People at all times have wanted to achieve prosperity in whatever it is expressed – money, career, fame, recognition. This has led to the emergence of a whole galaxy of books and marathons for achieving successful success. In the United States alone, according to analysts, the market for self-development literature is estimated at more than $10 billion.
And what does science think about the popular ways to easily “dream” desired? We’ve tackled 4 common myths from the pop psychology of success.
Myth 1: Visualization helps you succeed
Visualization of success – it is the creation of images of what you dream. The most common technique used for such techniques is a “wish board” – a large sheet of paper on which pictures are placed. Like Oprah Winfrey, who made a visualization card when she wanted Barack Obama to be elected president – and even added a picture of the dress she was going to wear to the inauguration to the board.
According to a survey by U.S. TD Bank, 63 percent of small business owners believe that visualizing goals helps them make business plans. Also, people who use such techniques feel more successful and happier.
Why might it work?
The success of wish cards has to do with the fact that the brain assigns a higher “value” to the images than the words on the “to-do” list. According to American psychiatrist Tara Swart, the more a person looks at these pictures, the higher the images climb on the list of values and priorities.
Especially if one looks at the wish list before going to sleep, hypnagogia, the state between sleep and wakefulness, comes into play. During this period, our subconscious mind is the most “open” to influence from the outside. And if we focus our attention on something, there is a Tetris effect – the images we see begin to dominate our dreams and create thought patterns. According to Swart, once images are embedded in the psyche, they will begin to act as a visual catalog – and the brain will filter out data that is irrelevant to them.
Why might it not work?
Incredibly, it is not enough to visualize to achieve a goal; one must also work toward that goal. Dr. Swart emphasizes that such a technique will not bring what you want on a platter – but looking at images on the board helps you realize opportunities that may have gone unnoticed.
Her arguments are also supported by a study by American psychotherapist Amy Morin. Visualizing only results (e.g., concluding a new contract) and not work (negotiating with partners), on the contrary, hinders success. In Moren’s practice, patients who created wish boards, instead of working on their goals, waited for the universe to fulfill their dreams.
Researchers at UCLA conducted a visualization experiment. One group of students was asked to visualize themselves while getting an excellent grade on an exam, and another group was asked to visualize themselves while preparing for it. In the end, the former scored lower on the test than those who visualized the learning process. The second group spent more time preparing for the test while the first group just waited – and the result was predictable.
A study by Heather Barry Cappez and Gabrielle Ettingen proved that the moment you pin a picture of a conditional Lamborghini on the board, your brain gets the signal that you already have the car. It then produces a relaxation response that reduces the motivation to achieve what you want.
Conclusion: visualization can help structure your thoughts and focus on the goal, but you cannot passively wait for the universe to fulfill your dreams.
Myth 2: Negative feelings must be expressed.
Why might this work?
Psychologist Jora Keinan from Israel has analyzed how often and with what intensity people get angry. The scientist found that the best thing for the body is to get angry and express your feelings, but do it rarely. A violent display of emotion reduces stress and improves immunity.
Why might this not be working?
Researchers at the University of North Carolina surveyed 13,000 patients, asking them to rate their habit of being angry – and followed their health for several years. Those who indicated they often lost their temper were three times more likely to experience heart attacks than the rest of those surveyed. Similarly, Mark McDermott of the University of East London found that people who expressed their anger violently and openly were more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who held back.
There’s more: negativity is contagious. A study by neuropsychologist Qiao-Tasserit and her colleagues found that after watching a negative clip, people rate a neutral emotion on their face as more negative. And according to a recent study, a bad mood can even spread through social media.
Myth 3: Self-praise boosts self-esteem
Why might it work?
William Swann, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, concluded from years of research that self-praise can indeed improve self-esteem-but only for those who initially had low self-esteem.
According to James’ observations, self-esteem is established in childhood under the influence of the opinions of others. As an adult, praise will not be enough to solve problems with it. People with low self-esteem often do not accept approving comments and compliments, considering them mockery or deception.
In addition, excessive “pumping” of self-esteem can even be detrimental. Psychologist Niklas Elmer of the London School on the basis of his own experiments came to the conclusion that people with inflated self-esteem are more prone to aggression, intolerance, racism, and even violence. Having analyzed the answers of English prisoners, the psychologist found out that excessively high self-esteem in these people is more common than adequate or undervalued.
Conclusion: it is possible and necessary to praise yourself, but it is necessary to do it sincerely and for real merits. It is unlikely to have a significant effect on self-esteem.
Myth 4: forced optimism is the key to success
Why can this work?
Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert talks about the “psychological immune system” factor-the relationship between how we think and how we feel. If a person is more optimistic, he or she feels better.
Massachusetts psychologists have concluded that people who live in a “generalized expectation of success” are more likely to be protected from negative life events at the level of self-programming. They do not expect a catch from the world and are more focused on positive events, even minor ones. Accordingly, rare troubles do not affect the psyche as much and “overlap” with good episodes.
A group of scientists from the German Institute for Economic Research conducted demographic research in 18 countries and found out: in some states, the business develops better and shows high results, because their residents are overconfident in their success.
Why might that not be working?
“Depressive realism” is a psychological condition first identified by researchers at Northwestern University and the State University of New York.
The researchers conducted an experiment with two groups of students, depressed and optimistic. The participants were placed in a room in which a green light was turned on (or not) after the person pressed a button. In fact, there was no connection between these actions.
The researchers found that depressed people were quicker to recognize that they had little control overturning on the lights. Optimists, on the other hand, tended to overestimate their influence on the button and the light bulb.
Later, the money factor was added to the experiment. Some participants received 25 cents each time a light went on in the room, while others lost the same amount each time they turned on a light bulb.
The part of the optimist group that added to their budget reported that they had significantly more influence on the light bulb. When such people lost, they believed they had no control over the button and the light. Depressed participants assessed the situation more soberly, both when they won and after they failed.
Researchers concluded that depressed people are not just realistic in their judgments – it is a direct consequence of their depressed state. But optimists are protected from depression by the illusion of being in control of the situation.
In a 2004 experiment, psychologists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison confirmed that too much positivity narrows the perception of the world. And researchers at the University of California at Berkeley even found that overconfident CEOs overestimate their ability to generate profits.
The conclusion: optimism protects the psyche from stress, but also narrows the perception of the world and can lead to unprofitable decisions.