Been fantasizing about a business goal you hope to achieve in 2017? Be careful not to get too cozy in that alternate reality.

According to New York University Professor and Researcher Gabriele Oettingen, too much positive thinking can actually have a negative effect on getting the results you want.

“Many people say, ‘just think positive and things will resolve themselves.’ Research has found that this is not the case,” Oettingen said. “It can actually hurt.”

Oettingen will give a keynote presentation, “The Science Behind Positive Thinking: Turn Vision into Reality” at Inman Connect New York, January 16-20, 2017.

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From wanting to lose weight to getting that dream job, Oettingen’s studies show that those who fantasize the most are the ones who make the least progress toward their goal.


“We found that people who have the positive fantasies feel like they have already obtained the goal; they relax, and their energy goes down.”

Less energy means less drive to accomplish and get results.

But don’t start cultivating a negative mood just yet.

During her more than two decades of research, Oettingen has found that there are ways to energize people despite their positive thinking. In fact, positive thinking is an essential first stop on the road toward executing a goal.

Oettingen has developed a strategy called mental contrasting, which entails a four step process called WOOP — wish, outcome, obstacle, plan.

The process has individuals fantasize about their desired future and then ask about the most important inner obstacle, “what is it in me that holds me back, what stops me from fulfilling my wish?”

This process clarifies whether one wants and is able to fulfill one’s wish or whether one should rather postpone it to a better point in time, delegate it or let it go altogether — to conserve energy for more promising enterprises.

“It helps you understand and get clarity to achieve what you really want,” she said.

The four-step WOOP process can be done in as few as five minutes of quiet time and has been shown to successfully aid in both personal behavioral changes and professional accomplishments.

Stop fantasizing about being at Inman Connect New York and ask yourself “What is it in me that holds me back from going?” Then you will turn your vision into results and make it happen.

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