How to get from starry-eyed dreaming to achieving goals
So often in our day-to-day lives, in the topic of achieving goals, we’re overburdened with advice to “think positively.” From song’s lyrics to politician’s speeches to media commercials, we’re told time and time again to look on the bright side, to be optimistic in the face of adversity, and to focus on our dreams. And whether we’re trying to motivate ourselves to lose weight, get a promotion at work, or run a marathon, the general message is the same: focusing on fulfilling our wishes will make them come true.
Psychologist Gabriele Oettingen draws on more than 20 years of research in the science of human motivation to explain where the conventional wisdom falls short. She has discovered that focusing on the obstacles to achieving goals could actually help us achieve them faster. Dreaming and visualizing aren’t all they are cracked up to be, and as it turns out, dreamers most often are not doers.
It is true that optimism can help us relieve immediate suffering and persevere during tough times, but just dreaming about the desired future actually makes people more frustrated and unhappy in the long run and decreases their chances of achieving goals. Oettingen’s research shows that the pleasure we gain from positive fantasies allows us to fulfill our wishes virtually and saps our energy to perform the work necessary for meeting challenges and achieving goals in real life.
The 4 steps to achieving goals:
Based on her groundbreaking scientific studies, Oettingen introduces a new approach to achieving goals. It combines visualizing our desires with focusing on the obstacles that stand in our way. By experiencing our dreams in our minds while considering reality we can face our fears, make specific plans to overcome them, and increase energy to take action.
WOOP (Wish – Outcome – Obstacles – Plan) .
1. Desire: To increase your chances of achieving goals you must first determine your goals. Find something that you truly desire. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?”. It can be a big goal, like new years resolution to run a marathon or to loose specific number of pounds, to write a book, to start an online business, etc., or it may be something not so daring.
2. Result: Here’s where some positive thinking sneaks again. Keeping the goal in mind, ask yourself, “If my wish is fulfilled, what is the best possible outcome I am going to get out of it?” Often the outcome we really look for is a feeling. As you determine this outcome, you can imagine the outcome already achieved. And while imagining it you should fully immerse yourself in it. See and feel the goal achieved.
3. Obstacles: The previous step is the place where most people usually stop the process and get stuck. After all dreaming feels nice. But dreaming alone won’t raise the odds of you achieving goals, there is still much work to do. Once you have allowed yourself some time to imagine how you will feel when your goal is achieved, bring your mind back to reality. Then ask yourself, “What is it in me that stops me to experience this dream?” Often the obstacle is an emotion, a belief or a good old habit. In this step you should focus your mind on the hurdle.
4. Plan: Once you have realized what the barrier is, you can find out what you need to do to overcome it. Make a plan that includes “if ………… then ………….”. Example: If X comes up I will make Y to overcome it and to keep moving on the path to my goal.
After applying this method, people in Oettingen’s studies have become significantly more motivated to lose weigh, quit smoking , get better grades in school, negotiate more effectively in business situations and sustain fulfilling relationships.
Whether you are depressed, unhappy and struggling with serious problems or you just want to improve, discover, and explore new opportunities, this formula for achieving goals will increase your motivation and will help you boldly chart a new path ahead.
The only problem I see in this approach is that the inner conflicts of the individual, that prevent him from doing what is required to achieve his goals are not addressed. Even if one has faced the barriers standing on the way of his goal achievement, and has developed a plan for overcoming them, he still will be reluctant to take the necessary action if there are inner conflicts that subconsciously sabotage the realization of his dreams. Overcoming these inner conflicts is paramount to achieving goals in any area of one’s life.