Stop Daydreaming! It Might Lose Your Chance to Succeed, New Research Suggests

By Helen Holmes on September 21, 2012

Visualisation is a technique that is commonly used in counselling and other forms of therapy. But instead of saying “think positive” and “picture” your goals, experts suggest you ground your dreams to reality – because simply dreaming about your goals is likely to sap your energy rather than inspire you.

Social psychologist Gabriele Oettingen from the New York University investigated different methods of visualisation and goal-attainment. She found out that positive fantasies often do not include effort and hard work which are necessary in the attainment of such goal. And when a person is faced with real-life challenges, the fantasy tend to fall apart, leaving him or her feeling demoralised.

Why stop daydreaming?

So instead of daydreaming, she suggests being a little pessimistic. This involves comparing one’s present behaviour to his desired one, thinking about the potential obstacles, and devising ways to overcome them.

Oettingen and her team of researchers come up with some techniques in order for people to achieve their goals. Whether it is about a lifestyle change or a better relationship, they found that the techniques improved the participant’s rate of success by 20-50%.

1.       You are what you think.

It’s hard to achieve a dream if you really do not know what you want in life. Determine what kind of person you want to be 5 or 10 years from now. If you have a clearer picture of your goal, achieving it can be easy. 

2.       Dream big.

They say if you want to be a priest, aim to be a pope. Dreaming is free so why not get the most out of it? According to Oettingen, if you set the bar high, your unconscious brain will detect a big difference between where you are now and where you want to be, giving you more resources to achieve it such as attention, memory and effort.

3.       Material goals don’t bring lasting happiness.

If you really want to grow old happy, you should understand that aiming for fame and fortune does not promise lasting happiness. According to Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., from the Columbia University Business School, we need to pursue things that satisfy our three basic needs – relationship, sense of competence, and freedom to make our own decisions. 

4.       Stick to reality.

It’s easy to get flown away by the wind of thoughts but in order to achieve your dreams; you have to stick to reality. People who believe that success doesn’t come easily are more likely to succeed. Because they know it’s going to be a difficult journey, they exert more effort and plan carefully on how to deal with problems. 

5.       Be more specific.

So you decide you are going to start a workout program.  What kind of workout? How many times are you going to do it in a week? How long will you keep exercising? Halvorson explains that by having specific goals, such as deciding where and when to do certain things, could increase your chance of success. 

6.       Know how far you’ve been.

Those who are good at achieving their goals make a regular assessment of themselves on a daily or weekly basis, to the extent of writing a journal before going to sleep. But it’s not enough that you monitor your progress, Halvorson warns. Identifying your weak areas and thinking of the best ways to overcome them is the key towards your goals. 

7.       Keep it a secret.

It’s not just to surprise other people (especially your haters), but being silent about your dreams increases your success rate. By telling others about it, you are giving them an opportunity to discourage you from attaining your goals. According to research, people who talk about their dreams reduce their motivation to do it. So keep it to yourself, at least for now.

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