It’s that time again!  New year’s resolutions are probably on the tip of your tongue. 

Perhaps you’re thinking about them.  Perhaps you’ve already committed to them. 

Or perhaps you’ve decided to throw in the towel because it’s just too depressing to resolve to do the same darn thing year after year without actually every making good on that commitment to yourself.

But if this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone! 

In fact, the vast majority of new year’s resolutions have been abandoned by the beginning of February!

The new year is a time of fresh starts.  But sometimes, that’s as far as we make it.  We start, but we don’t exactly finish. 

And that can be frustrating and demotivating.

Why are we so bad at making resolutions? 

Well, it’s usually because we don’t really have a concrete plan with actionable next steps.  Sometimes we don’t even have a concrete goal.  We say things like: “get healthier” or “exercise more”. 

But what do those really mean?  How will you know when you’ve achieved them?

So, this year, I want to share with you a framework that’s backed in science and can help you actually make progress on your goals. 

It’s called the WOOP method and it was designed by Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at NYU (my alma mater!).

The WOOP method isn’t just fun it say and it’s not just an exclamatory phrase (although that is a nice bonus!); it’s an acronym.  And who doesn’t love a nice acronym? They’re such nice mnemonic devices. 

WOOP is a method that’s based on the science of mental contrasting, which is where you imagine the positive results of what you’re trying to achieve, and then imagine what might get in your way. You’re contracting what you want with the actual realities you may face.

And I want to show you how it works so that you’re more likely to actually keep those new year’s resolutions this year:

W for Wish

What is the goal, the hope, the dream?  This is honestly where most resolutions get stuck.  We stop here.  We don’t go any further.  So, if you’re making a WOOP plan right now, you’ve already likely got this one down.

While I’m not a New Year’s resolutions person (I’m a questioner, see, and to us questioners it’s pretty darn arbitrary to start something new on new year’s.  We’re just as likely to start something at any other time.  But I digress.)

In any case, let’s use an example of a goal that I have.  Something I’d like to do in the next couple of years.  And that’s to write a book.

And we’ll use one other example of “exercising more” because that is the most common New Year’s Resolution around.

O for Outcome

How is the outcome different from the wish?  The outcome is the best possible outcome if you achieve this goal.  Perhaps you want to think of it as “the why”?  What are all the good things that will come if you achieve this goal?

Here are the best possible outcomes I can envision if I write a book:

  • It will become a best seller
  • I’ll be able to reach more people, helping more people to do more and stress less
  • I’ll have taken all this blog writing I’ve been doing over the years and turned it into something tangible I can held in my hands (and yours!)
  • Maybe I’ll be able to write more books later

And here are some best possible outcomes for exercising more:

  • Get stronger
  • Lose weight
  • Have more energy
  • Live longer
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Increase stamina
  • Slower stress
  • Improve mood

O is for Obstacles

What obstacles might show up that would prevent you from keeping your resolution?  What might get in your way?  Consider things that are both within and outside of your control. 

This is where the mental contrasting comes in.  When thinking about how to achieve a goal, it’s very helpful to imagine what might block you so that you can 1) come up with a plan for these things and 2) not be blindsided or demoralized by them in the moment.

Book example:

  • I might not make enough time to work on the book
  • I might get writer’s block
  • It might be hard to find a publisher/agent/editor

Exercise example:

  • Not enough time in the day
  • Low energy
  • Lack of equipment

P is for Plan

By now you’ve defined the goal, you’ve thought about why this goal is important to you and what all the positive outcomes could be if you achieve it. 

And you’ve even thought through what could lead you astray and prevent you from making good on your commitment. 

Now it’s time to make a plan that factors in those potential obstacles.

Book example:

  1. Research the pros and cons of self publishing vs. traditional publishing
  2. Define next steps for the path I choose
  3. Block time on calendar to actually do the writing
  4. Ask friends for recommendations for editors
  5. Etc.

Exercise example:

  1. Define what type(s) of exercise you want to do 
  2. Make an accountability plan
  3. Determine what time you have available (or make time by replacing something else)
  4. Schedule the exercise
  5. Use a tiered method for days when you have less time or less energy (for example, if all goes well, you got to the gym, but if that doesn’t happen you take a fast 30 minutes walk, and if there’s no time/energy for that, then you do 25 jumping jacks and 50 crunches before bed, etc.

The WOOP method helps turn those dreams into reality, because it gets practical.  And I want to make it easy for you.  So, I’ve designed a free worksheet you can download right here, right now to make a WOOP plan of your own.

So, let me know: what’s your resolution? 

And will you try the WOOP method?