Four reasons why WOOPing works (DW#580)

There are some of us who are really really tied to the idea of visualizing success as the be-all and end-all to achieving their dreams.

Here’s the thing: if it is working for you, then please keep doing it and don’t change a thing.

For those of us who are finding that visualizing by itself is not helping us achieve our dreams (been dreaming of that dress size for a long long time – even have my old jeans hanging in the closet), we are not alone.

Here are some reasons why mental contrasting or WOOPing works better than visualizing by itself:

1) You have an insight and into why your current reality doesn’t match your ideal future

When you perform mental contrasting, it is common to experience some sort of "aha moment", an insight, or a revelation about why your goals haven’t materialized yet.

You become aware of obstacles that you’ve never even thought about before. And when you become aware of these obstacles you can prepare for them.

Here’s how Gabriele Oettingen describes this: "Watching participants perform mental contrasting, we could tell by their facial expressions that something was happening in their minds. Often participants seemed to experience insights, their eyes brightening and their bodies straightening in their chairs, suggesting an unusual combination of relief and focus."

2) When you practice achieve your goal in your mind, your mind subconsciously prepares to deal with the obstacles that lie in the path of your future wish

When you then face the obstacle, you perceive it as smaller because you have already prepared to deal with it.

3) You are more likely to do the right thing

When you have a planned response in place, (an "instrumental behavior" to overcome the obstacle) you are much more likely to choose the instrumental behavior rather than the actions that will lead you away from your goal.

This works even with people who are battling tough addictions.

For example, lets say it’s Saturday and you have a test on Monday for which you’ll have to study on Sunday. The obstacle in this case would be staying out late on Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday morning. The instrumental behavior would be to come home right after dinner.

Obstacle: Staying out late, sleeping in.
Instrumental behaviour: Have dinner and come straight home.

By mentally contrasting this scenario, your mind would create a strong subconscious association between the obstacle of staying out late and the instrumental behavior of coming straight home.

This cognitive association greatly increases the likelihood of you choosing the instrumental behavior and coming straight home after dinner.

It’s as if you’re being guided by a subconscious mentor who tells you to do the right thing….

Cool, right?

4) You get better at using feedback to move forward

When students used mental contrasting in Oettingen’s studies, she found that they were better able to hear negative feedback and translate it into effective plans for realizing their goals.

She found that they also had higher self-esteem, seeing themselves as more competent than participants in the control groups. They perceived negative feedback constructively as identifying a deficit that could be mastered in the future, that was restricted to the given situation, and that was repairable through effort.

Here is how she sums up the benefits of mental contrasting:

"Discoveries, insights, revelations – these happen to people during and immediately after mental contrasting. …mental contrasting creates powerful changes in people, affecting how they perceive reality and how they respond to the feedback of others. New associations form in people’s minds, near-instant connections between dream and obstacle, between obstacle and the means of overcoming the obstacle. All of a sudden, in ways that can scarcely be put into words, the obstacle seems more clearly defined than it did before."

Can you tell that I really really like the idea of WOOPing ;)


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