The podcast Hidden Brain had a very interesting episode called WOOP, There It Is. It seems there is a fine line between positive thinking and positive fantasies. Positive fantasies come out of having goals (wishes), which are good to have, but they can seduce us into already feeling accomplished, thus taking your energy away. In her book; Rethinking Positive Thinking, Gabriele Oettingen says that positive fantasies are the beginning of action but they are terrible at helping us put the effort needed to accomplish a goal.
Positive Thinking vs Fantasizing
You have probably heard the old adage “whether you think you can or you can’t, you are correct.” Visualization is a positive thinking technique where you create a mental image of what it will look like and feel like for you to achieve a goal. There are a TON of people that promote positive thinking and visualization from Tony Robbins to Tim Ferriss. I do believe that the more you believe something will happen, the more likely it will come to be.
To me positive thinking turns into fantasizing when you stay in that place and never stop to think…
What will it take for me to achieve my goal?
Gabriele Oettingen says that positive fantasies are helpful if you also ask yourself “what stands in the way?” But you must be specific… you must ask “What is it in ME that stands in the way of achieving this goal?” She also mentions that your goal must be attainable, but I will save that for my next post from a different podcast.
Oettingen says that to use these positive fantasies we need to use mental contrasting. BTW, there is also a WOOP app that works with her strategy and yes, it is free!
Mental Contrasting with Implementation and Intentions
Mental Contrasting with Implementation and Intentions is a fancy way of goal setting. But it goes beyond just setting the goal, it assists you in taking steps to achieve the goal, specifically four steps:
- Identify a goal (wish) that you want to attain within a limited time frame. Oettingen suggests four weeks or less.
- Think about what would be the BEST outcome for that goal. Imagine the best thing. This is positively fantasizing, so don’t stop there.
- Ask yourself “what stops me from reaching this goal and experiencing this outcome.” But you have to be more specific than that. You must ask “what is my inner obstacle that prevents me from reaching this goal.”
- Lastly say to yourself “if this obstacle occurs then I will…” Envision what behavior you will show or thought you will have to overcome that obstacle.
What is it in me that stands in the way
It helps if you have a little humor and a good bit of honesty to answer this question. Remember, no blaming others. Look, I know the world is set against you. It is set against all of us in one way or another so stop making excuses as to why you are not able to do the things you want to do. You are the only thing standing in the way of your happiness and success.
WOOP there it is
Oettingen renamed this process WOOP. It is an acronym for WISH, OUTCOME, OBSTACLE, and PLAN. This is what her app walks you through.
- Wish – what is the goal you want to achieve and in what time frame?
- Outcome – what is the best outcome and results of achieving that goal?
- Obstacle – what is it in YOU that stands in the way of achieving your goal?
- Plan – what behaviors or thoughts will allow you to overcome those obstacles?
Break it Down
You need to use WOOP to break your goals down. Remember, we are eating the elephant called a job offer. You need to eat it one bite at a time. For instance if you goal is a job offer what do you need to get a job offer? Interviews. What do you need to get an interview? A good resume. Why don’t you have a good resume?
I realize that it is not that simple but you get the gist of what I am saying. You may not believe that WOOP can help but that is an obstacle in you 🙂
Blaming is so much easier than taking responsibility, because if you take responsibility … then you might be to blame.
Jennifer O’Neill, The Pursuit of Happiness: 21 Spiritual Rules to Success