I mentioned that book I just read about analyzing conventional wisdom about success. It’s called Barking up the Wrong Tree and is by Eric Barker, who also has a blog on the topic.
This is an interesting book to read if you’re trying to optimize your life, looking for ways to improve your career, get more done, or are just interested in human nature. I’m pretty much all of the above. It’s essentially a Mythbusters of success and motivation, except instead of doing crazy experiments, he looks up actual research studies.
One of the sections that intrigued me most was on dreaming and visualization. One of the big pop culture things about success over the past dozen or so years has been visualization, with the idea that visualizing yourself having the thing that you want will somehow magically bring it about. You hear terms like “manifesting.” Even if you’re not going so far as to believe that just thinking about something will make it happen, there’s the idea that visualizing yourself having what you want and seeing what your idea of success will look like when it happens is motivating.
It turns out that it’s the opposite. Research has found that visualization is actually de-motivating because it tricks your brain into thinking you’re already there, so you’re less likely to be motivated to work toward getting that thing. You feel like you’ve already received the reward, so you have less energy for going after it.
What does work is turning that dream into a plan. If you have a thing that you’re dreaming of having or doing, then you need to get specific about the exact outcome you really want. Then think of what you have to overcome to get it and come up with a plan to address that. Going through this process instead of just picturing the end result is more likely to energize you to go after that thing — unless the thing you want is unreasonable, and then you’ll lose motivation, which makes it a good test of your dream.
There’s also stuff about how turning steps of a plan into a game makes you more likely to carry out that plan and how to go about networking in a way that doesn’t come across like you’re trying to use people.
The other interesting takeaway is about finding a balance between overconfidence and lack of confidence. Being really confident can help you be effective because you go after things and stick with them, but that can also make you a jerk and make you blind to your own weaknesses. Having less confidence makes you work harder to improve, but makes you feel bad and may make others see you as less competent. The balance is “self compassion,” which is recognizing your faults, but forgiving yourself. See yourself accurately but don’t judge yourself harshly.
His blog looks pretty interesting, with a lot of lists of books to read or items from research on various topics.
And now, a key part of my plan to achieve my dream of publishing world domination is to spend more time writing, so off I go to work on my book.