Goal Setting With WOOP
I used to be a “compulsive goal-setter.” You know the kind who set goals on the first of January. While other people stop right there, a “compulsive goal-setter” will continue all through the year.
I would set quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, and of course, daily goals. No wonder when you set so many goals, you start losing track of them. This year I got so sick of goal-setting that I decided not to set any goals. Instead, inspired by James Altucher, I set a theme for the year. My theme for 2020 is – FOCUS. I am to stop spreading myself thin and focus on a few things at a time.
But like a compulsive gambler, I kept on setting myself goals. Setting goals very exhilarating but fulfilling them, especially that longer one which needs daily commitment, is hard.
That is when I found WOOP.
WOOP is not a gadget but is a science-based mental strategy that can be used to achieve goals.
Gabriele Oettingen, a German psychologist who has been studying how people think about the future, and its impact on cognition, emotion, and behavior, designed it based on her 20 years of research.
Gabriele Oettingen’s research noticed the typical goal-setting didn’t work nearly as well as we’re told. In goal setting, we are told, for goals to work, we need to think positively and rid off of harmful negative self-talk. But, her research showed that positive thinking didn’t work.
The more students positively envision themselves getting a job; the fewer job offers they received.
The more college students envision successfully starting a romantic relationship, the less likely they got together with their crush.
The more hip replacement surgery patients imagined themselves having a smooth recovery, the less they were able to move their new joint.
And the more positive overweight people’s fantasies about their success and losing weight was the fewer pounds they lost over 20 years.
Just dreaming about a positive outcome is not enough.
According to Gabriele Oettingen, we can perform better if we combine positive visioning of the desired future with additional steps.
Those additional steps are – acknowledging the obstacles and planning how to overcome them.
She designed a system to be able to do that and called it WOOP. It is an acronym of four words – Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.
Wish – Choose a goal you would like to accomplish. It should be challenging, compelling, and realistic.
Outcome – What’s the best possible outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal? How would you feel? Visualize this outcome in your mind.
Obstacle – What are the personal obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goal? What’s standing in the way between you and your goal? Visualize this obstacle in your mind.
Plan – Make a plan for overcoming your obstacle. What action would help you when your obstacle shows up? Create an if/then plan and visualize it in your mind.
If / When _________ (obstacle), then I will __________ (action to overcome obstacle).
Identifying the obstacles forces you to do contingency planning. It is a great too for behavior modification too.
What is the science behind WOOP?
WOOP basically is the combination of two tools called mental contrasting and implementation intentions.
The “Wish”, “Outcome”, and “Obstacle” part of the technique comes from mental contrasting and the “Plan” part comes from implementation intentions.
WOOP = Mental Contrasting (WOO_) + Implementation Intentions (___P)
Both of these tools alone are already highly effective.
They’ve both been proven in many scientific studies to have a medium to large impact on actual behavior and significantly increase the likelihood of people achieving their goals.
I decided to test the system for my goals.
I downloaded its free app on my iPhone. Here are the two goals I am working on at the moment.
Here are the WOOP statements the app turned out for me.
WOOP website, WOOP MY LIFE claims that the women who tired WOOP ate more fruits and vegetables than those who didn’t use the system. Students who used this method got better grades.
I think the reason WOOP works is that by automating cognition, emotion, and behavior, it triggers you to become motivationally intelligent.
Having it on the mobile phone is handy.
You might want to give it a go.