Self-help books and magazines often proclaim the power of dreaming your dreams into reality. If you want to achieve your goals, they advise, begin by seeing yourself in the place you aspire to be or as the person you hope to become. In short, visualize the future as a means of feeding the present with potential.
But new research (via The British Psychology Society’s Research Digest) suggests that such advice may have an unexpected downside. In fact, the researchers argue, the energy expended in positive fantasizing may in fact sap people of the real-life energy needed to achieve their goals.
New York University‘s Heather Kappes and Gabriele Oettingen undertook four separate studies to prove their thesis that positive fantasies are “de-energizing.” Each study had the participants fantasize about a particular goal. For example, in one study participants imagined that they won an essay contest; in an other study female participants imagined that they looked and felt good in high heels.
Interestingly, the people who indulged in positive fantasies indicated lower energy levels than those who didn’t specifically focus on a fantasy or notion. While there doesn’t appear to be any harm in positive fantasies there may be a price to pay.
In summation of their findings, Kappes and Oettingen wrote, “Instead of promoting achievement, positive fantasies will sap job-seekers of the energy to pound the pavement, and drain the lovelorn of the energy to approach the one they like. Fantasies that are less positive — that question whether an ideal future can be achieved, and that depict obstacles, problems and setbacks — should be more beneficial for mustering the energy needed to obtain success.”
Basically, go ahead and let your head float in the clouds, but be sure to keep at least one foot on the ground.