Personal Growth

WOOP Is a Research-Backed Method for Working Toward and Achieving Your Goals

Sorry to burst your Pinterest-fueled dreams, but a vision board isn't a magic wand. You have to put in more work than that if you really want to get anywhere. What you can do instead is WOOP, the goofy acronym for a very serious method to reach lofty goals. Achieving your dreams? WOOP, there it is.

Related Video: 6 Productivity Tips to Help You Get More Done

Time to WOOP Your Life Into Shape

WOOP stands for wish, outcome, obstacle, plan. These four words make up what is a four-step mental strategy for realizing and achieving your wishes or goals. In studies, this method is described as "mental contrasting." This essentially means picturing yourself achieving your goals (yes, a little vision board-y, but stick with us) and compare it against where you are in your present life. By contrasting the two, you can start to identify the obstacles preventing your present life from becoming your dream life.

On WOOP My Life, the method is broken down into four clear, easy-to-follow steps:

  1. Identify your wish. This could be a bigger career goal or even a small personal goal, like making your bed every day or worrying less. Just WOOP it all!
  2. Identify the best possible outcome of that wish coming true. How would you feel if you could achieve your goal? If it's making your bed, maybe you would feel more focused in your day. If it's worrying less, maybe you would feel a sense of calm.
  3. Identify the obstacles keeping you from fulfilling your wish. What's holding you back from attaining your goal and feeling that best possible outcome? In the bed situation, maybe you're just too sleepy or crunched for time. In the worrying dilemma, maybe you fear not being good enough.
  4. Identify a plan to fulfill your wish. What can you do to start overcoming those obstacles? To combat your sleepiness and make your bed every day, you could commit to doing ten jumping jacks as soon as you wake up or stretches. To defeat your fear of not being good enough, you can ask yourself "what's the worst that could happen?" or just take a moment to take some slow breaths.

WOOP Your Way Out of It

As you can tell from the examples above, WOOP doesn't have to just be reserved for big, life-changing events. As the website describes, WOOP "can support all areas of behavior change. It is for people who feel stuck and don't know what to do. It is also for people whose lives seem just fine but who feel they can do better. And it is for people who face a particular challenge or transition." And, no, this isn't all empty promises — the research gives WOOP a thumbs up:

  • WOOP helped study participants double the amount of exercise they performed over a four-month period. Bonus: It helped participants increase fruit and vegetable intake by 30 percent over two years, too.
  • WOOP helped study participants reduce insecurity-based behaviors (like looking through a partner's phone) and increase their commitment to romantic relationships.
  • WOOP helped patients suffering from Type II Diabetes improve their self-care.
  • WOOP helped study participants increase tolerance and social responsibility towards people of prejudiced groups.
  • WOOP increased high school students' efforts to prepare for standardized tests by 60 percent.

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If you want to learn more about how to motivate yourself and achieve your goals, check out "Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation" by Gabriele Oettingen, one of the originators of WOOP. The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible.

Written by Joanie Faletto September 15, 2017

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