This morning there are many happy Chicago Cubs fans. Their dream and millions of wishes have come true – they are baseball’s world champions for the first time in 108 years.

We are a dream and wish society. When we are children we are encouraged to “dream big” and “reach for the stars.” As adults we are offered racks full of encouraging books and many programs that teach us how to achieve our dreams.dream-catcher

While many of these are wonderful and help us feel good, once the day’s reality sets in and distract us, our dreams often fade into the background.

Is there a different way to make our wishes come true?

This week I listened to a Hidden Brain podcast called WOOP, There It Is! 4 Steps To Achieve Your Goals and thought you might find the four steps presented very helpful.

WOOP – Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan. Shankar Vedantam’s guest on Hidden Brain, was Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University. Oettingen has studied why people often fail to achieve their goals and dreams.

Among Oettingen’s interesting observations about why we often fail to achieve dreams and goals is our natural inclination to use external obstacles as excuses when we really should look inward. We should explore what is it within us that holds us back from fulfilling our wish.

During the podcast Oettingen introduces the listener to a simple process called WOOP that we can use to tackle our dreams and goals. WOOP stands for Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan, which is a type of mental contrasting or MCII process.

During the podcast Oettingen shared a free smartphone app called WOOP, which I downloaded and very easily used. Here are the steps for using WOOP.

  1. Get yourself into a relaxing situation when you can spend 5-10 minutes by yourself
  2. Select what kind of WISH you want to work on – professional, health, or interpersonal. Pick a wish that is challenging for you but that you can fulfill. (Write the wish in 3-6 words)
  3. Choose a time period you want to work on the wish – 1 day or 1 month or no time period.
  4. Describe what is the best OUTCOME? What would be the best thing, the best outcome about fulfilling your wish? How would fulfilling your wish make you feel? (Limit to 35 characters)
  5. Now take a moment and imagine the outcome. Imagine things fully.
  6. Next, and most importantly, identify OBSTACLE – What is it within you that holds you back from fulfilling your wish? What stands in the way of you fulfilling your wish? What is your main inner obstacle?
  7. Imagine the obstacle. Now take a moment and imagine your obstacle. Imagine things fully.
  8. Make an If-then PLAN – What can you do to overcome your obstacle? Name one action you can take or thought you can think to overcome your obstacle.
  9. What prints on the screen is a statement that combines your obstacle and plan.
  10. The App then has you slowly repeat the obstacle and plan.

Oettingen reminds us that the most important step is properly identifying the obstacle within us. And we are the only ones who can do it effectively and we must be honest with ourselves. That is why she recommends we use WOOP privately.

As an example, earlier this week I was speaking with someone who “wished” he could do public-speaking but was afraid. So I used the WOOP app to practice using that premise.

WishTo become a good public speaker

OutcomePeople applaud and thank me after the speech

ObstacleFear of making mistakes and being laughed at or rejected

PlanStay positive, visualize success, and practice

The final screen showed – “If I fear rejection then I will be positive and practice. Repeat slowly.”

girl-619689_1920As Vedantam closed the podcast he said, “Gabriele believes the reason WOOP works is that consciously imagining goals and obstacles and making deliberate plans to overcome those obstacles creates unconscious habits. After a while, you don’t have to consciously think of all the steps in WOOP. Merely thinking about the first step triggers all the others.”

Do you have one goal you just cannot seem to achieve? Perhaps trying this technique will help you. Feel free to let me know how well this works for you, I will be wishing you success!

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