Is fantasizing about doing something else a sign you that are ready to quit your job? It may feel like it, and tempt you to be reckless, but think twice before dispatching a missive to your boss – building castles in the air about how much better your life would be if you were doing something else may be necessary to move on to a new career identity, but it certainly isn’t sufficient.
Contrary to popular belief, the power of positive thinking is feeble, if not downright hazardous. For instance, one study with economically and socially disadvantaged adolescent male students in Germany found that for those who had more positive achievement fantasies (e.g., earning an A on an exam), the lower their GPA was nine months later (Kappes, Oettingen, & Mayer, 2012).
The researchers also studied adult women in the U.S. and found a similar pattern of results for both their GPA and attendance, regardless of how much self-discipline the women reported. As the authors noted “…positive fantasies allow people to mentally experience a desired future in the present and conceal the fact that effort must be invested if the future is to be actually achieved; thus, positive fantasies are not the key to mastering a difficult environment. Quite to the contrary, they predicted low effort in the form of more days absent from school and poor achievement in the form of lower school grades.” (p. 60).
Consequently, the answer to our opening question is a resounding NO. That is, fantasizing about doing something else is common and understandable, but if we truly want to switch jobs or careers, we need to move beyond daydreaming and take action. In future posts, I’ll discuss how to do so in light of the research on readiness to change and goal pursuit.
Kappes, H. B., Oettingen, G., & Mayer, D. (2012). Positive fantasies predict low academic achievement in disadvantaged students. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 53-64.