The WOOP Method For Habit Change And Goal Setting

Earlier this year, I participated in a free Yale online course called “The Science of Well-Being.” As a whole, I loved the class. I found the psychology behind how humans make choices about what they think will bring them happiness contrasted with what actually brings them happiness incredibly fascinating. But one of my favorite things I walked away with was a strategy for habit change and goal setting.

I am no stranger to trying new things, especially in the wellness realm. I’ve wanted to become a flexible yogi that can do handstands, stay on my clean diet, and have strived to become a morning person. But I’ve always fell a little short with the longevity of my goals.

I’m sure you’ve been there. You decide you want to do this new great thing to become this new great person. You're excited and 100% confident you can get there. Until you actually start doing the thing… Suddenly the inspiration and excitement is gone. You’re tired… you’re hungry… something else just sounds better and you decide the new habit can wait for tomorrow… until you wake up and realize that you haven’t practiced your new habit or made any strides towards your goal in weeks.

Which is where the WOOP Method comes in. The WOOP Method is a science-based mental strategy created by Gabriele Oettingen after gathering more than twenty years of research in order to help people create lasting habits of their own making.


Wish Outcome Obstacles Plan

What makes this method so different from other goal setting? Strategy.

Proven Four-Step Strategy

  1. WISH Get specific with your goal/wish. The more specific you are about what you want, the better you’ll be able to strategize later.

  2. OUTCOME Write down your positive outcome. What will happen once your goal is achieved? Who will you be? How will you feel?

  3. OBSTACLES Write down any obstacles that are likely to come in your way.

  4. PLAN Create a self-regulatory strategy in the form of an “if-then plan” that can lead to better goal attainment based on your obstacles (this is where the magic is) BEFORE you start your new goal/wish.


My wish is to meditate for 5 minutes each morning.

By meditating for 5 minutes each day, the outcome will be that I’ll gain more inner peace and solace while creating a lasting routine.

An obstacle that I may face is that I'll be too tired in the morning (or lazy) to meditate.

So, my plan is that if I wake up and feel too tired to meditate, I’ll get up from bed, drink a glass of water, and then sit or lay down to meditate.

Other examples of “if-then” scenarios: “If there are donuts at the conference, I’m going to turn around and grab an orange.” “If I pick my phone up more than three times per hour, I’m going to shut it off and put it in the other room.”

This method is unique in that it allows you to look at all the puzzle pieces. It’s easy to pick a new habit and say you’re just going to start. It’s another thing to stay for the course when things get hard. By thinking about the desired outcome contrasted with the obstacles, it allows you to get a clear picture of what could happen. And lastly, by creating a plan for what to do when obstacles come your way (because they will come), you are giving yourself a better chance for success—with a proven 3x more success rate than if you did not create an “if-then” statement.

So what habit or goal are you hoping to finally achieve with this technique? What have you always wanted to do, but had trouble achieving long-term? Here is your opportunity and strategy to make it happen!


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