January is well underway and you are probably off and running, working diligently with a positive attitude to fulfill the promises and resolutions you have made for 2015. Despite all of our good intentions; thirty-six percent of people will break their resolutions by January’s end according to researchers at the University of Scranton.
How does this happen and what can be done to get us back on track?
Americans have completely bought into the idea that positive thinking alone can smooth the road to success. We see it in hundreds of publications and self-help books every year. Keeping one’s eye on the prize (new clients, AUM, a promotion, etc.) and not letting negativity interfere is viewed as an ingrained trait to be emulated. But is this realistic?
Gabriele Oettingen, a psychology professor at NYU and the University of Hamburg questioned this premise and then spent 20 years testing her thesis. The results of her work led her to conclude that positive thinking alone does not advance our goals and in fact, may be detrimental. She says that dreaming detached from reality may fulfill the wishes of our minds but saps us of the energy to perform the hard work in meeting challenges.
In our minds we may have visualized a successful end but often we have not made the preparations for the obstacles that stand the way.
In her new book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation” Oettingen introduces a method called “mental contrasting” that instructs us to dream our dreams and then visualize the personal barriers that prevent us from achieving them. Her studies have shown that people practicing mental contrasting gain energy to take action and when incorporating specific actions and accountability, move from being dreamers to doers.
When people combine a positive future outlook with the obstacles of reality and the challenges these obstacles present, they become able to be more selective in the pursuit of their goals. A selective pursuit of goals and resolutions accompanied with a plan of action can ignite the behaviors needed to turn dreams into reality and get and keep you on track.
What will you do today to make this happen?