WOOP Method To Achieve Your Goals


The WOOP method helps to set priorities and achieve goals – using the simple formula for success: think positive + visualize internal hurdles. Here’s how the WOOP method works.

Those who think positively have more success – this has been preached by counselors and life support authors for decades. Psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen has scientifically examined this credo for 25 years and comes to the astonishing result: Pure optimism prevents people from achieving their goals. The professor, who teaches and researches at New York University and the University of Hamburg, then developed the WOOP method: a technique that is supposed to help you achieve your goals.


The four letters of the abbreviation WOOP stand for:

  • Wish
  • Outcome
  • Obstacle
  • Plan

As with positive thinking, one imagines the fulfillment of a wish, but also wonders: what is in my way to actually implement this wish? What is stopping me? What stops me from obstacles can be emotions such as fear or anger, irrational beliefs or bad habits.

Gabriele Oettingen describes the combination of positive dreams and the visualization of obstacles lying within oneself as “mental contrasting”. The WOOP method supplements mental contrasting with if-then planning, a technique developed by Peter M. Gollwitzer from the University of Konstanz. The plan helps to really get rid of the particularly tricky inner obstacles.


“WOOP is like a Swiss Army knife,” says Gabriele Oettingen. The method is versatile and has many functions. In this way, it can help to recognize and fulfill wishes: The positive thoughts about the future give direction to action; the obstacles within you inspire you to overcome them.

The WOOP method also helps to set priorities and to understand what you really want and what your goals are. Those who deal intensively with a wish may find that it is not so important to them.

The WOOP method sometimes makes people aware that the obstacle is too big. Then it helps to let go of wishes.

Incidentally, Gabriele Oettingen explains why the method works: “Without us realizing it, the future is connected to the obstacle and the obstacle is linked to the behavior to overcome the obstacle.” These processes are not conscious and then control the behavior. The WOOP method also helps to recognize obstacles in your own environment, again without us realizing it. It works best with wishes that are really close to your heart, for which you are passionate.


In general, the WOOP method is suitable for all people who are facing a challenge or who have to deal with difficult changes, but also for those who are currently doing well, but who want to improve their lives even further.


The method has been scientifically tested, can be learned in a short time, can be applied well to short-term and long-term wishes and should make you act in a more energetic and targeted manner. It also helps with self-motivation.


WOOP is actually a four-step exercise. “You only need five minutes of uninterrupted time,” says Gabriele Oettingen. So mute the phone, close the mailbox and put yourself in a calm, relaxed mood. And then you can start with the WOOP’en – just follow the instructions below in four steps.

Step 1: Identify A Wish

In the beginning, think about which wish or concern is most important to you. Desires that are challenging but can be fulfilled are best suited for the WOOP method. You can write the request in a few words on a piece of paper. But it is also possible to let the entire exercise run only mentally.

Step 2: Think About What If The Wish Came True

Once you have identified a wish, the imagination part follows. Ask yourself: What would be the best thing if I fulfilled my wish? How would I feel? The best possible result is written down in a few words in the mind’s eye or written down. And then take a moment and imagine how great your life would be if wish became a reality.

Step 3: Clarify Which Inner Obstacle Stands In The Way Of The Wish

Now consider what prevents you from fulfilling your wish. Ask yourself: What is the main internal obstacle that stands in my way? It is important that you always look for obstacles in yourself – because you can overcome these obstacles. Obstacles that are outside of yourself are usually much more difficult to get out of the way.

Again, it is important that you recall or write down your inner obstacle: Imagine it vividly and color it in vividly.

Step 4: Make An If-then Plan

Now ask yourself: What can I do to overcome my obstacle? Name an action that you can perform or a thought that you can tell yourself to overcome your obstacle. According to the following scheme:

If … (your obstacle), then I will … (your action to overcome the obstacle).

You can also write down this if-then sentence as a reminder, but this is not absolutely necessary.


According to Gabriele Oettingen, it is important to follow the sequence of the steps: “If you first imagine the obstacle and then the result, the method will no longer work.”

In order to successfully use WOOP, you should also practice the technique with different wishes – these can be private or professional wishes. For example, the desire to eat healthier, not always postpone important phone calls or to delegate more tasks to employees.

Recommended Readings: Chunking Strategy – Motivate Yourself For Any Task

More information about WOOP can be found on the WOOPmylife website. There is also a free WOOP app available for download that helps develop a daily routine.