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Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  609 ratings  ·  81 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, the
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 16th 2014 by Current
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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:

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 ver
Υπάτιος Βαρελάς
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 g
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dan Ryan
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great info, but a bit repetitive. 5 star content, 3 star writing.
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, Obstacl
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
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: non-fiction, 2019
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 b
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 unrealist
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
DNF @ 40%

I think this book holds an important message - especially with some of the self help literature out there. It proves that a lot of what our society touts as helpful thinking is actually hindering our chances. Unfortunately I found this book very difficult to get through. It was not formatted in an accessible way and felt like it dragged on. The main point is simple enough and worth learning.
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!
Jenna Cooper
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book from NPR's Hidden Brain, and found the concept interesting. I still think her "WOOP" system is helpful and can help people mindfully achieve their goals. However, I wouldn't say this book gave me more than the podcast did. It just gave me more research, bordering between a psychology book and a self-help book.
I'd suggest you just check out the Hidden Brain podcast instead.
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. This is not another self-help book. It is a detailed scientifically-proven way to make things happen. It has some techniques to train your brain to get thins done. It is new content so no other book is similar. It really works.
Pacific Stoa
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a welcome counterpoint to our current obsession with positive thinking! Professor Oettingen's practice of Mental Contrasting is a powerful negative visualization tool I use every day in my work!
Nelson Vargas
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very repetitive but the message is well worth hearing anyways. The book could have been way shorter though
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bit heavy on the case studies, but interesting to try the techniques.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I didn’t actually finish this book. I really wanted to learn about the topic and agree and appreciate her overall point, but it was so poorly written I couldn’t continue it.
Samantha York
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-work
Excellent summary of the research and succinct and clear explanation of the practice. I can't wait to start using this with students (and myself).
Muhammad Nawawy Arasy Padil
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
How to rethinking positive thinking:
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
The principles in this book are really simple. I appreciated the discussion of various studies explaining why the principles work, and why other things do not work.
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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,
“all forms of positive thinking seemed inherently helpful.” 0 likes
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