All of us struggle to achieve our goals. We take them out, dream them a little, and pack them away again until ….one day. How many times have you thought “one day I’ll study/get a better job/lose weight/exercize /take a holiday/travel?

One way to move that “one day” to today is for you is to WOOP. WOOP isn’t the noise little boys make playing at Cowboys and Indians but a strategy developed and tested over the past 20 years by Professor Gabriele Oettingen at New York University.

This is what WOOP stands for:

W    Wish

O     Outcome

O     Obstacle

P      Plan

And this is how it works. You need to sit quietly for at least 5 minutes. Go slowly through the exercise, take your time.

  • Think about what your wish It should be important to you, and feasible but challenging.
  • Then ask yourself what is the best outcome. Imagine, it, describe it in a few words, experience it in your mind. How will you feel when you achieve it?
  • Then switch gears. Ask yourself what stops you achieving this wish? Don’t make excuses but rather try to identify what in you is really holding you back. A feeling, an irrational belief, a bad habit? Express that obstacle in a few words and put it in front of your mind. Imagine it.
  • Finally what is your plan? What action can you take to surmount that obstacle? Once you have identified what you can do, you make an “if…then” plan. If, (fill in your obstacle), then I will action (fill in what you will do.)

You can WOOP for big and small wishes, short-term and long-term goals and the more you practise it, the more adept you will be at identifying what you really need, overcoming setbacks, and finding energy and direction in your life.

So, here’s my WOOP.

Wish: I want to lose 3 kilos in the next 3 months.

Outcome: I will feel happier, be healthier, look better.

Obstacle: what is stopping me is a feeling that it won’t happen, I doubt myself. I won’t exercise enough- I’m too lazy, or I can’t cut out all the carbs- I’ll get too hungry. If I dig deeper, it is because I have failed at this before. And when I dig deeper I find what is stopping me is a fear of failure.

Plan. If I doubt myself, I’ll remember my Woop and say no to the wrong food and yes to the gym.

What’s your WOOP for October?

(For more information and videos on WOOP, go to Over twenty years of research shows that WOOP works. Known scientifically as Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions, the approach has proven effective across all ages and areas of life.)


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