Like me, I’m sure you have wishes, hopes, and dreams about the things you’d like to accomplish, and the life you’d love to live.
You’ve probably spent time imagining what life will be like when you finally achieve those goals.
But, it’s one thing to dream about fulfilling your goals, dreams, and desires and it’s another thing to actually make it happen.
Whether we write them in our journals, display them on vision boards, or just keep them in our heads, how do we make these goals a reality?
How do we move past the imagining, wishing, and dreaming, and on to the achieving part?
What’s the best way to fulfil your goals?
Whether it’s something we want to accomplish today, this week, or this year writing down our goals is important.
Research shows that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down.
But don’t stop there.
There’s a scientifically proven way to boost your motivation to take action and fulfil your goals.
It’s called WOOP and it’s a simple but powerfully effective goal achievement framework.
WOOP is an acronym that stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.
It was created by Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg who has studied motivation and goal achievement for over 20 years.
Move beyond positive thinking to fulfil your goals
Our culture praises the positive. It encourages us to think positive thoughts and be optimistic.
Often we’re told, “believe it and you’ll achieve it.”
But while optimism and positivity are great, when it comes to fulfilling our goals, they aren’t enough.
Professor Oettingen turned conventional thinking about goal achievement and positive thinking on its head.
Through her research into manifesting, Professor Oettingen discovered that just wishing or dreaming about achieving a goal doesn’t help it happen.
In fact, in some cases, it could actually prevent it from happening.
Why? Because it can lull us into a false belief that we don’t need to make an effort. It can stop us from taking action.
Our minds have already shot ahead to the end state of success and accomplishment. We relax and enjoy the state of attainment – even though everything in reality still remains to be done.Gabriele Oettingen, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
In order to fulfil your goals, you need energy, effort, and commitment.
Dreaming, wishing, and fantasizing doesn’t move you forward.
They don’t motivate you enough to take action.
…in dreaming it, you undercut the energy you need to do it. You put yourself in a temporary state of bliss, calmness – and lethargy.Gabriele Oettingen, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
There’s no doubt that to fulfil your goals you need to take action – and this is precisely where many of us get stuck.
Whether it’s because we don’t even start, or because we start then lose energy or motivation in the face of obstacles, many of us feel that real sense of disappointment and frustration when we don’t make progress.
This is where WOOP can help.
How does WOOP help us fulfil our goals?
WOOP helps us take action.
The process does involve imagining what life would be like if you fulfilled your wish. However, it goes WAY beyond just imagining or positive thinking.
It combines both focusing on our dreams AND visualizing the obstacles that might prevent us from reaching them.
Professor Oettingen discovered that there is a big difference between those people who reached their goals and those people who merely fantasized about them.
She found that those who were most successful in reaching their goals:
(a) acknowledged potential obstacles, and
(b) then planned how to overcome them if they did appear
Because once we can clearly see our reality, as well as acknowledge the obstacles that stand in our way, we are able to make clear plans and generate the energy we need to take action.
In other words, making a plan to overcome our obstacles allows us to stop thinking and start doing.
The course of an individual’s life is determined by the action she takes in the world.Gabriele Oettingen, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
How to use WOOP
WOOP is a simple 4-step process that takes just 5 minutes of quiet time.
Step 1 – Wish
Ask yourself – what is your wish?
What do you want to happen? What would you really like to accomplish?
Your wish should be something that is important to you, something that you really want.
It should be something that both feasible and reasonably challenging.
If it’s a large, multi-stage, or long-term wish, what is one action you can do that will take you closer to that wish?
Try to summarize your wish in 3-6 words.
Step 2 – Outcome
What is the best outcome?
Imagine what would happen if this wish came true. Is it truly fulfilling?
Take the time to imagine what would happen if you achieved your wish.
How would you feel? Accomplished, satisfied, proud, happy? Try to picture it.
Step 3 – Obstacle
This step involves becoming self-aware of your inner obstacles. Because if your wish is feasible, then the only thing truly holding you back is an inner obstacle.
Ask yourself what behavior, inner belief, emotion, or bad habit holds you back from fulfilling your wish?
Once we become aware of our inner obstacles we are more able to control and overcome them.
Because inner obstacles are really the only thing we do have control over. We have limited control over our environment (for example, what other people do or say) but we can control how we respond to our environment.
Identify your main inner obstacle and take a moment to imagine it fully.
Summarize it in 3-6 words.
Step 4 – Plan
Think about when are where you expect to encounter your inner obstacle, and then think about what can you do to overcome your obstacle.
What is one action you can take, or one thought you can think if you come across your obstacle?
Then create an if-then action plan.
“If… (obstacle), then I will … (action or thought).”
Here’s a couple of examples:
Say my wish is to go for a walk every morning, but the inner obstacle stopping me is my thought that “I just don’t feel like it”. My if-then action plan could be:
If I don’t feel like it then I will put on my walking shoes and only walk as far as the end of the driveway. If I still don’t feel like it, I’ll come back inside.
Chances are, once I’m out of the house, I’ll just keep going and complete my walk.
Another example could be trying to finish a writing assignment, with my inner obstacle being getting distracted or procrastinating. In this case my if-then plan could be:
If I start procrastinating then I will set a timer and write for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off I’ll have a 5-minute break to check my social media feeds before getting back to work.
Knowing that I just need to write for a set amount of time before having a break will help me to stay focused. I’m also likely to feel happy about the progress I’ve made, motivating me to get back to work after my break.
Next time you find yourself feeling stuck or frustrated because you aren’t making progress on your goals why not give the WOOP strategy a go.
By using WOOP you can truly move from dreaming to doing, and turn your wishes into reality.
Want to learn more?
You can find out more about WOOP at woopmylife.com
Here you’ll find lots of helpful resources, including a kit to download, interviews, videos, and even a WOOP app.