Reach Your Goals with WOOP

There are obstacles that stand in our way to achieving our dreams and goals, otherwise we likely would have already accomplished them. Like not wanting to get up in the morning when you need to go for a run, thinking of pizza when you’re trying to eat healthy, or even resisting to make a phone call when you’ve been meaning to keep in touch.

WOOP is a behavior modification technique based on 20 years of research by Dr. Gabriele Oettingen. This mental strategy helps people be healthier (e.g. increase physical activity or lose weight), change behaviors (e.g. reduce unsafe behavior or overcome negative feelings like anxiety or anger), and even improve academic performance (e.g. test preparation or time management).

Here’s how WOOP works:


    • Pick an important wish or concern you would like to address in the next 4 weeks.
    • Make sure your wish is challenging, but attainable. Then, summarize your wish in 3-6 words.


    • If your wish was fulfilled, where would that leave you? How would you feel? What would you be able to do? What would be the most positive outcomes?
    • Take a few minutes to visualize what it would feel like, clearly picture it in your head, and then summarize your outcome in 3-6 words.


    • What holds you back from fulfilling your wish? Specifically, name the biggest internal obstacle such as an emotion, an irrational belief, or a bad habit that gets in your way for fulfilling this wish.
    • Identify the main inner obstacle, visualize it for a few minutes, and then summarize the obstacles in 3-6 words.


    • What can you do to overcome your obstacles? Think of the plan as an if/then statement: If (obstacle), then I will (plan).
    • Your plan can be something you plan to think about, or something that you plan to do. Either way, take a moment to clearly see yourself executing your plan in the moment you face your obstacle. Summarize your plan in 3-6 words.

It only takes a few minutes to write everything out and complete the visualization exercise so you can WOOP daily. If your wish feels too big, break it down into smaller wishes and complete WOOP for each. Next time you find yourself faced with the obstacle you identified, your brain will easily recall the plan you created. You can use this process for as many wishes as you’d like to make, just start with the wish that is most important to you and go from there.


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