Have you felt a lack of motivation when it comes to achieving your goals? Do you find yourself struggling to complete daily tasks required for goal fulfillment?

Could there be negative habits holding you back, addictions you’re trying to quit, or just a lack of concentration preventing you from feeling like you’re actualizing your highest potential? These feelings can often lead to procrastination, which involves putting off the work that is necessary to fulfill your goal.

The WOOP method, a simple procedure scientifically known as Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII), can help you increase motivation to create healthier habits that support your mission.

WOOP is a goal visualization technique developed by Gabriele Oettingen, a motivation psychologist at New York University and the University of Hamburg with over 20 years of research in the science of human motivation.

Here are the four simple steps of this visualization method to help you improve focus and overcome obstacles in your daily work sessions:

1. Wish

Specify your wish in a few simple words. Ideally this wish is both challenging and feasible.

2. Outcome

Imagine the best outcome. Think about the benefits of achieving your goal and feel the emotions that will arise when this wish becomes a reality.

3. Obstacles

Identify existing Obstacles within yourself. Describe and prioritize them based on significance and likelihood. Then mentally contrast these obstacles with positive future you want to create.

4. Plan

Plan how you will deal with these obstacles. Visualize how to effectively get around the most significant obstacles you identified. Use If/then statements can be helpful when implementing your intentions.

The instructions of WOOP are clear:

  1. Become aware of what you want
  2. Feel excited about reaching your goals
  3. Channel this excitement into imagining obstacles that may have limited your dreams from becoming reality
  4. Develop concrete ways to combat obstacles

You can dream for the future, imagine barriers to achieving your goals, and navigate those barriers in a coherent manner to create the life you want. This will help you realize what you have control over in your life.

Benefits of WOOP

The research concludes that there are many benefits of this simple visualization tool.

It’s an applicable tool for people of diverse walks of life to motivate themselves and achieve better performance in various areas of life.

Anyone who uses this method can strengthen mental associations for becoming more skilled in making clear decisions and taking action, essentially achieving goal fulfillment.

Some of the benefits of WOOP that are scientifically proven include:

  1. Improving social behavior to assist individuals in connecting with others and engaging with the world
  2.  Creating a high potential for becoming both physically and mentally healthier
  3. Increasing energy and improving academic performance

Specific examples of goal achievement that have been proven through psychological experiments include:

  • Depressed patients were shown to pursue their goals more easily
  • Pain patients became more physically active in their daily lives
  • People who struggle with their past were able to overcome many negative feelings
  • Students exerted more effort and better time management in test preparation

Having Fun With Your Goals

WOOP involves the pleasurable task of envisioning a desirable future.

The process of the WOOP method can be enjoyable because we’re allowing ourselves to feel into the future of attaining our goals.

In Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of MotivationGabriele Oettingen elaborates:

“Think of a wish. For a few minutes, imagine the wish coming true, letting your mind wander and drift where it will.”

By curating these positive emotions, we can step into the limitlessness of the imagination, just as we would if we’re playing.

“Then shift gears. Spend a few more minutes imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your wish.”

Although this may not seem as pleasurable, it’s useful to foster positive feelings as fuel; combined with the acts of envisioning obstacles and creating action plans for navigating those obstacles, this increases your likelihood of taking action. You can benefit from taking advantage of those positive emotions you just produced.

“The solution isn’t to do away with dreaming and positive thinking. Rather, it’s making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way.”

Mental Contrasting

There are two scientific principles used within this technique for gaining clarity on what is holding you back: mental contrasting and implementation intentions.

Mental contrasting is the act of comparing your wish with the reality of where you are right now. This step assists in bringing forth a necessity of action through understanding your power to change reality. 

Inevitably, there will appear to be barriers in the way of goal achievement. These are typically internal features, such as low motivation, inability to concentrate, or fear of the unknown. 

When we choose to embrace reality and figure out how to work with these barriers for our benefit, we can shift our mindset so that reality no longer holds us back.

WOOP visualization method presents a unique and surprising idea:

“The obstacles that we think most impede us from fulfilling our wishes can actually help us to realize them.”

Increasing Awareness and Implementing Intentions

Using this visualization technique can help to enhance your awareness, leading you to feel more confident and capable of connecting your intentions and reality. 

Implementing intentions, outlined as the planning step in the WOOP method, involves brainstorming and creating a specific plan for managing obstacles. 

The most reliable way to achieve goals is to consistently take action over time. 

Oettingen explains:

“A single, one-hour session of WOOP will help people exercise more for a few months, but achieving a lasting benefit would require you to perform WOOP repeatedly.”

Try using the WOOP visualization method as an exercise to become more aware of your ability to achieve your goals. You can move closer to actualizing your greatest potential. You can increase your capability of exceeding any challenges you may be facing by gaining a sense of clarity with the practice of this goal achievement method.