Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, psychologist, researcher and author of the book “Rethinking Positive Thinking,” says we’ve been inundated with advice to think positively or visualize success. While visualizing the achievement of our goals may feel good, those same feelings can also inhibit our motivation by giving us an emotional payoff before we ever actually do anything.

Oettingen recommends a more effective motivation technique called WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. Here’s how it works:

STEP 1: Wish. First, create a meaningful, challenging and feasible goal, say, calling five clients a day, writing thank you notes or asking for more referrals. Write this down, or use the free WOOP app.

STEP 2: Outcome. Visualize the highest and best result or feeling you would receive from accomplishing your wish. Be comprehensive. Write this down, too.

STEP 3: Obstacle. Identify things preventing you from accomplishing your wish; it could be lack of information, lack of a skill set or even your own feelings. Identifying the obstacle is important because it helps your mind contrast your outcome feelings with your goal, helping contain emotion.

STEP 4: Plan. Using “if/then” statements, write an action plan for overcoming each obstacle: “If [obstacle], then I will [action to overcome obstacle].” This critical piece of the method asks you to focus on a specific plan and creates what researchers call “implementation intentions,” which have been found to give results vastly superior to other achievement-based methods.

Whether your goals are personal or professional, this technique can help you stay focused and remain motivated long enough to obtain real results.

Sources: Harvard Business Review, Forbes, WOOPmylife.org

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