Important headings of this article:
1- What is wrong with motivational words?
2- What do scientific studies say about optimistic thinking?
3- Is hope always the factor and motive of movement?
4- Consequences of optimism
5- Is wanting to be able?
6-Is (never give up) helpful advice?
7- Positive thinking or avoiding negativism?
8- Is pessimism always bad and optimism always good?
9-Does Thanksgiving always work miracles?
10-motivational speakers and placebo
11-Is mental imagery a shortcut to achieving desires?
12- Final Speech
A man dreams of winning a big prize in a lottery. This man fantasized about what kind of life he would have if he won a multi-million dollar prize. He was saying to himself:
“All my problems will be solved. I will live in a big mansion, and I won’t have to worry about my car installment, and I can buy new clothes.”
During the week, the man’s fantasies became more and more:
“If I buy new clothes, I will look better and can date the woman I love. We will fly to Paris on weekends and enjoy delicious food in three-star restaurants.”
Years go by, and he doesn’t win anything. But he still waits and continues to fantasize. Finally, when a man reaches the limit of despair, he cries and complains to the universe; why? Why don’t I win? What is the problem with me?
At the same time, a light appeared, and a voice came from the sky: “Man! Did you buy a ticket at all?” I’m Michael, and in this part of the Google topic, we want to criticize motivational speakers.
Is listening to such words the secret key to success and happiness? First, let’s look at the main problem of motivational speeches.
1- What is wrong with motivational words?
The problem with motivational coaches is that they exaggerate the effect of positive thinking. They generalize the power of the mind to everything and induce the audience that positive thinking is a sufficient condition for all success; That is, if you think positively, you will get everything you want, and all success will be achieved.
This is how they want to summarize our complex world in a one-sentence formula: think positive, and you will achieve everything.
Another problem with motivational speeches is denying the reality of world suffering. They insinuate that happiness is easily obtainable and it is enough to think about it to get it in a while, and if someone is deprived, it is his fault.
Another problem with motivational speeches is the simplistic idea of the ability to control and lead the human mind. A considerable part of our mental functioning is not really under our control.
Let’s take a look at the scientific research in this field.
2- What do scientific studies say about positive thinking?
In a study, researchers observed that when we fantasize about our goals and think positively about the results, our brain’s reward system is activated, and our brains engage in self-deception.
Our brain thinks that it has already reached that thing. This makes our brain no longer spend energy trying to achieve those goals.
That’s why experts warn us that you should not create a fantasy about your goals and results or tell anyone about them, But motivational speakers tell us precisely the opposite.
They make us constantly think about future developments and achievements or even ask us to imagine that we have already achieved them. These things reduce our effort and pragmatism and the probability of our success.
In another study, the researchers concluded with four different experiments that although positive thinking helps us in the short term, with time, in the long term, positive thinking aggravates the symptoms of depression.
People who thought positively instead of focusing on solving the problem of depression had more suicidal thoughts in the long run and more severe depression.
Another drawback of motivational speeches and positive thinking is shaming people. These talks tell people that “you don’t have it because you didn’t want it,” which makes people feel ashamed and guilty. This shame and blame make people unable to progress.
3- Is hope always the factor and motive of movement?
Usually, hope is mentioned as a positive feeling that moves and changes us. Many times the root of our suffering is hope. A hope that is not based on reality prolongs and intensifies our suffering.
This issue has been investigated in research to determine when hope can be helpful for humans and when it is harmful.
Imagine that you get hurt by a group or person in your life. Here, hope can be experienced in two ways: the first type is to hope that the other party will stop harassing us so that we will not be harmed again.
The second type is in such a way that we hope to work on our personal growth and choices so that another behavior cannot harm us.
The difference is that in the first type, we hope that the other party will change and his behavior towards us will change, but in the second case, we hope that by trying to improve our situation, we will not suffer much from this situation.
This hope is more realistic than the first. In the first case, we are happy that the surrounding world will make peace with us and change for us.
At the same time, the probability of such a thing is minimal. In this research, the researchers examined black people subjected to racial discrimination.
The blacks who hoped to improve the situation can be divided into two groups: the first group was those who hoped that the whites would treat them better.
