Back on December 16, 2014, I published the first issue of Further. The feature article was entitled: Excuse the Downer, But Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work.
The focus was on the book Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation by psychologist Gabriel Oettingen. Her research essentially debunked the positive thinking methods endorsed by Oprah and the book The Secret as ineffectual.
Worse, Oettingen found that positive thinking alone tends to make people less likely to take the action and put in the work to make those dreams come true. A smarter move is to mentally contrast your dream against the reality of what it will take to attain the goal.
This week I happened upon a new article in Aeon that revisits Rethinking Positive Thinking. It points out the problems with positive thinking alone, lays out the case for “mental contrast” as an effective complement to lofty goals, and sets forth the four-step process that we explored in 2014:
- Wish: Define your goal – what do you want?
- Outcome: What benefit do you get if you achieve the goal?
- Obstacles: What is it that may hold you back from experiencing that outcome?
- Plan: When the obstacles arise, you’ll then do “x” to overcome them and keep going.
The WOOP process helps people set goals with a plan that is realistically doable, and to avoid goals where the obstacles are insurmountable or simply too undesirable. It also breaks any goal down into smaller parts that can be conquered one at a time.
It was cool to revisit this topic a year-and-a-half later, because I realized that many of the other topics we’ve explored since the beginning both match and elaborate on this process. In fact, many of the recurring themes in Further are all aspects of a broader goal-achievement framework.
First of all, you must understand that you are not a static being. A fixed mindset means you believe that you’re pretty much just the way you are, and that’s it. That’s not true, and all you have to do to shift to a growth mindset is to understand that you can, in fact, become more.
Next, the goals that provide us with meaning tend to be intrinsic, or internally motivated. We take on personal projects for the sake of doing them more than some end reward. This allows for personal growth beyond our genetic traits and cultural conditioning, which allows us to become the next iteration of our best selves.
Beyond that, when we focus on process and mastery — rather than end results — we’re just plain happier. In fact, getting beyond the desires of the ego and committing to do things (working out, starting a business) rather than focusing on becoming something (thin, wealthy) makes us happier even if the external benefits never materialize.
Finally, committing to constant, incremental improvement is the most effective way to accomplish big change. You must identify the steps (or obstacles) individually, and then eat the elephant one bite at a time.
When you break it down, it seems like common sense. The problem, in my view, remains the source of your motivation.
If you’re doing something just for the external benefits that come from the end result, you’ve got a rough road with only willpower to rely on. If you’re motivated to just do it (whatever “it” is that has true meaning to you), you’ll not only be happier, you’re more likely to succeed.
As always, simple … but not necessarily easy.
Cracking the Coconut
Coconut oil isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here are some cold hard facts.
Getting enough fiber can reduce constipation and help with weight loss and maintenance. It may also lower cholesterol levels, as well as your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Yet most people aren’t getting enough fiber.
16 Easy Ways to Eat More Fiber
If your eating and exercise are on point, but you still don’t feel or look the way you want, poor sleep may be to blame. Here’s how to tap into the power of sleep and make rest a daily priority
The Power of Sleep [Infographic]
A paper published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes reveals that merely contemplating a backup plan can reduce the effort you put forth to achieve a goal, thus hurting your chances of achieving it.
Having a “Plan B” Can Hurt Your Chances of Success
Before One Takes Your Job …
There are few key artificial intelligence trends sweeping across the tech sector — and savvy investors could benefit by getting in on them now.
Artificial Intelligence Trends Investors Need to Watch
Side Hustle Effects
From my unemployable perspective, this reads sorta like “Why I Love My Wife More After Spending Time With Glenn Close and a Rabbit” (Fatal Attraction reference for the young ones). But, to each their own … maybe trying something on the side will make you appreciate your job more.
Thank You Job: How My Side Project Helped Me Appreciate My 9-to-5 Again
Darya Rose has a Ph.D in neuroscience. But it’s when she says things like “One of the greatest illusions I’ve had to overcome in my life is that I’m a rational human being” that you respect her beyond her credentials. Great list of must-read books for becoming your best self.
My Favorite Books on Habit and Behavior Change
Read My Lips
Ever since audiobooks began to gain in popularity more than a decade ago, this question has been raised: Are kids who listen to assigned books rather than reading them actually cheating? Is reading a book anywhere near the same thing as listening?
Is Listening to a Book ‘Cheating?’
Facing your biggest fears is never easy, but there are a few true methods to help you through. Despite the listicle format, this seems like a solid 4-step process.
4 Simple Steps to Conquer Your Fears
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