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Does Imagining Positive Outcomes Solve Problems?

Does Imagining Positive Outcomes Solve Problems?

New Age gurus tell us that if we can imagine the solution to a problem and really feel the relief, itís well on its way to being solved. Is this really true? To find out, two groups of UCLA students took part in an experiment: one group retraced the events that led step by step to a personal problem they had. The other group imagined feeling the relief of the problem solved. Which group fared best in coping with their problems? Find out here:

According to this fascinating book (subtitled Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die), the two UCLA experiment groups did the following:

1. The Event Simulators retraced step by step the events that led to their problem, with the idea that reviewing the causal chain might help the students to think about how to fix the problem.

2. The Outcome-Simulators mentally simulated a desired outcome: what will it feel like once this problem is behind me? This group focused on imagining the relief.

Guess which group coped better with their problems?

Answer: Okay, this may fly in the face of the conventional New Age wisdom, but the Event-Simulators did better in almost every dimension.

In fact, the results showed that the Event Simulators were much more likely than the Outcome-Simulators to have:

* experienced a positive mood-boost
* taken specific action to resolve the problem
* sought advice and support from others
* report that they had learned something and grown

“You may find these results a bit counterintuitive,” say the authors, “because the pop-psychology literature is full of gurus urging you to visualize success. It turns out that a positive mental attitude isnít quite enough to get the job done. Maybe financial gurus shouldnít be telling us to imagine that weíre filthy rich; instead they should be telling us to replay the steps that led to our being poor.”

Read more: Spirit, Guidance, Self-Help, ,

Inspired by Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Random House, 2007).

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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Made to Stick

Why some ideas survive and others now


+ add your own
12:30PM PDT on May 5, 2013

sometimes it doesnt matter how positive one is, life still sucks everything just gets worser

1:08AM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

This is very though provoking. From one who has listened to 100's of hours of Abraham Hicks, I feel I may look into this in more depth. Could the 'Secret' be that the secret doesn't work?

4:14AM PDT on May 14, 2012

interesting article

4:12AM PDT on May 14, 2012

A shame most of the magical thinkers apparently never saw this article.

4:11AM PDT on May 14, 2012

It's definitely better to be optimistic.

4:10AM PDT on May 14, 2012

To some extent, but it's not enough.

4:00AM PDT on May 14, 2012

I am surprised by these results. But I guess we do learn from our mistakes. Thank goodness. And thank you for the article.

8:43AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012


10:21AM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

Yes, sometimes it does.

6:09AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

Positivity always pays off in the end.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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