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Herea€™s the best parta€”with this Condensed Edition, you can absorb it in a fraction of the time. Guideposts was kind enough to provide me with this free, condensed PDF download of the book after I included a section in my book, 20,000 Days and Counting, about the effect The Power of Positive Thinking had on my life. All you have to do to start reading is enter your name and email below and youa€™ll get a copy sent right to your inbox! At least since 1952, when Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking was published, Americans have been inundated with the notion that the path to success can be smoothed by accentuating the positive. Your studies have led you to conclude that positive thinking by itself does little to advance our goals.
My research has confirmed that merely thinking and dreaming about the future makes people less likely to achieve their goals.
We found that students who fantasize about getting together with a romantic partner are less likely to get involved with that person.
You’ve come up with an alternative approach that you say leads to more constructive results. I call this method “mental contrasting.” It instructs us to dream our dreams, but then visualize the personal barriers that prevent us from achieving them.
Simply put, by adding a bit of realism to people’s positive imaginings of the future, mental contrasting enables them to become dreamers and doers. Positive fantasies are great for momentary pleasure, for exploring a possibility a person might have in the future by trying it out mentally. You need to juxtapose those fantasies with the realities in you that stand in the way of achieving these wishes. In one study, we recruited 164 female college students to fantasize about wearing sleek, stylish high heels.
Reviewers claimed the arguments and results were too far-fetched, that my message was ridiculous.

The results were the same: Positive fantasies, wishes and dreams—detached from an assessment of past experience—didn’t translate into motivation. In your book, you take mental contrasting a step further with the introduction of a meditative practice you call WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. There is a large amount of literature that shows this second phase is helpful in attaining goals.
This little exercise is a discovery into your wishes—what you really want, not what others want you to do.
If you’re a professional, you can use it to reach a new milestone in your career, improve your skills—whatever you can think of. In this cult of optimism, one must keep one’s eyes on the prize and not let negative waves interfere, and all forms of positive thinking are cast as inherently helpful.
Oettingen’s new book, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation (Current), introduces a seemingly more realistic way of visualizing the future. Just dreaming, detached from an awareness of reality, doesn’t cut it. It seems to let us fulfill our wishes in our minds, but actually it saps the energy we need to perform the hard work of meeting the challenges we face in real life. It’s a big temptation to think that doing it is the recipe for achieving success, instead of putting in the effort. We found that with overweight women, the more they fantasized about losing weight in a program, the less weight they lost—over three months and over two years. My studies show that when we perform such mental contrasting, we actually gain energy to take action. My work presents a single, surprising idea: The obstacles that we think most impede us from realizing our deepest wishes can actually hasten their fulfillment.
If we see the obstacles as insurmountable, we realize those wishes are not feasible, so we let them go. We randomly divided them into two groups and had them fill out questionnaires on a computer. For three minutes, a message on the screen asked the women in both groups to imagine themselves all dressed up in high heels.

Systolic blood pressure is a cardiovascular measurement that reveals how energized or motivated a person is. It showed enhanced activity in sections of the brain responsible for willfulness and memory—much different patterns than when people were merely fantasizing about a desired future. If you break down the process by which people pursue wishes, you can distinguish two phases: an initial phase in which you weigh your options and decide to commit to a goal, and a second phase in which you plan how to take action to attain the wish. Therea€™s a reason why The Power of Positive Thinking has been translated into countless languages and sold millions and millions of copiesa€¦ita€™s a timeless classic that simply works! If our wishful thinking is followed by an acute assessment of the obstacles that stand in the way of our dreams, achievement is far more likely, she contends.
And when we go further and specify the actions we intend to take as obstacles arise, we energize ourselves even more. When it comes to actually realizing that possibility, those wishes need to be complemented by a clear sense of reality. You must identify likely obstacles to your goal and approve behavior to overcome the obstacle. After three minutes, one group was asked to generate more positive thoughts about wearing their heels; the other group was asked to generate negative thoughts.
But when your objective is to make your wish a reality, the last thing you want to be is relaxed. So I spent the next 20 years conducting a number of rigorous, larger studies until my overall findings were supported.

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