Set goals with the WOOP method

Postdate: 20 December 2016

There are many ways to pursue a goal. Maybe you have learned about the SMART method before. According to the scientifically substantiated WOOP method of Gabriele Oettingen, you only need four steps to give a clear description of your goals. Especially when goals are a bit vague but beautiful, this method is simple and effective.


Young children are very good at coming up with challenging goals. For example, when they grow up, they want to be a famous pop star or athlete. As an adult, you often don't take such goals very seriously. But even adults have to cope with goals that are not reached. Maybe you are one of those dreamers who, around New Year, has compiled a list in their heads with new year's resolutions. They usually remain dreams, and they lack the translation of the goal into these four steps: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.

‘Stop being so positive’

Mental contrasting

According to Gabriele Oettingen, you should not just dream positively, but take positive steps to achieve motivation and determination. One of her tricks is mental contrasting. In your mind, you set off the desired situation against the current situation, for example: 'feeling no more negative stress' versus 'daily unrest'. It is good to make a concrete picture in your mind of how wonderful it will be to achieve the desired situation, as a good visualised goal ensures a strong motivation. The key factor is that you don't lose yourself in grand ideals and dreams during this visualisation. You can avoid this by setting off your dream image against the obstacles that hold you back.

WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan

With respect to Wish, you completely focus on your goal for a few minutes with your eyes closed, and you describe this goal as concretely as possible. A simple example is not thinking 'losing weight', but 'losing 10 kilos in 3 months'. It is important to realise whether your wish is feasible, inspirational, and challenging. With respect to Outcome, you start working on the outcome. What will be the result of your wish? Be sure to zoom in on the positive outcome and feelings that are a part of that, such as convenience, certainty, or self-confidence. After this step, you know what you want and why. Obstacle is the 'obstacle' that will put your feet back on the ground: meaning that you turn the goal into practical steps. What is the biggest obstacle for the realisation of your goal?

Try to ascertain why you cannot achieve something or why you haven't achieved this before: 'don't feel like doing it' is not an option. Therefore, the last step is also called the 'what-if-plan'. You make a short and concise description of what you will do when a certain obstacle gets in your way. Left of the sentence you state the obstacle, and on the right you explain how you are going to avoid this behaviour. An example of a sentence is: When I notice that I'm getting stressed, I breathe in and out deeply five times. You can do this in multiple situations.

behaviour     goals     method     motivation     resolutions     visualize     woop    

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