We’ve been doing it all wrong!, says motivation researcher and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking, Gabrielle Oettinger.
Oettinger set out to explore visualisation as a means to help people achieve their goals. She conducted numerous experiments. What she and colleagues found was that in order for visualisation to be effective, it needed to include not only a successful outcome but also a clear and detailed path to reach it, including possible obstacles, and plans to address them. Based on her research, she created WOOP.
Oettinger’s W.O.O.P. practice combines imagery, free thought, and problem-solving. Find a comfortable and quiet thinking space and grab a pen and paper.
Think of one important and attainable wish, concern, or goal.
Close your eyes. Imagine what the best thing that you can associate with fulfilling that wish or solving your concern. Imagine the as vividly as possible the relevant events and experiences. Take your time.
Think of the internal obstacles that are holding you back or preventing you from moving forward. What thoughts, feelings, behaviours, habits, or mindsets might play a role? For example, My skills aren’t up to par.
Choose one obstacle. The most relevant internal obstacle may be the best one to start with. Vividly imagine the relevant events and experiences how the obstacle is impeding you.
Imagine an If/Then scenario. If ………….. occurs (when and where), then I will do ………… (thought or behavior). Repeat.
Oettinger’s WOOP focuses on internal obstacles – such as self-defeating thoughts or lack of expertise – that might be holding you back but this could also work as a tool for external obstacles as well. Professional athletes often use imagery to foresee possible weaknesses or scenarios so that they can prepare for them ahead of time.
Gabriele Oettingen. (2014). Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation.