Ask any successful person what the key to their success is, and they'll undoubtedly hit you with some lofty bullshit about positive visualization.

"See yourself in the position you want to be in," they say, eyes all glazed over from the private morning yoga session they can easily afford. "When the object or situation you want has not come to you, you must believe it is yours."

In fact, visualization is the basis of the infamous book and movie The Secret, which maintains that seeing yourself where you want, with who you want, helps you manifest those results. According to The Secret's ideology, having gratitude about your current situation, yet vehemently picturing yourself in a better one, is supposed to make you the magnet towards which all your desires rapidly suction on to.

On the surface, this makes fine and dandy sense: you should have a clear and precise goal set out before you take the steps to achieve it. That's just common sense.

But, as anyone with a heartbeat and some eyes knows, life isn't that blissfully easy. The concept that you're able to materialize the things you want in life simply by visualizing yourself attaining them is not only ineffective, but a diversion from the real matter at hand: that you need to do some actual hard work to get what you want.

Sorry, but visualization is pure, Grade A farm-fresh bullshit.

To invite success and happiness into that little life of yours, you have to do more than just "clearly picture" what you want. You need resources, methods, relationships, wisdom, materials and time. No amount of "picturing" these things will bring them to you. Instead, you have to take responsibility for your goals and objectives, go out, and get them.

But, don't just take it from us. There's evidence within the scientific community that visualization is not only ineffective, but actually detrimental.

The latest round of research aimed at testing the promise of self-help platitudes like this one was spearheaded by researchers Heather Kappes and Gabriele Oettingen. Publishing their work in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, they suggest that visualization is a highly counterproductive means to achieve one's objective. Instead of helping you get where you want to go, it's more likely to do the opposite: hold you back.

Kappes and Oettingen found that this was because imagining positive fantasies of success sucks the energy out of ambition and keeps you from getting things done.

"When we imagine having reached what we want, our brains fall for the trick," writes Forbes reporter David DiSalvo of the experiment. "Instead of mustering more energy to get 'there,' we inadvertently trigger a relaxation response that mimics how we would feel if we’d actually reached the goal. Physiologically, we slide into our comfy shoes; blood pressure lowers, heart rate decreases, all is well in the success world of our mind’s making."

That is, when we visualize, we relax into our little daydreams, and wind up doing nothing instead of proactively doing something.

But wait! There's more.

The research also discovered that the more ambition and drive someone had, the more deflating and detrimental visualization became for them.

In one of their experiments with visualization, Kappes and Oettingen tested whether water-deprived participants would experience an energy drain from visualizing a glass of delicious, icy cold water, and found that indeed, in even something so simple, the brain responds as if the goal has been reached. Energy is expended, and the brain relaxes.

But of course, barring some sort of Criss Angel scenario, no icy cold water materializes in real life.  The participants had to quench their thirst themselves, by using those big meat pegs called legs to walk over to a faucet and drink from it.

Several other experiments conducted by the researchers likewise showed that visualizing goals lead to fewer of those goals actually being achieved. Even weirder, a control group who was told they could mull over the experiment's challenges in any way they like ended up meeting more of their objectives and making shit happen. The positive visualizers also reported feeling tired and more drained than the control group, and physiological tests supported their claim.

So, what's to be done if the much beloved bedroom sport of visualization doesn't do shit except waste our time?

Ironically, Kappes and Oettingen suggest we try critical visualization (as opposed to positive). In this practice, the realistic obstacles, outcomes, setbacks, and other decidedly not-so-positive factors are considered. Even failure itself, in all its suckiness, gets thrown into the mix and visualized as a possible outcome.

Even god damn random daydreaming is better when it comes to manifesting your goals than positive fantasizing … but you know what's even better than that?

Just, you know … going out and getting shit done. No amount of visualization, critical, positive or otherwise, matters if you can't physically deliver. Success isn't an elaborate mental image; it's a real life thing you bring about not by sitting, but by doing. And while you can't argue that it's beneficial to see yourself where you want to be, you also have to admit that that doesn't necessarily translate into action.

So, get off your butt onto your meat pegs, and do something. Leave visualization for your unspeakably kinky plumber fantasies.