The second category is those who hoped for the change and growth of blacks so that no one could oppress them anymore.
After analyzing the results, it was found that the group whose hope is to change the behavior of others and who hope to change the situation regardless of external realities move less towards changing the position. In fact, this hope reduces their motivation to improve their situation and prolongs their suffering.
4-Consequences of optimism:
In a study, researchers examined 1601 people annually for 18 years (from 1991 to 2009). In this survey, people’s expectations regarding progress or regression in the economic field, as well as the level of satisfaction with life and psychological status of these people, were measured.
After analyzing the obtained results, the researchers realized that both extremely pessimistic people and people who are very optimistic, compared to realistic people, their life satisfaction and mental health had decreased more over time.
The problem with optimistic people is that they are constantly disappointed in life because they have unreasonable positive expectations.
Another issue is that these people do more dangerous things due to excessive optimism. The extreme optimism of these people makes them feel less risky and do dangerous things.
In addition, people’s optimism about the results of actions makes them enjoy the effects less. For example, researchers asked some students to guess their grades in one study just before the exam scores were announced.
The researchers observed that people who were optimistic about their test scores were less happy when they learned about their actual scores, which happened to be high.
This research shows that extreme optimism and pessimism are statistically equally destructive and reduce our mental health and satisfaction with life. The amount of our suffering is proportional to our distance from reality.
5- Is wanting to be able?
In the article by Mr. Michael Inzlicht, various theories about achieving goals have been discussed. One group of these theories discusses the crucial role of “motivation,” and the other discusses the essential role of “control.”
The author of the article has done comprehensive research on these theories. His findings indicate that in reaching our goals, the critical role is not our motivation or will but “self-control.” The meaning of self-control is to be able to control our attention, emotions, and behaviors on the way to the goal.
We must manage our motivations, emotions, and behaviors to achieve our goals. In another article, he discusses how to move toward our goals. His research shows that self-control skill is divided into three different parts.
These three parts are: choosing the goal – having the process under supervision – performing actions coordinated with the goal.
We will explain these three parts below. According to the research, the first thing we should pay attention to is that our goals align with our values, ideals, and the meaning of our lives.
In his research, this researcher has noticed that people who have chosen their goals based on their inner values have more self-control skills on the way to achieving them.
Another issue about goals is that they should be precise and divided into sub-goals. For example, if you want to improve your academic status, instead of saying, “I want my GPA to go up,” you should clearly say, “I want my GPA to reach 18,” then divide this goal into several smaller goals. After this, we can get to know the fears and list them.
Let’s see the benefits of overcoming fear and the negative consequences of giving in to them. After identifying our fears, let’s check what actions are needed to deal with them and what can be done if that fear becomes a reality.
For example, if our goal is to pass an employment test, we can see what should be done to deal with the fear of “failing the test” and what can be done if we fail. For example, if we fail, we can try for another test. Then, if the whole goal is meaningful and valuable for us, we can master different situations very well.
Now let’s go to the process and the goal path. He says that on the way to the goal, we should monitor ourselves and record our actions. Based on this, we can report our situation, and if we see a problem in our way of working, we can correct it. We will likely face an internal conflict at this stage.
When we monitor our behavior and see that our performance does not meet the requirements, we probably experience negative emotions such as fear and anxiety. Our duty in this situation is to be able to focus on our feelings; Let’s not deny them and recognize them. In his research.
6-Is “never give up” helpful advice?
Vince Lombardi, one of the great football coaches, has a famous saying:
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
We hear this sentence or something similar from many motivational coaches. In this part of the article, we want to examine this issue. Is it so? Shouldn’t you ever give up on victory and success? Mr. Gregory Miller (psychology professor at the University of British Columbia) has also researched withdrawal from work.
In these studies, he and his colleagues realized that people who withdraw from an unattainable goal and move on have more mental and physical health in the future. This means that sometimes withdrawal is not only not bad but also good for our health.
7- Positive thinking or avoiding negativism?
The general idea is that Positive thinking and negativism are opposite poles. So that the absence of one of them means the presence of another; if you are not a positive thinker, you will quickly be accused of negativity; But is it so?
