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What is WOOP and how can it help me achieve my goals?

WOOP is a science based mental strategy people can use to fulfill their wishes, set preferences and change their habits. The technique is based on 20 years of research and was developed by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen. The scientific name for it is Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions. Mental Contrasting is the concept comparing your future wish with your current reality. Implementation Intentions are the practice of deciding in advance what you will do in a given situation. 

WOOP is short for:

W - Wish.
O - Outcome.
O - Obstacles.
P - Plan.


The first step is to name a wish that is challenging but feasible. Set a time frame for the wish. Ask yourself if the wish is dear to you and if it's challenging yet achievable. Once you are done, note it down in 3 - 6 words. Pause and really picture it in your head.

For example: I want to exercise more.


Then think about the very best outcome and imagine it. What would the biggest benefit to achieving your wish be? How would it make you feel? As you are thinking about this, ask yourself if the outcome is truly fulfilling. When you have finished thinking about the outcome, note it down in 3 - 6 words. Pause and really see it in your minds eye.

For example: I will feel more energized.


Next, find your main inner obstacle and imagine it. What belief, emotion or habit is holding you back? Focus on obstacles that are within your control. Ask yourself if it is the true inner obstacle. Be really honest with yourself. When you have determined that the biggest internal obstacle is note it down in 3 - 6 words. Pause and really visualize the obstacle. Being able to mentally compare the wish and outcome with the obstacle is the mental contrasting portion of the tool.

For example: I get distracted by social media.


Finally make an "if-then" plan of how to overcome the obstacle. What is one effective action or thought to help you overcome the obstacle. Think about prevention plans and opportunity plans. What could you do or think to stop the obstacle in advance or what could you do or think differently when the obstacle appears to negate it? Ask yourself if the plan is effective. Note it in 3 - 6 words. Write it in the form "If ..., then I will ...". Planning what you will do if the obstacle occurs is the implementation intention portion of the tool.

For example: I will do a 10 minute HIIT workout before looking at social media.

WOOP can be used for long or short term wishes, small or big wishes and when you are stressed or feeling uneasy. The website has a host of great resources to get you get started with WOOP from worksheets to free apps to Youtube videos. CharacterLab also has some great resources. Take 15 minutes now to try a WOOPing exercise.