We often talk about the power of positive thinking: simply envision yourself acing the job interview and the position is yours, or imagine driving the car of your dreams and soon enough, it will materialize before you. But as you have probably experienced firsthand, life isn’t quite that simple.
In Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, cognitive psychologist Timothy Wilson notes how positive self-affirmations alone can actually make people feel worse about themselves and their abilities to achieve their goals. Similarly, studies have found that couples who claimed optimism about their future were more likely to experience marital strife. Dieters who focused on visualizing their fit future selves shed fewer pounds. University graduates who fantasized about their success transferring into the real world earned less, received fewer job offers, and sent fewer job applications out in the first place.
Why might this be?
To illustrate, take for example, this tale of two college freshmen.(more…)