William Liao

January 19, 2022

imagine failure to potentiate success

Contrary to popular advice, visualizing success is a poor predictor of success (Oettingen & Mayer, 2002; Oettingen & Wadden, 1991). 

To investigate why this might be the case, Dr. Heather Kappes and Dr. Gabriele Oettingen ran a series of studies that compared the energy levels of participants who visualized positive, neutral, and negative outcomes. In 2011, they published their findings which showed that participants who practiced positive visualization had the most significant decrease in energy; the paper was appropriately titled “positive fantasies about idealized futures sap energy.” 

At the end of the paper, Kappes and Oettingen conclude that “fantasies that are less positive — that question whether an ideal future can be achieved, and that depict obstacles, problems, and setbacks — should be more beneficial for mustering the energy needed to attain actual success.” 

If you want to potentiate the best possible outcome, don’t visualize it. Instead, imagine what it would be like to fail.