Key Highlights

  • Gabrielle Oettingen, psychologist specializing in motivational research, introduces new way to visualize the future, called mental contrasting
  • Combines focusing on dreams with visualizing obstacles that stand in the way
  • Scientifically validated realization technique called WOOP

We’ve all been told and read that positive thinking, fantasizing and wishing help make our dreams come true, right? Well…actually no. Dr. Gabrielle Oettingen, a leading psychologist who specializes in motivational behavior and research, has found that people who have stronger and more positive fantasies about reaching their goals are actually less likely to achieve them.

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Oettingen, author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, has found that a way to reach more of our goals in order to realize our dreams. She named her goal reaching process WOOP. And she has scientifically proven that using WOOP works.

  • W stands for the Wish…the one thing you really want to happen…what is the one thing you want to create in your life?
  • O stands for Outcome…fantasize about what the best possible outcome of realizing your one wish would look like…what is the best-case scenario for you when you achieve your wish?
  • O stands for Obstacle…think about what is it in you that holds you back…the one thing in you that you need to overcome in order to make your wish come true…what will get in your way…how will you get in your own way?
  • P stands for Plan…think about what you need to do to overcome your obstacle…what will you do about all these obstacles when they get in your way of you achieving your goal?

Take a few moments to think about the one thing, the one wish you really want to do and/or create or have happen in your life that would make you happy. Think of something that feels exciting, challenging AND feasible. Write down that one wish. Describe your wish in no more than 3 – 6 words.

Then think about what would happen if your wish came true. What would it feel like and look like?  What would be the biggest benefit to having this wish/dream come true. Write it down. Again, describe this outcome in no more than 3 – 6 words. Oettingen wants you to be clear and specific…that’s the reason for just 3 – 6 words.

Now, identify the obstacles that YOU create that prevent you from making your wish a reality. Let your imagination run wild here and think of all the obstacles you can imagine. No editing…just write down all the obstacles that come into your brain. Focus on the internal or self-created obstacles that get in your way so you can focus on obstacles YOU can control. After you’ve come up with every and all obstacles that prevent you from making your wish come true, prioritize the obstacles based on significance and the likelihood of that obstacle actually being there.

Make an “IF…THEN” plan. Figure out what you can do to get around the most significant obstacles on your list.

For each obstacle, make an “if…then” plan. Choose the most effective path you can take to get around each obstacle that you’ve identified.

Yell “WOOP” (it’s fun) when you’ve completed writing down all your if-then plans to get around your obstacles and the, get on with it. You can use WOOP to make wishes and/or goals come true in all areas of your life. The possibilities are endless on big and small scales.

Try WOOPing. Make a habit of WOOPing things more often. You might find that you’re bringing yourself a bit closer to making your dreams/wishes come true.


Thanks to Dr. Gabrielle Oettingen.

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