Imagining a clear picture of a successful future can help motivate people to succeed, research finds.
Looking to the future — and focusing on a positive future identity — helps people deal with everyday stressful situations.
For the study, students from vulnerable backgrounds wrote about either their past or future successes.
Those who imagined positive futures were more motivated to take action.
They also displayed more confident body language in a mock interview and better performance in an academic test.
The effects were particularly beneficial for female students.
Dr Mesmin Destin, the study’s first author, said:
“The theory of identity-based motivation proposes that activating a focus on a successful future identity may be especially powerful in motivating students who are vulnerable during challenging academic situations to develop a sense of action readiness.
This involves feeling ready and able to take appropriate action when confronting difficulty.”
For the study, hundreds of students were given a mock interview after writing about their past or future success.
They were then given a difficult academic test.
Researchers looked at body language and the amount of effort students put into the test.
Dr Destin said:
“Activating imagined successful future identities appears to provide a potential pathway to enable vulnerable students to effectively navigate everyday stressors.
The findings therefore suggest that certain students may benefit from strategies that remind them to visualize their successful futures prior to any difficult and important task that they might otherwise be likely to avoid.”
The study was published in the journal Motivation and Emotion (Destin et al., 2018).