"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

WOOP, WOOP, we can set and meet goals

By on December 24, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

June DarlingBy June Darling

It’s January, again. Do we really have to think about goals?

If you are 60-plus, perhaps you think goals are a thing of the past.

According to research done in the United Kingdom, (and perhaps it applies in the U.S. as well), when we reach our 60s, we seem more nonchalant about goals in general. We also care much less about making money and what others think about us.

This doesn’t mean we don’t care about anything.

We care more in our later years about our spouse, about our family, and about nature. And though we aren’t interested so much in being bigger and better, we are concerned about maintaining what we have.

We may not be interested in running more marathons, for example, but we may want to keep up our ability to walk.

Sixty plusers, like me, also care just as much as we did in our 20s about our weight. So, it’s quite possible you have that same ole goal, though you may have given up hope, to lose some weight.

Here’s the good news. There is hope. A sound, well-researched technique for achieving goals called WOOP can help.

WOOP is an acronym that stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. WOOP is based on research by Dr. Gabriele Oettingen.

The WOOP technique has been used successfully in almost every area you can imagine including achieving better relationships, better health and fitness, getting better grades and lowering negative emotions.

When you use the WOOP method, you start with identifying your most important wish or concern. You choose a wish that feels challenging but also seems like one you can accomplish — say in the next two months.

Next you consider what would happen to you if your wish were fulfilled. How would fulfilling your wish make you feel? This is the outcome or benefits part of WOOP.

Those two preceding ideas around wishes and benefits are really not all that new in the world of goal-setting, but the next step around obstacles is both new and counterintuitive.

You consider this question — what is your main inner obstacle to achieving your wish? What is it within yourself that holds you back from fulfilling your wish. What is it really?

Considering your main inner obstacle doesn’t sound terribly motivating, but it is… because you don’t leave yourself there feeling glum. Instead, you make a plan for overcoming your obstacle. You think of one action you can take to overcome the obstacle.

For example, let’s say that I want to weigh 125 in February. In December I weigh 145. What’s the biggest obstacle within me that’s holding me back from achieving my wish to weigh 125?

Well, I’d say the biggest obstacle I have within myself to losing that weight is my wanting to drink a beer as the sun goes down. Once I have that beer, I am more likely to have a glass of wine.

Now, not only do I have those alcohol calories, but I have also lost a large part of my self-control around overeating and having a brownie for dessert.

My one action to overcome my inner obstacle, my plan is that when the sun goes down, if I feel like I want a beer, instead I will grab a glass of water or cup of chamomile tea. For me it’s all about identifying that inner obstacle and making a one action plan to overcome the inner obstacle.

What works best for you in the WOOP process may be different. I realized this as I talked via email to WOOP and goal achievement expert, Dr. Gayle Scroggs, who has designed goal achievement programs for coaches and psychologists.

Though Gayle lives in the Washington, D.C. area, I was surprised and delighted to find out that she comes to the Wenatchee Valley occasionally to visit family.

Until we meet in person, Gayle gave me a few tips in addition to the idea that motivation is nuanced and needs to be personalized.

In Gayle’s own work with clients, she emphasizes the benefits of reaching the goal, but she says that some clients need a different way of motivating themselves.

Strange as though it may seem, Gayle has noticed that sometimes clients are more able to “kick themselves in the pants” by considering their losses more than their benefits.

For example, I may think about the benefits of weight loss — how good it will feel to be able to wear my expensive, smaller-sized outfits. What may actually get me moving, however, might be considering how awful I would feel if I never could get back to a comfortable weight.

You may want to play with both benefits and losses to see which feels more motivating for you.

For me, thinking about the benefits and losses was not as helpful as considering my inner obstacles and making a plan. And, I am happy to report, using the WOOP process, I did lose 10 pounds in four weeks. You can find out more about the WOOP process and the scientific research at www.WOOPmylife.org.

January is THE big month for goals and thinking about what’s important. After much thought, perhaps you’ll end up saying “to heck with goals.” You’ll go for a walk and call your family. That’s fine. You know what’s important to you and you don’t need extra motivation to make it happen.

Or maybe, no matter how old you are, now that you see there is hope, you’ll decide to dust off your wishes. Maybe you’ll even re-visit that eternal goal of losing a few pounds.

This January how might you move up to The Good life by considering your priorities and take WOOPing steps toward achieving your goals?

June Darling, Ph.D. can be contacted at drjunedarling1@gmail.com; website: www.summitgroupresources.com. Her bio and many of her books can be found at amazon.com/author/junedarling.

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