Countless self-help books push the idea that positive thinking is all you need to become a better person. We know better than that, and over at the Guardian, Psychology professor and author Richard Wiseman points out that positive action is far more effective.
Image: Chris Waits.
After a healthy takedown of visualisation and positive thinking, Wiseman gets into the meat of his argument:
By acting as if you are a certain type of person, you become that person — what I call the "As If" principle.
Take, for example, willpower. Motivated people tense their muscles as they get ready to spring into action. But can you boost your willpower by simply tensing your muscles? Studies led by Iris Hung from the National University of Singapore had volunteers visit a local cafeteria and asked them to try to avoid temptation and not buy sugary snacks. Some of the volunteers were asked to make their hand into a fist or contract their biceps, and thus behave as if they were more motivated. Amazingly, this simple exercise made people far more likely to buy healthy food.
The idea that you can "fake it to make it" certainly isn't new, but as Wiseman points out, doing so is more effective than just thinking about it. His suggestions for application in your daily life are wide ranging:
- Tense up for more willpower.
- Use your non-dominant hand when dieting.
- Pretend like you're interested in a subject to get over procrastination.
- Adopt a power pose for confidence.
- Subtly nod to trick people into agreeing with you.
Head over to the Guardian for a full list of actions you can take to fake yourself out, and a ton of studies that back up Wiseman's claims.
Self help: forget positive thinking, try positive action [The Guardian]