Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation” as Want to Read:
Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  808 ratings  ·  115 reviews
"The solution isn't to do away with dreaming and positive thinking. Rather, it's making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way."
So often in our day-to-day lives we're inundated with advice to "think positively." From pop music to political speeches to commercials
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 16th 2014 by Current
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Rethinking Positive Thinking, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Rethinking Positive Thinking

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  808 ratings  ·  115 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
Morgan Blackledge
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Review Update:

A lot of people find this book helpful. And I would feel really bad if someone who would otherwise benefit from this book did not read it based on my negative review.

As I try to make clear in this review. My issues with the book are mostly stylistic. And the review was intended to be humorous.

I (personally) didn't like the book. But it appears to be useful for a lot of other people. So please don't let my rant prevent you from reading it.

Original Review:

Once in a while a book co
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Previous review (update below):
It gets five stars because the book presents a useful and unique technique for thinking about challenges and thinking about goals. I've been experimenting with the technique for about a week now with promising results. Highly recommended to people who are striving to achieve goals in their lives.

Updated review:
I have now been using the mental contrasting/WOOP technique that is presented in this book for more than four months. It has been very helpful and I now use
Ypatios Varelas
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Don't get fooled by the bad reviews, most of those are from people that got the book from a giveaway so they didn't have a desire or motive to buy it.

I give 5 stars to this because of its clear view of how positive thinking works if you want to use it, by exploiting the brain's ability for mental contrasting. It's not only about having desires, setting goals or thinking about how to achieve, it's the specific process that works. I see (from the reviews) that many people have missed that.

Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a Goodreads giveaway.

I read through the book--not page by page, word by word, but some chapters in their entirety.

It is an advance copy, so there are a lot of typographical errors. Some of them are hard to ignore. For example, the word "obstacle" is written, on every single chart/diagram/graph, as "obsticle". For a research-based text, that's hard to just overlook.

In general, though, I like the suggestions given. Essentially, if we want to reach our goals or achieve our dreams and wishe
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Way too many research examples in this book. After muddling through the research background, examples and results, the main points of book come at the very end. Main points could be summed up in a couple pages and are rather common sense. Psychology research students might find this book interesting; I just found it long and drawn out. (I'd like to know who funded the years of research. Maybe the author should get kudos for securing so many years of research funding.)
Wish: To finish this book
Outcome: I will know more about the fallacies of positive thinking.
Obstacle: When a book is long-winded at times due to numerous discussions of research results, I tend to want to mark the book as read and refer to information on the internet.
Plan: If a book is long-winded at times, I will listen to the audiobook at 2x speed.

Voila! I think I've got it.
Azita Rassi
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book is useful and to the point, but I didn’t like the audiobook performance at all. The voice and tone suited a toothpaste ad much better than a psychological study refuting the claims about the marvels of positive thinking and proposing a sensible technique instead. So I recommend you read the book instead of listening to the audiobook.
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Books like The Secret make me cringe big time. I am very much an optimist but positive thinking is not the best strategy in life. It doesn't work because you have to constantly think about it. And according to the research Oettingen presents in this book, positive thinking can often hinder a person, instead of motivate him/her to take positive action in achieving their wishes. In fact, multiple scientific studies prove this.

Oettingen gives you an alternative mental tool called WOOP (which stand
Aug 21, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a good examination of the 'positive thinking' mindset and it turns around everything you think you know. Research shows that positive thinking isn't the motivational tool you thought it was. Oettingen builds the case that unfettered positive thinking is counterproductive - making you less likely to complete the task. She build a case for WOOP - an acronym that stands for Wish - Outcome - Obstacle - Plan. By examining what you desire, what stands in your way, and how you can effectively ...more
Julie Miller
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Could have been condensed into 3 chapters, but the takeaway was a good one: focus on your obstacles and you'll overcome them.
Feb 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book couldn't have been less inspiring. I had no desire to read it. She uses 'positive thinking' in her title, but all the research is about positive fantasizing. Two different things. The Harvard school of positive psychology has done tremendous inspiring work. This book is a series of her uninspired research on some hapless college kids.
Masatoshi Nishimura
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
I truly appreciate Gabriele sharing her lifetime work. This book came out of her cultural shock with American optimism, which makes it that much more entertaining to read. She starts off explaining the difference between positive fantasy and realistic thinking. Findings that having positive fantasy literally reduce blood pressure was absolutely mindblowing.

