Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

All hail the miserable.

Praise be the naysayers, the doomsdayers, and the generally skeptical, pessimistic, despondent, despairing, and depressed.

You might end up being the winners.

This thoroughly uplifting information comes courtesy of various studies that suggest all that (predominantly American) ra-ra is so much PT Bunkum.

As New York magazine offers it, research by Professor Gabrielle Oettingen of New York University sniffs somewhat at the notion of positive thinking automatically leading to positive results. She analyzed women who were trying to lose weight. What she discovered was that those who didn’t think they had much hope ended up losing an average of 24 more pounds than the pump-it-up cheerleaders.

She continued with this research for more than 20 years. With each study she found that all that positive fantasizing, all that visualizing of self as successful, wealthy, and just a little like Donald Trump actually got in the way of goals being achieved.

Her conclusion is that as we live in the world of our imaginings, we don’t do the doing. You know, the simple doing which the negative types don’t look forward to, don’t necessarily believe in, but actually bother to complete.

She talks about “disengagement from goals.”

She writes: “Currently, we are using mental contrasting procedures to help people disengage from goals that are not feasible (e.g., from a damaged relationship, from an unattainable professional identity). People simply have to mentally contrast their desired future with present reality. If chances of success are perceived as being low, the disengagement process can begin so that people can move on to more feasible goals.”

Oh, but how do we know what’s feasible and what isn’t? The alleged American Dream is constantly telling us that anything is possible. Just look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and, um, Josh Duggar.

Of course, Oettingen doesn’t think everyone should be miserable all day in order to succeed--although I’m Polish and I reserve my right to do so. Instead she prefers a miserably rational way to go about things. She believes one should consider the obstacles and plan how to overcome them.

A plan? But a plan is work--painstaking work that involves thinking, anticipating, and even writing things down. A plan involves dour commitment, facing and overcoming obstacles, dealing with pressures, plodding through congealed treacle.

A plan is, by its very definition, miserable. Who’s going to do that? Isn’t it better to wallow in one’s fantasies?

Isn’t it better to lease a nice big BMW and swan around town already believing that you’ve made it when you’re hardly making the payments? Isn’t it better to tell yourself and everyone else that things are GREAT! Or, as modern vernacular would have it, AWESOME!

After all, when one looks at people in power (and those who want more of it), many of them seem like the most arrant fantasists in the world.

Published on: Aug 21, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.