Gabriele Oettingen’s research, which she describes in her book Rethinking Positive Thinking, demonstrates that visualizing your desire and wish is essential for goal attainment, but if that’s all you do, you’ll actually become *less* motivated.
Try it: Fantasize about being a billionaire or anything you want. Notice how good it feels. Now notice that you are less motivated to work. Why? Because your brain reacts to your fantasy as if it were real. No need to work because you imagined it.
This is great for emotional well-being because imagining that you are happy or peaceful generates those feelings inside your brain, but simply visualizing a financial dream, ideal relationship, or any other goal can undermine your brain’s ability to work for it.
Solution: After you visualize your desire, visualize any obstacle that could stop you from achieving that goal. When you do that, you can create a step-by-step plan that will make your dream come true. Oettingen calls her 4-step visualization process WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.
Here's how it's done:
- Step 1: Visualize your goal or desire with as much detail as possible
- Step 2: Visualize what it will bring you (outcome).
- Step 3: Visualize the obstacles (those things that will stop you from attaining that goal). This essential step allows you to evaluate how realistic your goal actually is. If you are not willing to do the work necessary – or can’t do it because it’s way too impractical – then you should change your goal or wish.
- Step 4: Plan a written strategy to overcome your obstacle and then visualize yourself putting that plan into action.
Do this several times a day with any simple goal, and you’ll quickly see how powerful this strategy can be.
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