A Simple Tool To Increase Motivation!

By Kathleen Boucher

When you grew up did your parents tell you often to keep a positive mindset and everything would turn out okay? Did thinking positively help motivate you to take action? What if I told you that current research shows that the opposite is true? Thinking positively by itself reduces your motivation to take action! Do you believe this?! It definitely astounded me.

I know it sounds counterintuitive to everything you have been taught up to now. Gabriele Oettingen has spent 20 years researching motivation. Even she says she was surprised at her results. Years ago, when she presented her findings  her colleagues did not believe her. Fortunately, she continued her work and came up with a solution to help you and I increase our motivation.

The acronym for the tool she designed is called WOOP.

WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. Here are some notes I took after reading the book Rethinking Positive Thinking, Inside The New Science of Motivation by Gabriele Oettingen.

  • “Rethinking Positive Thinking is a book about wishes and how to fulfill them.”¹ “It draws on twenty years of research in the science of motivation. And it presents a single, surprising idea: the obstacles that we think most impede us from realizing our deepest wishes can actually hasten their fulfillment.”²
  • WOOP must be followed in the order she has outlined. Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. Her research shows that this order is the most effective.

Here are the steps to WOOP:

  1. W stands for Wish. Pick a wish that you are confident you can attain in a year, a month, a week or a day. The time frame is entirely up to you. The only stipulation is that you are confident that you can achieve your wish.
  2. O stands for Outcome. Visualize the outcome down to the tiniest details.
  3. O stands for Obstacle. Decide upon the greatest obstacles standing in your way of getting what you wish for.
  4. P stands for Plan. Make a plan to overcome each obstacle. If this happens… then I will do this.

For example,

  • W:  My wish is to have my lower back free of spasms.
  • O: My outcome is that even while working and lifting heavy patients my lower back will never go into spasm.
  • O: My obstacle is that I have tight hamstrings.
  • P: If my hamstrings are tight than I will stretch my legs for 3-5 minutes when I get up in the morning and again when I go to bed in the evening. Having hamstrings that are not tight protects my lower back from going into spasm.

That is all there is to it.

Make sure you keep WOOP in this order and pick goals that you are confident you can attain in whatever time frame you decide upon.  Next time you tell your kids to think positively about something they want to accomplish share with them the WOOP acronym. You have just given them a tool that may increase their motivation.

How exciting is that!


1.& 2.Gabriele Oettingen, Rethinking Positive Thinking, Inside The New Science of Motivation, copyright©2014 by Gabriele Oettingen, Published by the Penguin Group (USA) LLC, ISBN 978-1-59184-687-1, Preface xi



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