Rethinking Positive Thinking (Gabriele Oettingen, New York University)

Thank you very much for this nice introduction. Thank you that I can be here and I want to talk about positive thinking, but I want to talk especially about change. So we heard a lot of our change in the past two days, but we didn’t hear so much about how we actually achieve behavior change.

We know we need to change for many reasons, but how do we personally achieve behavior change in our lives now in daily life at every turn, and all very often from early childhood on you hear one message think positive, be optimistic kind of get rid of this Negative self-talk and then you will fulfill your wishes and whether it’s, pop music or political speeches, or whether it’s commercials.

The general message is the same: look at the bright side, be optimistic focus on your dreams and whether it is that we want to snag a promotion in our you work whether we want to lose a couple of pounds or that we want to run the marathon.

We are told time and time again focus on the wishes and they will come true now. Rethinking positive thinking is a book which draws on 20 years of research in the science of motivation, and it sheds a quite a different light on the premise of positive thinking.

Positive thinking turns out to be not as much as it is promised through the conventional wisdom. Actually, dreamers are often no doers. Now, if we look at positive thinking, it is helpful for feeling pleasure at the moment.

It is helpful for helping in really tough momentary situations, but exactly that pleasure makes us achieve the wishes virtually in our minds and that saps the energy and that reduces the effort, and it impedes us to do actually the hard work which is demanded by fulfilling our Wishes so what the research of the last 20 years shows is that positive thinking is actually much less promising than it people think of so.

For example, we did a study on obese patients who were entering a weight reduction program. The more positive these obese patients thought about their success, the less weight they lost 10 pounds less over here, the more positive university graduates think about entering the draw market, the less they earn two years later and the fewer job offers they have gotten.

The more positive students think about excelling on a test, the less well, they do. The more positive patients who undergo our hip replacement surgery think about early recovery, the less well they do as judged by the physical therapists.

The more positive people think about retirement, the less they save the more positive. The messages are in newspaper reports about the economic situation, the less well, the stock market develops over a week and five weeks.

So the more positive people think at the moment you feel pleasure, but on the long run you get more depressed. So our research has shown that positive dreams have the consequences that people put in low effort and they experience low success and over time they experienced low wellbeing, low Mental Health and low physical health and low personal development.

And it is exactly that that these pleasures we find at the moment they lead to low effort. So we have our goals linger and we have not the effort which is needed to actually achieve what we want to achieve.

So shall we dismiss positive thinking all together? No, we shouldn’t. Actually, our research also finds that positive thinking is very helpful when we want to sketch out the possibilities we have in our future, so to explore the possibilities in the future.

We need the positive fantasies, we need the positive dreams and actually they are also helpful to implement these possibilities if we combine them with a good sense of reality, if we combine them with exactly that reality, we are taught to ignore to diminish, and once we combine This positive thinking with the reality that stands in the way of this positive, realizing the positive dreams.

Then mental associations are formed that help us actually achieve behavior change and we looked at a process which we call whoop, which is we formulate a wish? We imagine the outcome positive thinking and then we are suppose the obstacle that stands in the way of achieving that dream.

And then we devised a plan to overcome that obstacle. A simple if-then plan and that simple four-step process, which we call whoop wo o P, fosters these mental associations outside of our awareness, which then affects behavior change and what we find in many experiments.

Now the people who use whoop and even just a short exercise in woo, we’ll, be more successful in reducing cigarettes in eating less unhealthy food in doing more work in fostering more healthy relationships in being more sensitive to others.

In being better negotiators and in fostering their own self-improvement calls, so, for example, we did a study on high school students and high school students in America need to do standardized tests and then need to practice for standardized tests.

So when they got a half an hour, whoop exercise, they did 60 % more of these tasks than the placebo control group. Or when you look at bad snacking habits, whoop helped students to get rid of their bad snacking, helped its habits much more effective than in the control group, or you look at mid age.

Women who were interested in leading a healthy lifestyle whoomp helped the women to eat more fruits and vegetables over a period of two years as compared to the only information control group and even in stroke, patients those who get next to the standard treatment.

The standard motivation treatment they get, the group exercise, they lost over a year, eight pounds more and they did one hour per week. More exercise, so it seems, whoop is effective in changing our behavior and making us do what we actually don’t want to do, and what actually whupped us, too is not only achieve our goals, but it helps us decide.

It helps us to actually go for those goals which we want to achieve and which we can achieve and get rid of the lingering goals so that we get the resources free again to afford the more promising endeavors and it transfers from one area to the next.

So you have wood in one area, the professional area, for example, and then you also reap the benefits in the interpersonal here. So the elegance of whoop really is that everybody can apply it from 8 to 88.

Then it works across populations in people from different venues. That it works in different cultures. It works by automatize, incognizant, emotion and behavior so that you actually can, through the automatic, cognition emotional behavior achieve your behavior change.

Whoop is a short exercise. You can do it in five minutes. You can do it when you’re skilled in less in less time, so you can actually take it as a friend in your mind in your pocket, and what you need to do is just find a quiet place.

Put your cell phone away focus on yourself and then ask yourself what is my dearest wish? What do I really want can be a business wish can be a relationship which can be health wish, and then you imagine the best outcome.

You dream about the best outcome or fulfilling that wish, and then you think and imagine the obstacle that holds you back. So what is it that holds you back can be an anxiety can be a reluctance, can be any kind of feeling of being hurt.

So what is it in me that stands in the way, and then you imagine that and then you do a plan. If that obstacle occurs, then I will perform a behavior to overcome that obstacle. So it’s, a short four-step process, whish outcome obstacle plan.

So in my book rethinking positive thinking, I will give you the science behind positive thinking. I will give you the science behind whoop the four step process. I will show the experiments where whoop works in three key areas of life: nurturing relationships, doing better in work and getting your health behavior in gears.

I will give you some tips on how to best apply both and where to apply woven, how to actually do it. In what situations, and then I will give you that way, a friend which you can use basically throughout your life and this friend will ask you two questions which I hope you will never stop asking yourself, which is what is your dearest wish and what holds you back from achieving that wish, so you find more information on the website book.

My life org, you’ll, find more information. Also, when you send me an email and you can actually pre-order the book in Amazon and in Barnes & Noble, it will come out in the middle of October. Thank you very much for listening.

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