Really Achieve Your Goals, Don’t Pretend
Setting goals is easy. Achieving your goals is the hard part. How do you accomplish your goals? What are the best, most proven effective techniques?
A lot of coaches and self-help gurus tell you to imagine. Imagine that you have already achieved your goal. What would it be like? How would it feel? Fantasize. Pretend you’ve already done it and this will somehow magically help you achieve your goal. How? Maybe it motivates you? Well it doesn’t. It actually has the reverse effect. According to Gabriele Oettingen of New York University and University of Hamburg and Doris Mayer of the University of Hamburg, fantasizing about goals having been achieved leads to worse performance. “Positive fantasies, to the contrary, lead people to mentally enjoy the desired future in the here and now, and thus curb investment and future success.” Fantasizing has the reverse effect.
So what to do? Turns out Oettingen and Mayer’s study finds that the age old recommendation of a positive mental attitude is effective. “As positive expectations reflect past successes, they signal that investment in the future will pay off.” Their study showed this was true in different situations like finding a job and finding romance. So you should expect you will achieve your goal, but don’t pretend you’ve already achieved it.
Similarly Oettingen and Thomas A. Wadden of the University of Pennsylvania showed a similar pattern in the area a weight loss with their study Expectation, fantasy, and weight loss: Is the impact of positive thinking always positive?. They say, “Optimistic expectations but negative fantasies favored weight loss. Subjects who displayed pessimistic expectations combined with positive fantasies had the poorest treatment outcome.” Same thing as before. If your goal is to lose weight, don’t pretend you’re already thin. Expect that you will get thin. Be sure you will get thin. Tell friends, tell relatives, “I am positively going to be thin.”
Set your goals and don’t fantasize. Have a positive attitude that you will achieve your goals. And you are more like to actually do just that!
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