Positive fantasy helps us persevere in a difficult time and calms ourselves. It also helps us realize our potential and what we truly want (d
Alex Dontre
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Although it is a simple premise, the author offers a profoundly important lesson. Our society celebrates positive thinking, but is starry-eyed optimism actually useful for helping us achieve our goals? The science demonstrates that it is not necessarily helpful to fantasize about achieving something because it makes us feel relaxed, and thus demotivates us. We feel good from indulging in dreaming about success, which can diminish the actual actions we need to take to achieve our goals.

Walter Adamson
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author came to America to work, from Germany and was struck by the cult of optimism. She started studying optimism in the mid-80s and had found that optimism as an ideology had its limitations in terms of realising the wishes.

Through many experiments, she found that people who dream of outcomes with no regard to the likelihood of success mostly failed to achieve those outcomes. This is because of the mind's inability to differentiate between imagination and reality. When those people strongl
Amr Magdy
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Regardless of the redundant details about her studies which bored me, I very much admire how she challenged conventional wisdom and won, this puts the proper separation between wishful and effective thought patterns.

Just imagining you got what you want actually makes you less likely to get it, you should consider the challenges you will face and how will you overcome them, that way you're energized and ready to go with a helpful plan in mind, not just drowning in a world of unrealistic fantasies
Michael Madigan
Aug 23, 2016 rated it liked it
The book both intrigued and annoyed me. Too many references to her studies with students. Too much emphasis on academic pursuits and not enough about 'real world' issues...
The book has a 'narrowness' feel to it - many times I was asking myself if she was forcing results to match her beliefs.
But her main point regarding fantasizing and motivation is well worth reading.
Not the book I thought it would be but nevertheless worth reading.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gabriele Oettingen makes the research case for a process she calls WOOP, which combines very precise cognitive techniques to demonstrably improve motivation for and achievement of desired outcomes of any scale (short-term, long-term, small or big). Of course, you still have to do the practices that are recommended!
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A true work of science. The ideas in this book seem trivial but quite striking is the effect it has. Backed up by years of research the ideas discussed here helps people in many situations. I happened to use some of the ideas proposed here on rare occasions but I never thought of their efficiency. I shall use them regularly from now on.
Dan Ryan
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great info, but a bit repetitive. 5 star content, 3 star writing.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After taking the course “The Science of Wellbeing” offered by Yale via Coursera and instructed by professor Laurie Santos, two topics caught my attention: nudging and positive thinking. To deepen the understanding of both topics, I purchased the books that were referenced in the course. For the topic of positive thinking, I bought the book “Rethinking Positive Thinking'', by Gabriele Oettingen. In this book the author, also a scientist, shares a technique of mental contrasting, which is what psy ...more
Carol Evans
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The blurb gives a good summation of the book. Oettingen and others have done a lot of research on wishes, how they affect our actions, and what helps us achieve or not achieve them. She shares the results of a lot of studies, mostly college kids – who are probably the easiest to recruit – but other groups too. She also shares individuals’ experiences, people she’s worked with through training sessions or friends.

