Do you want to increase your motivation? A really clever technique that has been well researched and shown to be more effective than visualisation and other similar techniques is called doublethink. But what is doublethink?

“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them….To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”

Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, London, part 1, chapter 3, p 32

So, it was George Orwell that coined the word, doublethink in his epic book, Nineteen Eighty-Four and this was his reason for doing so.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

Orwell explains that the Party could not protect its iron power without degrading its people with constant propaganda. Yet, knowledge of this brutal deception, even within the Inner Party itself, could lead to collapse of the State from within. For this reason, the government uses a complex system of reality control. Though Nineteen Eighty-Four is most famous for the Party’s pervasive surveillance of everyday life, reality control means that the population of Oceania—all of it, including the ruling élite—could be controlled and manipulated merely through the alteration of everyday thought and language. Newspeak is the method for controlling thought through language; doublethink is the method of directly controlling thought.

Psychologist Oettingen wondered whether doublethink could be used in other, more wholesome ways such as to increase motivation. Not only that: how effective would it be when compared with other techniques generally recognised by people as effective such as using visualisation? Her publication in 2002 The Motivating Function of Thinking About The Future: Expectations vs Fantasies produced some remarkable finings. Three groups were used and were asked to identify a personally desired outcome such as weight loss. The first group only used visualisation techniques to imagine themselves losing weight (optimistic). The second group focused solely on the obstacles (realistic) to overcome weight loss and the third group focused not only on the desired outcome imagining themselves thinner (optimistic) but then immediately identified the obstacles that they would need to overcome to lose weight (realistic) before once more returning to the visualisation techniques and then immediately the obstacles. This process of holding two thoughts (optimistic and realistic or indeed any contradictory positions of thought at the same time) and accepting both of them equally is called doublethink.

Oettingen discovered that the most successful strategy by far to yield the highest level of motivational success was by the group that used the doublethink technique. She went on to repeat this investigation with relationships where the aim was to develop romantic opportunities for couples. In the study those that used doublethink to reach their desired aim of a romantic date were over 40% more successful than those that merely imagined themselves on the date or only identified the obstacles to overcome. The reason that psychologists believe doublethink works is because this process achieves the best of both worlds: people identify both the fantasies and the obstacles with solutions: with the mind simultaneously able to hold the desire as well as seek satisfied resolutions. Psychologists call this technique Fantasy-Reality, and guess what? Fantasy-Reality techniques are successful in the work place too, as reported by Oettingen in Self-regulation of Goal Pursuit, 2002.

So, how to use this technique:

  1. Think about a desirable goal
  2. Fantasise about (imagine!) reaching that goal and identify the top two benefits
  3. Reflect on the barriers to achieving that goal and identify the top two barriers
  4. Reflect on the 1st benefit and elaborate how it would make your life more satisfying
  5. Immediately afterwards reflect on the biggest hurdle and how you would overcome the barrier
  6. Repeat the process for the 2nd benefit…
  7. Repeat the process for the 2nd barrier…

See what happens! Do let me know how you get on as well.

If you’ve regularly tried visualisation techniques and not found then very successful this might offer a new way forward to success. Visualisation can work; however, evidence shows us that they are far more likely to be successful with a fantasy-reality – doublethink – approach.