A research team led by Mr. Michael Shire opened a new understanding of this issue for us. They showed that it is not the case that wherever there is no positive thinking, there is negativism.
These two concepts are independent and can exist together, or none of them exist in a person. This group has developed a new concept called “avoidance of negativism.”
This concept refers to a situation in which a person is neither positive nor negativism. Accordingly, we can neither be optimistic nor pessimistic.
This model allowed researchers to separate the concepts of “positive thinking” and “avoid negativism” from each other and compare their results.
This research group selected 61 quality studies from among 5 thousand studied articles to analyze their results. In this way, they invited the authors of these articles to help them.
Finally, this research, with a statistical population of 221 thousand people, was published in the American Psychologist magazine.
This research showed that “avoidance of negativism” has a more significant effect on our health than positive thinking. This research shows that you cannot eliminate negativism with positive thinking, but you must acquire the skill of controlling and managing negativism separately.
8- Is pessimism always bad and optimism always good?
Research in recent decades has shown that positive thinking is only sometimes helpful. In some cases, pessimists outperform optimists.
The results of a study say that married couples who are very optimistic about the future of their relationship are more prone to relationship deterioration.
Optimism may also be associated with lower income. A British household data study found that optimists earned about 25 percent less than their pessimistic counterparts over two decades, particularly the self-employed.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute have found that people who underestimate their risk of heart disease are more likely to show early symptoms.
These results may be because a good outlook makes us overconfident. Optimism can also lead to disappointment.
In one study, psychology students were surveyed immediately before and after receiving exam results. Students who predicted a higher grade than they received were upset upon learning their steps.
Students who underestimated their grades (i.e., pessimists) felt better afterward. Acknowledging negative emotions may also have social benefits.
Compared to happy moods, bad moods were associated with a more effective communication style, and sadness was associated with less reliance on negative stereotypes.
Other studies have shown that defensive pessimists optimize their performance on various tasks by setting low expectations and imagining worst-case scenarios, from darts and math problems to achieving real-life goals.
9- Does gratitude work miracles?
Motivational coaches encourage people to appreciate and thank the universe for what they have. These teachers say that the more we understand and thank the universe for the blessings and possibilities, the happier and more successful we will be, but is it so?
Note that this discussion does not mean religious thanksgiving. Appreciation and gratitude in a mild and limited way can produce helpful results, But this claim has no scientific support as motivational trainers say.
Repeating the words of gratitude, happiness, and health will not flow toward you. In a study, scientists investigated the relationship between gratitude and increased joy.
In this study, people were divided into three groups. The first group did gratitude exercises three times a week during the six months of the experiment.
Another group did once a week, and the last group did not give thanks. The results showed that people who did gratitude three times a week had a lower level of happiness, But people who gave thanks once a week had higher happiness levels.
In his article, Mr. Adam Grant also shows that from one point on, the more you look for gratitude for various blessings, the less happy you will be.
10- Motivational speakers and the placebo effect
One of the tips motivational speakers use to persuade their audience is the placebo effect. In clinical trials, researchers give some test patients a neutral, non-medicinal substance (such as distilled water or sugar tablets) to determine whether the patient’s results after consuming it are due to suggestion or whether the medical intervention works.
Using this work, motivational trainers induce that any change can be made with positive thinking and indoctrination, and one can always keep oneself healthy. Some dangerously scare people away from effective treatments and say that positive thinking about treating the disease is enough to make them well.
They talk about the placebo effect as if it is the cure for all illnesses, But is it so? Unfortunately no. The placebo effect has limited and specific effects. It cannot be used to fight all diseases.
11- Is mental imagery a shortcut to achieving desires?
Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, professor of psychology at New York and Hamburg universities, points out in his book the cases where positive imaginations have caused a person’s passivity. This problem occupied his mind until he decided to put it to the test.
In this experiment, about 100 students who have been fascinated with a specific person of the opposite sex but have never dated him were selected.
At first, the participants were asked to estimate how likely they could enter into a relationship with their particular audience based on their own experiences and guesses.
In the next step, each participant was given a half-and-half fantasy to complete with their dreams and say how they thought the continuation of this fantasy would go.
