Fantasizing About Success? Good luck…

Recent studies show that fantasizing about success, while it is widely suggested by parents around the world to set your goals high, is not always as heart warming as you may expect… It turns out, dreaming of your own success can actually be extremely detrimental to success.

While having a positive outlook as well as positive goals is a good thing, the over fantasizing of your hopes and dreams can impact you negatively in several ways.  Having these fantasies can prevent us from reaching our goals by causing us to fail to realize the potential problems that may arise, as well as keeping us in a state where we are already expecting to reach our goals, and thus reducing our overall drive, being that we don’t believe we will have to put forth as much effort as we do in reality.  We instinctively want our success to be recognized in the here and now, but this hurts the chances of actually being successful by causing us to neglect what is needed to work up to the expectations of our fantasies.

Girl dreaming about successful investment (euro's banknotes)

According to studies based on rates success in the categories of finding a partner, withstanding surgery, and finding jobs, those who spend more time dreaming of their success tend to do much worse.  In finding jobs, results have indicated that those who dream often of impending success had applied to fewer jobs, had fewer job offers, and had lower salaries if they did find a job.

In losing weight, the study by Gabriele Oettingen ( has found that women who hold a high likelihood or expectations of loosing weight found that they did in fact lose a considerable amount of weight.  On the other hand, the women that pictured themselves passing up food and held strong fantasies of losing weight actually tended to lose much less weight than women that saw themselves in a more negative light.  This shows that when the dreams are vivid and longed for, people may become less motivated to actually put forth the effort to successfully strive for their goals.  Oettingen went on to perform many more studies including how grades, degrees from vocational schools, and recovering from cancer, are all related to dreams and fantasies, showing many of the same results.

This research is not to say that positive thinking and goal setting is always negatively impacting your success.  However, despite some popular belief, it can be detrimental to the goal setter, when the intensifying of the thoughts of your future success becomes typical, it has been seen to lead to negative results in many aspects such as discomfort after surgery, an inability to find a job after college, or the long-lived search for a soul mate.

To prevent the over fantasizing that can so easily occur, researchers suggest that we must enjoy the daily progress and focus on the reality of the here and now, and begin to set realistic checkpoints, or day-by-day goals to keep your future in check.dream-big

This topic brings up a very interesting point, being that most of us have been told “be whatever you want to be” and that “the sky is the limit.”  The twist of reality is that goals along the way must be set to reach these limitless opportunities, but the goals don’t include picturing yourself in a stress-free, idealistic light that is the fantasization of your future.  The american dream of being whatever you want to be, and living the life you want to live may be rubbing off on the new generation in a negatively impacted way, making for a over exaggerated essence goal setting and sending your expectations for the future potentially skyrocketing, leading to a tint of blissful ignorance that can sometimes be unintentionally, but nonetheless,  creating as a lens, blinding us from the reality of the hard work and dedication needed to reach the goals, causing us to ignore all negatives and focus primarily on the positive possible outcomes.


4 thoughts on “Fantasizing About Success? Good luck…

  1. npalacio

    I really enjoyed this post because it is something that I have always wondered about. Of course, we want children to aspire to work hard and strive to be high-achievers, but it has always seemed to me that we might be encouraging people to set unrealistic goals and that isn’t always a good thing. These studies definitely seem to support that. However, this post made me think that a new field of research should be started to find out what the perfect balance is between encouraging people and not setting them up for failure with unrealistic expectations. This seems to be an aspect of human behavior that we still don’t now a lot about.

  2. jfreud

    This article actually made me think of another article I read that suggested that some people in our generation my face the equivalent of a “midlife crisis” when they realize that being successful requires an immense amount of hard work. The article suggested that the “you can do anything” mindset is a maladaptive approach and that it let to this “crisis”. I must have read this article a couple of years ago, but this post reminded me of it because it left me thinking that there must be some balance between telling a child that “you can do anything” and qualifying that statement with “if you work really hard for it and you have some luck”.

  3. kharner

    This is very interesting and I am glad you posted about it. I’ve never thought about this and was always told that dreaming big was the way to go. However, I have frequently fallen prey to thinking that my goals will be achieved even if I slack off here and there and continually put things off. I feel like dreaming about the future sort of serves as an insidious procrastination technique, because if you tell yourself that “one day I will be _____” with out actually doing the daily work you need to get there, your dream is not going to magically come true. It helps me to set my goals short term and keep track of how I am doing each day instead of thinking too far into the future. The saying, “theres no time like the present” probably rings true in this case.

  4. aestero

    I really liked this article, I thought it was very interesting. I do have to agree that overfantasizing about our goals and dreams can affect us negatively. I, myself have experienced this negative effect of overfantasizing. I fail to realize that, although I want to be successful in pursuing my dreams and goals, to get to pursuing that goal is not a stress-free path. In fact, in order to achieve my dreams and goals, I must cross paths with stress most of the time, which I will overcome in order to achieve what I want to achieve. I thought that this article was very relatable because of the fact that I am a senior who is about to hit the real world in a few short months. I have been constantly applying for grad schools and jobs and I catch myself getting stressed just by overfantasizing about me pursuing my goals of attending grad school and pursue my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Comments are closed.