I’ve had the best fun this weekend – I’ve been WOOPing my life! I’ve been delving into a fascinating book called Rethinking Positive Thinking by Gabriele Oettingen, about turning dreams into reality and it has been a revelation. Have you, like me, set out your goals for the year ahead? While I was doing this, I also took the opportunity to review 2017’s goals and how many I had actually achieved. Disappointingly some of my most important goals were still just that – goals. Why was that? I was passionate about them but why hadn’t I achieved them. Well, what I hadn’t done was “WOOPed” them!
Gabriele details 20 years of fascinating research into the power of “mental contrasting” and bringing reality, and dare I say negativity, into your dreams and positive thinking in order to realise much better results in our lives. Gabriele is one of the worlds leading researchers in the science of motivation and when she started her research her aim was to confirm that all you had to do was to dream or make a wish and it would all come to fruition. But what she found was that if dreaming is all you do when it comes to wishes, this actually reduces your motivation and reduces the likelihood of a positive outcome.
In one “experiment” they brought people into the lab and measured their blood pressure. Then they asked them to fantasise about a dream and a positive outcome. When they did this and measured their blood pressure again, it had in fact dropped. But if you want to achieve your wishes to come to fruition, you don’t want to leave your brain storming at the positive thinking stage because as well as your blood pressure falling your performance also goes down. In the experiment, they had less energy and reasons to act because they tricked their brains into thinking they had achieved this. The research demonstrated that if you had a wish and considered the obstacles of achieving that wish then you had much better results in the long term than people who had just daydreamed about their wish.
Gabriele, with her husband, came up with the catchy acronym WOOP, initially MCII (Mental Contrasting and Implementation Intention – didn’t roll off the tongue in the same way). The full kit including documentation and meditation are available to download from her website – and there is an APP (obvs!). Ok lets start WOOPing….
Imagine something you want to see in your life that is both challenging and feasible = W
Then imagine the best thing you want to receive from that outcome = O
Now lets mentally contrast that….and consider the obstacles you might face = O (It is important that these are within you – not external. This will make you really stop and think about how you feel about this wish. Ask yourself “what in me is holding me back from fulfilling this wish”. It has to be challenging but it is unlikely you’ll become a billionaire in a year, or own a castle in Spain within 10 months so as well as challenging it has to be feasible. If it is neither, then ditch it, postpone or delegate and move on to your next goal to more positive endeavours.
Then using Implementation Intentions for each obstacle we consider what we will do to over come this obstacle. A simple “If… then… ” statement. By identifying the obstacle and how you are going to overcome it makes it far more likely that you will achieve your WISH.
Then finally what is your PLAN – P. How you are going to deal with that challenge/obstacle.
I’ve “WOOPed” a few of the wishes in my life this weekend using Gabriele’s exercises available on her website. The biggest learning for me is to understand the internal objections and put into place a plan to overcome them. It was a fascinating exercise but as we all know ultimately – work works! If you don’t work your plan, then your plan will fail. You can’t sit back and hope it all works itself out particularly since the most important obstacles to overcome are internal to you.
Finally, Gabriele asks us two questions: What is your deepest wish and What stands in your way of achieving that. Answers below please….
Have fun WOOPing your life and start today.