Daydreaming doesn’t do much for your hopes and dreams — not if you don’t also put in the necessary work.
Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman is the cognitive psychologist behind The Psychology Podcast, where he fills each episode with both insights into the mind, brain, behavior, creativity, and special guests. Since the third episode (of four so far) suggested daydreaming holds a person back from achieving their goals, Kaufman invited New York University psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen to share her like-minded research.
Oettingen has spent years researching the power of positive thinking, deciding it is better replaced with an approach she shortens to WOOP: Wish, outcome, obstacles, and plan. “Think about a wish that is dear to you,” Oettingen said. “What is it you really want? This could be a big, New Year's–resolution-type ambition, like running a marathon or losing a certain amount of weight, but it doesn't have to be.”
Identifying these wishes, she added, helps a person define their goal — and it’s also the first step towards realizing those hopes and dreams. She told Kaufman she spends entire mornings defining her goals before allowing herself to dream of the best possible outcomes.
And yet, you can’t stop there. Switching your train of thought to what holds you back from experiencing your original wish, as well as what you’ll need to do to overcome those obstacles, is what keeps you and your goals on track.
Science of Us cited Oettingen's method has been used to improve eating habits, academic performance, and romantic relationships.
It’s no surprise following through on goals is difficult when you don’t do anything more than daydream. But it’s not the only thing holding a person back. Negative thoughts, like thinking life isn’t fair, demotivates people to achieve their goals.
Of course, no one’s perfect. In which case, it’s important to remember you can always start again.
“Perfection is unattainable,” the American Psychological Association reported. “Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK…Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.”
Similarly, the APA added, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Psychologists, like Kaufman and Oettingen are trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. Kaufman’s podcasts are but a preview of the insights professionals can apply towards your goals to make them more attainable.