So often in our day-to-day lives we're inundated with advice to think positively. From pop music to political speeches to commercials, the general message is the same: look on the bright side, be optimistic in the face of adversity and focus on your dreams. And whether we're trying to motivate ourselves to lose weight, get a promotion at work or run a marathon, we're told time and time again that focusing on fulfilling our wishes will make them come true. Gabriele Oettingen draws on more than twenty years of research in the science of human motivation to reveal why the conventional wisdom falls short. The obstacles that we think prevent us from realising our deepest wishes can actually lead to their fulfilment. Starry-eyed dreaming isn't all it's cracked up to be and, as it turns out, dreamers are t often doers. While optimism can help us alleviate immediate suffering and persevere in challenging times, merely dreaming about the future actually makes people more frustrated and unhappy over the long term and less likely to achieve their goals. In fact, the pleasure we gain from positive fantasies allows us to fulfil our wishes virtually, sapping our energy to perform the hard work of meeting challenges and achieving goals in real life. Based on her ground-breaking research and large-scale scientific studies, Oettingen introduces a new way to visualise the future, called mental contrasting. It combines focusing on our dreams with visualising the obstacles that stand in our way. By experiencing our dreams in our minds and facing reality we can address our fears, make concrete plans and gain energy to take action. Oettingen applies mental contrasting to three key areas of personal change - becoming healthier, nurturing personal and professional relationships and performing better at work. She introduces readers to the key phases of mental contrasting using a proven four-step process called WOOP - Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan - and offers advice and exercises on how to best apply this method to daily life. Through mental contrasting, people in Oettingen's studies have become significantly more motivated to quit smoking, lose weight, get better grades, sustain fulfilling relationships and negotiate more effectively in business situations. Whether you are unhappy and struggling with serious problems or you just want to improve, discover and explore new opportunities, this book will deepen your ideas about human motivation and help you boldly chart a new path ahead. The solution isn't to do away with dreaming and positive thinking. Rather, it's making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to igre or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way.
Gabriele Oettingen is a professor of psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg and the author of more than a hundred articles and book chapters on the effects of future thought on cognition, emotion and behaviour. She lives in New York City and in Hamburg, Germany.