There are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic Deadlines.

Brian Tracy

We all have our own goals and ambitions which we so hardly desire to achieve, but more often than not we indulge in self doubt as to whether or not we will be able to attain them. And there are many of us who haven’t been able to decide what we want to do in our life, i.e., our purpose in life (not the purpose of life). A whopping 80 percent of the population do not set goals in life, and if you have a goal you may feel ‘oh that is alright’, at least I am in the 20% who do. But the question is if or not setting a goal for yourself enough? Out of the 20% who are aware of what they want to do, only 30% can really realize their target. So, where do the other 70% go wrong?

Let’s take a simple example, we all take several resolutions on New Year, but a research conducted by University of Scranton shows that 92% of people do not ever accomplish them. If we are failing to execute such a short term goal, think of how we can possibly execute such a long term and exhaustive goal. 

Goal specificity, or the first step in goal setting refers to the degree with which a goal is specified. Specifying a goal leads to better task strategies which in turn help us perform better. The next step is goal visualization which means analysing and looking for the obstacles that may arise on the way. This can be achieved by a technique known as mental contrasting, since we contrast between the visualisation of a positive outcome first and then think about the obstacles. This includes imagining what our current feelings are, what change will goal achievement bring in our life and what all do we have to go through before actually achieving it. Lastly, goal planning encompasses the layout or the outline which we can follow to reach our ambitions. Implementation intention, a strategy for self-regulation in the form of an ‘if-then’ plan has been able to increase the percentage of succeeding by three-folds for harder goals. 

Gabriele Oettingen put all these strategies together and came up with the concept of WOOP.

W- Wish

O- Outcome

O- Obstacle

P- Plan

This approach has been based on comprehensive and continuous research on motivation for 20 years. The main component behind its success is the obstacle, obstacle that we often feel would hamper our chances to realize our goal actually does the opposite. Instead of impeding, it hugely increases our chances of fulfilling our dream because if we are aware of difficulties we will be more prepared. Say before going to a hill station, we are likely to prepare ourselves by packing woolen clothes because we are informed of the hurdles that we might face. WOOP has been successful in promoting a healthy lifestyle, improving social behaviour and enhancing academic and career performance (increased attendance, efforts and achievements). It has also been rendered successful with individuals suffering from mental and physical illnesses such as depression, autism, anxiety, strokes and diabetes, to name a few. It does so by reducing stress, providing solutions to various problems and improving time management skills.

Stadler and his colleagues in 2009 conducted an experiment to see the effectiveness of WOOP in terms of the exercise goals, they brought in middle-aged women who wanted to increase their physical activity. They taught them the WOOP technique, and had them practice it by asking their wish for physical activity, the best outcome, the obstacles, and if-then plan. And then, they measured this not just for a little bit of time, but they actually measured their activity regularly for a long period. So, is this the kind of technique with effects that can stick over time? And here’s what they found in terms of physical activity by comparing women who were asked to do the WOOP method versus the control group who wasn’t given any instructions. In the beginning, the group which followed WOOP exercised a little bit more, but then weeks later, four weeks later, eight weeks later, and even 10 weeks later, there was an increased percentage of physical activities by about twice as much as the other group.

Note that the wishes you have should be realistic, demanding and absorbing. In case, the wishes are unrealistic they may do much more harm than good but demotivate you, and can also be a huge waste of time. The time horizon, however, does not matter; the goal can be anything you want to achieve tomorrow or 10 years down the line. 


Goal: Waste less time on the internet, study more.

W: Spend less time on the internet, study more.

O: Gain knowledge and learn more, get smart, get good grades, feel proud, feeling of satisfaction.

O: Not in the mood, will start in another half-an-hour.

P: Shut down the laptop and switch off the phone when I catch myself, open the book and start reading.

Goal: Wake up on time and exercise everyday.

W: Wake up early and work out.

O: Healthy mind and body, feel good, increased productivity, feeling determined and confident that I can achieve anything I wish.

O: Snoozing the alarm, skip the workout.

P: Get out of the bed as soon as the alarm goes off, wear workout clothes and get started with it.

Write down all your goals and WOOP it!

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