iD magazine - - Body & Mind -

You can do any­thing you want. Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble if you be­lieve. Yes, we can! Such state­ments echo through thou­sands of con­fer­ence halls around the world. But more and more psy­chol­o­gists are grow­ing very skep­ti­cal about this mo­ti­va­tional mantra. “Pos­i­tive imag­i­na­tion targets can un­der­mine true mo­ti­va­tion,” warns Thomas Lan­gens, a psy­chol­o­gist at Ger­many’s Uni­ver­sity of Wup­per­tal. In fact, one study has shown: Can­di­dates who had high ex­pec­ta­tions about their fu­ture after grad­u­a­tion filled out fewer job ap­pli­ca­tions and re­ceived fewer of­fers than their pes­simistic ri­vals. And: After two years the “op­ti­mists” were earn­ing less than those with­out in­flated ex­pec­ta­tions. The promised suc­cess en­abled them to en­joy the de­sired fu­ture be­fore it be­came a re­al­ity. That’s why Aus­tralian psy­chol­o­gist Joseph For­gas rec­om­mends al­low­ing neg­a­tive thoughts and mak­ing use of their power: “Neg­a­tive sen­ti­ments fre­quently pro­mote a style of think­ing that can make peo­ple more at­ten­tive and adapt­able.”

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