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Why a Popular Cheer Often Backfires

One of today's most popular sports cheers was first chanted in 1999 during the fourth quarter of an Army-Navy football game. The six-word cheer—I believe that we will win!—has been called the "epitome of classic American optimism." But according to emerging research, for all of its sincerity, in real life this "I believe we will win" attitude tends to backfire.

For instance, a 2002 study found that overly optimistic grad students have a tougher time finding jobs. Researchers interviewed students in their last year of grad school, asking them to rate how likely they thought they were to land a good job shortly after leaving school. Two years later, those who had admitted to frequent positive fantasies about life after grad school were less likely to succeed in their job search. They sent out fewer résumés, and the daydreamers ultimately earned less than the students who had a more realistic take on their post-university lives.

In that same paper, researchers asked a different set of students about the person they currently, secretly, had feelings for. Five months later, the students who had spent the most time fantasizing about their future lives with their crushes were the least likely to have actually started relationships with them. Many of them hadn't even tried. The people with more moderate expectations, on the other hand, were more likely to approach the object of their affection and own up to their feelings.

Positive thinking has its place, but don't mistake the warm fuzzies that accompany daydreaming about achieving your goals for, you know, actually achieving those goals.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Hope; Faith; Belief—This is a great way to introduce the hearty, solid, more-than-just-optimistic nature of true biblical hope, or to show how "faith" is only as good as the object we place it in. (2) Diligence; Planning; Goals—It can also show the need to work for our goals rather than living like sluggards who never plan or work.

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