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Woop Woop by Ronn Thwaites

Using ‘WOOP’ Goals to beat your blocks and do your ‘Work’

Summer 2015

As a Personal Development Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist I help people to beat their blocks and do their ‘work’

For my clients ‘work’ is:

  • What you do that has a lasting impact and value to people
  • What you do when you’re thriving and doing what you do best
  • What you love doing and doing what you love

Loving the work that you do and finding out just what it is you want to be doing is something that many people struggle with. Are you putting up with ‘dead end’ jobs, feeling stuck and unfulfilled? This is why finding and doing your ‘work’ is such a valuable goal to achieve. Setting goals with clients is an integral part of the approach that I use and since 2014 I’ve been using the WOOP goal method; it’s really transformed both my approach to client work and the results that clients have been getting.

Having tried a number of goal setting methods over the years without really being satisfied with any of them, this approach is one that actually does what it sets out to achieve.

WOOP goals are the brainchild of Gabriele Oettingen, a Professor of Psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg. Her book, Rethinking Positive Thinking has recently been published and it shows both the results of her research and practical ways in which WOOP goals can be used. You can find out more about WOOP Goals at

The approach uses two key elements, mental contrasting and implementation intentions, to make it a really effective method of both goal setting and of getting people to take the required action to make their goals actually happen.

WOOP Goals can be used to develop an action plan for anything that you want to achieve; I use them with people to help them beat their blocks around their ‘work’ related issues and fellow Cognitive Hypnotherapists use them with issues ranging from weight loss to sports performance coaching.

The following is an example of how you might use this particular approach if you’re one of those people who too want to find and do your ‘work’.

When I work with clients I start off by asking them what is it that’s stopping them from being able to achieve, change or do what it is they want to be doing. This is often termed the ‘Problem State’ or as I term it the ‘Blocks’

Perhaps you feel ‘stuck’ and don’t have a clear idea about what you want to do; you might have always wanted to be doing something but have never done it or you are doing some kind of ‘work’ that you enjoy but you want to take it further.

Your problem might be that you know what you’d love to be doing but you lack the knowledge or skills to do it.

Maybe your problem is your lack of confidence or fears about what might happen if you did go for what you want to be doing.

Whatever it is that’s blocking you or is a problem for you and is stopping you from being able to achieve, change or do your ‘work’ write it down.

Now think about something you want to achieve in your life instead of your ‘Problem State’. Using the first part of the WOOP process think about what your Wish is (sometimes to help clients focus more I change this to Want)

So what is it you want around ‘work’? What’s your Wish? What’s the ‘Solution State’ you want to reach?

When I work with people I ask them to be very specific about this and to state in in the positive; what they actually want not what they don’t want!

Perhaps you want to start writing, running your own business, work for a good cause, etc.

Maybe it isn’t as specific as the above but you know you want a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in what you’re doing. You want to feel that you’re making a difference and doing something of value.

It will also really help to write down what it is you want as it really helps to focus the mind and get your goals clear.

Once you’ve done this think about what the best possible Outcome would be, from getting what you want to achieve/change or do.

  • What sort of ‘work’ will you be doing?
  • What would you be thinking?
  • What would be different or better?
  • What would have changed?
  • How will you be feeling?

This is the mental contrasting part of the process; you’ve thought about what you have now (the problem) and have contrasted that with what you actually want (the solution). When using this with clients I like them to be associated into the problem state. I ask them to see and feel it as though they’re actually there and describe the intensity of the associated feelings (it’s as though you’re seeing it through your own eyes and as though you’re actually in the moment, as it happens).

For the solution state, I like people disassociated as though they’re actually watching as it would be in an ideal world (as though you’re watching yourself on TV as the event is happening).

One of the reasons for doing this is there’s evidence to suggest if someone imagines the solution state as though they’ve actually achieved it there’s less of a motivation to actually take the action to achieve it for real!

Next let’s go onto the implementation intentions part of the process.

Write out all of the possible Obstacles that could get in the way of you getting your wish and best possible outcome. These might be problems that are already present or new issues that could come up.

Go through all of the things in the past that have got in your way, blocked you and held you back. It is best if you actually write them all down, get them out in the open and face up to them. It also makes it easier to remember them.

Possible obstacles might include:

  • Lack of confidence.
  • Lack of knowledge/skills.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Fear of success.
  • Worrying about outcomes.
  • Giving up too easily.
  • Not being able to stay motivated
  • Not actually knowing what you want.
  • Lack of support from friends and family.
  • Lack of money or funds to get started.

Whatever it is that you feel or think would or could present itself as an obstacle on your path, put it down on your list; hold nothing back and be really honest with yourself!

The second part of the implementation intention is now about having a Plan to deal with each and every one of the possible obstacles that have been identified.

This gives you a plan of actions to take so that you can get your wish and best outcome and Gabriele Oettingen advises that the best way to approach this area is to look at is as: 

If (obstacle) then (plan)

Again, for every obstacle you’ve written down take each one and write out the ‘If Then’ plan of action for them.

For example if lack of skills/knowledge is a block then you could buy a book, go on a training course, and ask for help, etc. to beat it.

If lack of direction is a block then you could speak to someone to advise you on what options you have.

If lack of confidence is a block then you could seek help from a Coach, Therapist or go on a training course.

What is so effective with this approach is that it doesn’t just get you to think in a positive way or to just imagine the ideal way that things could work out. It gets you to face up to what could get in the way and gives you the ability to take positive actions to beat these blocks and move on.

Once you’ve listed all of the possible obstacles then you can start to put a plan of action into place depending upon what area/areas are the priority for you.

If you’ve got a really long list of possible obstacles it’s important not to overload yourself with actions and I’ve found that no more than three at any one time works well; once you’ve started to beat these blocks that have been prioritised, move onto the next ones.

You might be aware as you do your ‘If’ ‘Then’ plan that some of the obstacles are blocks that you’re not going to be able to deal with yourself. Issues around lack of confidence, fear of failure, anxiety, etc. might mean that you need the help of a Cognitive Hypnotherapist or Coach.

Having someone who can help you to beat your blocks can make all the difference as to whether you’ll be able to achieve, change or do what it is you’ve identified; for people who have the courage and commitment to do this it can be life changing.

Go through the WOOP Goal process and see how your action plan about your ‘work’ looks.

  • Does it make you feel excited?
  • Do you feel confident you can make it happen?
  • Are you feeling scared?
  • Do you need support and help to make it happen?

If you do want help to beat some of your blocks or just to get you started and keep going, there will always be a Quest trained Cognitive Hypnotherapist or Coach available; just have a look on the Quest Institute ‘Find a Therapist’ page.

I hope this article has given you an insight into how the WOOP goal approach works and has got you thinking about how you could use this excellent method yourself to achieve what you want in your ‘work’.