CTO Compass series
- Welcome to The CTO Compass
- Solving Problems with Precision: The Science of Structured Thinking
- Are you response-able?
- Keep Score and Watch Your Performance Soar
- The Importance of Software Maintenance For Successful Software
- How To Make Good Contracts With Yourself
- Does your business have an operating system?
- 🧹 Messy Code, Messy Kitchen – It’s time to do the washing up
- How to be 37 times better by this time next year
- Good Timber Does Not Grow With Ease
- Create a compelling vision for your organisation
- Why embracing Tsundoku will make you more insightful and a more interesting person
- The Maintenance Burden: What You Don’t See When Adding New Features
- 8 tips for improving your decision-making
- How to fix your time and attention leaks
- Faking It Until You Make It: Why You Don’t Have to Automate Everything (Yet)
- How to turn Positive Thinking into Positive Action
- How to take advantage of alignable differences to make change more acceptable
- Your chair may be trying to kill you – and what to do about it
- How to craft your day for maximum focus
- 1000 seconds to boost your focus, energy and well-being
Vision boards, scrapbooks filled with inspiring pictures of our ideal life, daydreaming about our goals...positive thinking is often seen as a powerful tool for motivation and manifestation.
Proponents of it think that simply creating “vivid and compelling pictures of your heart’s desires” will draw this vision towards you.
However, positive thinking alone actually harms your efforts. Gabriele Oettingen, spent 20 years researching the topic, found that such fantasies have the opposite effect: They sap your motivational energy to act. Without action, the only thing that will manifest is your disappointment and frustration.
Fortunately, Dr Oettingen used her research findings to develop a simple framework she called WOOP to help people take more action towards their desires.
- Want to quit smoking? WOOP it.
- Want to find a new job? WOOP it.
- Have a big goal you want to achieve? WOOP it.
- Want to get the most from a meeting? WOOP it.
- You can use it for anything.
WOOP, there it is
WOOP is both an acronym and a nice mnemonic word, so you can easily train yourself to bring it to mind and use it whenever necessary.
Start the process by metaphorically waving your magic wand and getting clear on what you want. This can be as general or as specific as you wish.
Perhaps it’s a particular goal or project you want to achieve; maybe it’s just the next meeting you have that you want to go well. Also, think about the timescale you would like to accomplish this desire.
Your wish should be challenging but something you feel you can fulfil.
Try to write it down in 3 to 6 words.
Now, get clear on why you want it. How would fulfilling this wish make you feel?
The more you can physically feel into the outcome or the benefits that’ll come from achieving your wish, the better. What would be the best outcome of achieving this wish?
At this stage, you might notice that all we’ve done so far is think positively. It is an important step, but positive thinking alone does not inspire action or create momentum. It’s easy to wallow in the pleasant feelings this produces.
Now you need to take that dream, and that’s all it is right now, and rub it up against reality. Think about the obstacles you’ll likely face to make your wish a reality. Be specific. While it’s unnecessary, I find it helpful to write down your thinking as you go through this process, especially when you first start using it.
The obstacles might be anything, but more often than not, the real obstacle is within you. I cannot state this enough. The biggest obstacle to achieving your wish is yourself. You can’t control most external factors, but you can control your responses and actions. The WOOP process aims to help you bridge that gap and put a plan in place to help you overcome the impediment at the right time.
This is known as mental contrasting. Thinking about the specific challenges that you might face creates a necessity to act. Don’t be afraid if, during this step, you realise that your wish might be unattainable; dial it back to something more realistic and achievable.
Finally, create a plan to overcome the obstacles you’ve identified. Gabriele’s husband, Peter Gollwitzer, a fellow researcher, coined the term “Implementation Intentions” as a simple but powerful way to plan. (Next week, I’ll go into more depth on this).
If (obstacle), Then I will (plan)
WOOP your life
At this point, you might think this is almost too simple to be effective.
Oettingen has created a website called WOOP My Life, which contains more information about the research and several practical tools to help you practice. As with anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
WOOP is a tool to take you from being a dreamer to a doer; it helps you recognise the obstacles within you and devise a plan to overcome them. Stop dreaming and start doing.