“Positive Thinking” Isn’t Going to Cut it

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an absolute fanatic for inspirational quotes, as well as doing little things to spark joy for people… “Think Positive” is kind of my mantra. A few months ago I was listening to a podcast, when I was shocked to hear that “positive thinking” and “positive manifestation” weren’t actually doing much for me. 

The idea of “manifesting what you want” has been a concept that I have been hearing about more and more frequently over the last few years, and I have been completely on board. I would write positive affirmations and goals on sticky notes and in journals, (I would even repeat them in my head) and I was hopeful that it would make things better for me. 

One day I was on my daily walk, listening to my favorite podcast (The Happiness Lab by Doctor Laurie Santos of Yale University), when I was disheartened by the idea that “just thinking positively” was actually yielding less success. 

Before you feel the stake in your heart from this knowledge (like I did), hear me out… 

It’s not that “thinking positively” directly leads to poor results, but rather, it is that you have to acknowledge the “not so positive” things to really be able to achieve your goals, whatever they may be. 

A guest speaker on the episode (Episode 7 of the first season), Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at NYU explained the concept of WOOP, which is “a science-based mental strategy that people can use to find and fulfill their wishes, set preferences, and change their habits.” It stands for "Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan". It is the idea that to reach your goals, you must address and anticipate the challenges and “negatives” that may arise during the process, so that you can plan for how you will overcome them. Rather than just “thinking positively” you also “think negatively” to come up with ways to avoid and overcome the challenges that may stand in your way. 

The research that Dr. Oettingen has done on this concept has shown great success rates! I highly recommend watching some of the videos and exercises on her website. 

So the next time you want to “think positive” to reach a goal, you may want to pause to think about the negatives so that you can plan around them, and ultimately see even better results!