achieved the same progress or fewer than those who did not think positively.

Gabriele Oettingen explains the reason that while it feels good to dream of a positive outcome, it is directly ineffective. This is because you are less motivated to take yourself by the neck and get the effort it usually takes to achieve a difficult but realistic goal. The positive thinkers are simply less likely to embark on the difficult tasks when compared to the control group.

Visualize the obstacles in a positive way

But is the solution to dwell on negative thoughts about an upcoming job or private challenge? No, that does not help, Gabriele Oettingen believes, so the researchers developed in the study an exercise that aims to visualize positively about the obstacles that are in the way of achieving our goals.

the exercise is called WOOP - Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. (Desire, Yield, Obstacle, Plan) And you do it like this:

Find a calm place with no distractions and close your eyes. Choose a wish that is realistic for you to fulfill. Imagine what would happen if it came true. Then you identify the obstacle standing in the way. Then you set your plan. Imagine exactly what you need to do to remove the obstacle.

The exercise may sound too easy to work. And changes in behavior and thought patterns tend to require longer-term coaching and training programs. But Gabriele Oettingen's studies show that the exercise works. Those using the WOOP were more engaged and less stressed than the control group. In doing so, they achieved several of their goals, both on the job and in private.

The crucial difference is that it helps people understand that their goals are achievable. Visualization gives a clear direction, increases engagement and encourages action. Or it does the opposite where you realize that the goal is unrealistic, so you can get rid of the worry and direct your energy towards something new.

The conclusion is that although positive thinking can feel good at the moment, it usually gives false hopes. Only when the positive is combined with a clear identification of potential obstacles can the thinking yield the desired results.

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