Interestingly enough, the science demonstrates that it is not necessarily helpful to
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As far as I remember, I am quite a positive person and it really bugs me when people are pessimists. I tend to distance myself from people who see everything in “black” and how the world is “wrong”. I picked up this book for its title and thought that I might get some new perspective.
Not sure what happened - did i read too many books like this? Did I change? Did I become less naive and more critical? I didn’t like the book all that much. There is a theory that an author has, it can be told in m
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Solid technique for goal setting and attainment. I admit I only flicked through and read parts of the book as I read the scientific papers first. There's alot of pages here for such a simple technique. Though it may be interesting to those after the development of the technique and related research, and some digression on using it as a reflective or personal development tool. If you're just after the gist of it, read the papers instead.

The technique WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) combines
Ted Smith
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fairly typical monetization of a psychology professor's lifelong research direction. The final technique is very powerful and increased my own efficiency by a substantial factor. The research is well-conducted and well-described to a lay audience. The writing left something to be desired, but this is fundamentally a very operational psychology exercise, and if the author faced a choice between being clear and being impressive, she always chose clarity. I recommend finding the original ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I liked this book, although it felt repetitive at times. I do think there were certain key things that were not addressed but should have been. Basically the idea is to use visualization to achieve your goals and anticipate obstacles and how you would handle them. The problem is that most obstacles you don't become aware of until you actually experience them so how can you properly apply the technique? You would have to apply the "If/then" technique they mentioned and write down that if an unpre ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
At first I was excited to read a book that believes in being realist, but upon reading, I found a very poorly done research that was rejected many times forcefully pushed into a book trying to prove that all reviewers who rejected publishing the research were wrong. Being a realist doesn’t mean not imagining yourself in a situation you want to achieve such as losing weight, being realist means believing optimistically that one would reach their goal but at the same time consider the barriers and ...more
Tanya Feke
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Think positive! You can do it! Go get it! We are inundated with quotes on positivity, on how thinking positive will make us happy, and better yet, how the law of attraction will give us everything we could ever want. If this were the reality, why aren't we all swimming in success? The truth is it is not enough to dream the big dream. You have to get off your butt and do something about it. That's why I love Gabriele Oettingen's research-focused book. It challenges you to look at your wishes. Are ...more
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
This book was disappointing - I went into it with super high hopes, after having seen the interview with the author in the Yale online happiness class. I thought the book would go deeper and give useful tips on operationalizing the methodology, but I felt like it was a rehash of the course topic, with very new. (To be fair, my goals and problems weren't any of the ones used as examples....but I would have liked some other applications.)

On the one hand it's very satisfying to have science backing
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dr. Oettingen gets to the heart of the the problem with the cult of positive thinking - that positive thinking (only) is actually demotivating - and provides a concrete, scientific way to overcome that hurdle through WOOP a method called WOOP (Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan). Studies show that using the WOOP technique to actually visualize and create a plan to overcome obstacles to achieving your wish. It's not that you shouldn't use positive thinking, but that positive thinking alone isn't enough t ...more
Aldo Silva
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mind
This is a great book that helped me identify a better method to achieve both my professional and personal goals: "WOOP". I would recommend it to whoever wants to get closer to achieving its lifetime goals.

Reading this book was a bit of challenge to me.

On one hand due to the extended description of tests to validate the method and on the other due to the effects of the exercises and the method itself: the more I was learning about it, the more I was investing time in tackling my obstacles and t
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
  • Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
  • Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are
  • Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World
  • Stumbling on Happiness
  • Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want
  • Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
  • 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs
  • Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way
  • Wir nennen es Arbeit
  • La Symphonie du hasard - Livre 1
  • Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres
  • The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to  Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life's Hurdles
  • La Symphonie du hasard - Livre 2 (Littérature étrangère)
  • You Are Not a Gadget
  • Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
  • The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution
See similar books…
Gabriele Oettingen is a Professor of Psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg. Her research focuses on how people think about the future, and how this impacts cognition, emotion, and behavior.

Oettingen studied biology in Munich and subsequently worked at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Seewiesen, Germany, and at the Medical Research Council, Unit on the

News & Interviews

As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
41 likes · 10 comments
“all forms of positive thinking seemed inherently helpful.” 0 likes
More quotes…