Along with achieving the dream, the students were asked to mention their assessment of the positive or negative level of the dream.
For example, let’s look at one of these fantasies:
“You have managed to find your favorite person in the middle of a party, and somehow a conversation has been formed between you and him. You are in a conversation until someone else joins the party. A person who may be a favorite of your particular audience….”
Optimistic participants would continue this fantasy for their benefit. For example:
“I’m leaving the party with my crush. The person I thought was my rival was watching our exit along with the others. We sit alone on a bench together. We hug each other and…”
But some participants registered a more negative impression.
“My favorite person starts interviewing my rival about things I don’t understand. These two are more compatible than me and him. I don’t feel a place to enter their conversation.”
After reviewing the test takers’ answers, Dr. Oettingen revisited these students. This time, check out who managed to get a date with their crush. The result was interesting.
The more reasonable and consistent a person’s estimate of the relationship’s progress is with their experience at that time, the more likely it is to form a relationship with that person.
On the other hand, the more they spent in positive fantasies, the less likely they were to meet the person they wanted.
Asking the other party to go on a date with you requires courage and dignity, just like the same story can be seen in finding a job.
So Dr. Oettingen reframes the question for job hunting: Does a motivational optimist view, such as imagining you’ve got the job before you get it or imagining yourself when you’ve reached your goal, help you succeed?
Dr. Oettingen arranged a new experiment. In the 1980s, Oettingen’s team gathered 83 university graduates and asked them how confident they would find a job and how important it was to them.
Meanwhile, the graduates were asked to imagine and write down an optimistic fantasy and to indicate the relative frequency with which such a positive fantasy came to their mind.
Two years later, Dr. Oettingen approached these participants to determine their employment status to test his hypothesis.
Again, the result was similar to the previous one: the more the participants fantasized about career success and finding a job, the less likely their dreams would come true.
People who fantasized positively about this subject with a higher relative frequency sent fewer interview requests and received lower wages.
But here, a methodological problem arises. In both experiments, Dr. Oettingen relied on the participants’ self-reports. The last estimate was based on the participants’ statements.
There is a possibility of error that the variable of positive fantasizing causes the person not to declare his success according to the principle of reality and to exaggerate its amount.
To avoid the possibility of such a mistake, Dr. Oettingen researched the effect of positive thinking on academic success in a more systematic and tangible project.
He asked more than a hundred people who had taken the introductory psychology unit what grade they wanted to get on the exam a few days later. And then asked what grade do they think they were likely to get?
As in previous experiments, Dr. Oettingen assessed the participants’ fantasies. He brought imaginary situations to them and asked them to imagine their continuation according to their mentality. For example, one of these fantasies that was supposed to be completed by the student had the following form:
“You have passed the exam, and the grades will be announced today. Imagine a scoreboard that….”
One of the students, who was pessimistic about his performance, wrote the continuation of this fantasy as follows:
“Curse. I got a C grade. I shouldn’t have been so careless. What should I do now?”
Along with completing the fantasy in their mind, the participants were asked to rate how positive or negative it was for them.
As in the previous experiments, the more optimistic and motivated the participant had about his performance, the worse his actual and objective performance was. More positive daydreaming was associated with lower grades, and the person had studied less and prepared for the exam.
Along with completing the fantasy in their own mind, the participants were asked to rate how positive or negative the fantasy was for them.
As in the previous experiments, the more positive and optimistic and motivated the participant had about his performance, the worse his actual and objective performance was. More positive daydreaming was associated with lower grades and with that the person had studied less and prepared for the exam.
Along with completing the fantasy in their mind, the participants were asked to rate how positive or negative the fantasy was for them.
As in the previous experiments, the more optimistic and motivated the participant had about his performance, the worse his actual and objective performance was. More positive daydreaming was associated with lower grades; with that, the person had studied less and prepared for the exam.
In this article, we have briefly reviewed motivational speakers. Our point is not that motivational and positive sentences are useless but that their usefulness is limited.
Motivational and positive statements are not a magic lamp that will give you everything you want. Neither extreme negativity can make you happy and successful nor illusory optimism.
To provide a good and desirable life, you should know the facts and change them in your desired direction as much as possible.
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