The Downside of Positive Thinking

How could there possibly be a downside to positive thinking?

Isn’t it all…well…positive?

Like, team, yes.



Gabriele Oettingen, Professor of Psychology at NYU, says that positive thinking alone can actually deter you from achieving your dreams.


How can that be?


In the research, people who dream big with unrealistic “positive fantasies” actually perform less well than their peers.

Having high hopes with unrealistic expectations does not improve one’s chances of accomplishing what one desires; instead, it serves to decrease one’s energy toward the goal.

For instance, a student who has a big test and fantasizes positively about doing well on the exam–according to the research–performs less well than her peer who dreams big about doing well on the exam but also takes into consideration what obstacles lie in her way.


Oettingen states, “If you complement these fantasies with what stands in the way then you’ll actually get the energy.  And if these goals are attainable, you’ll really go for it.”

She affirms dreaming about what you really want.  “Noticing your dreams and thinking about what you really want can be the first step in making them a reality.”


What do you do next?

Oettingen recommends identifying “a wish that is very dear to you.”  Then, after you have done this, “Switch gears and ask, ‘What is it in me that stands in the way?'”

Really look the obstacle in the face.

Then, make a plan.


Ask yourself, “If this obstacle occurs, what behavior will I do?”

According to the research, moving through these steps is the best way to move through hurdles to accomplish what matters most to you.

Oettingen’s research demonstrates well the “why” behind the Think Time Life Leadership Process.

The system is four step: “Dream – Decide – Do + Review.”

It moves you through identifying, as Oettingen says, “what is dear to you” on a regular basis and moving these visions into your real life.


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Think Time guides you to dream big and then to confront the obstacles that lie within you–boosting your chances of taking the actual steps necessary to accomplish your goals.

In summary, start with the dream.  Just don’t stop with the dream.

What dreams are near to you today?


Christine Wilson, LPC

Co-Founder of Think Time


Think Time 3DR Program

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