The Real Way to get Motivated!

Okay, this article is a bit like a politician telling you how to act morally. But although I have, at times, had a real lack of motivation to achieve my goals, I’m writing this partly as a way to teach myself how to get into the state to get things done. In the process, I’m sure it’ll help you too.

Recently I came across the work of Gabriele Oettingen, a psychology professor who discoveries have already been of help in my life. Her book Rethinking Positive Thinking was exactly what I’d been looking for. It challenges the idea that positive visualization helps us achieve our goals; in fact, her research actually shows that once we have visualized our goal then our body relaxes, and our blood pressure drops. Well, this is very nice, but it’s not a motivated state – it’s a de-motivated state.

Put simply, Oettingen claims that visualizing our goals generally takes away our motivation.
And this de-motivated state persists. Because of ‘positive visualisation’ we continue to be less likely to achieve our goals – at least for a good while, and even after some time we are no more likely to succeed than someone who has done nothing to get motivated.

All in all this is pretty disappointing news, and if true it means a lot of self-help books are better thought of as ‘self-sabotage’ books.



So does it seem to be true? Yes, Oettingen’s ten years of research shows that people who use this approach really are generally LESS likely to achieve their target.

That’s also a bit of a bombshell to all those therapists who, like me, have laboured away for years using visualisation for goal-achievement.


Why visualisation doesn't work

This extraordinary discovery (and Oettingen produces a large amount of evidence to support this claim) gives substance to the concerns of many of us who have struggled with this idea of visualizing goals. After all, if the subconscious is meant to treat a visualisation as though it’s real, then once you’ve visualized the outcome you want then your subconscious thinks you’ve achieved your goal. So why would you feel motivated to do something that your mind already believes you’ve done? It’s a difficult argument to refute.

So if this is true, what does Oettingen say we can do instead? How can I get motivated if thinking about succeeding is not going to do it?

Well, all is not lost, because there are times when imagining reaching your goal does help, but in cases where it doesn’t, Oettingen reassuringly sets out how to motivate yourself more than you’ve done before. All you have to do is use a simple method that we’ll be looking at in Part Two.

So stay tuned for a method that really works… Tomorrow...

Alan Davidson:

UK:  01202 423111   (Outside UK: 44 1202 423111)