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Tired of SMART Goals? Try WOOP!

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… January 8, 2024
Image of the four steps of WOOP

We are entering the season of New Year’s Resolutions and goal setting.  A commonly used framework for goal setting is to make your goals SMART. It is an approach we have encouraged through the years as it reminds you to make goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented & achievable, realistic & time-oriented. 

If the SMART framework is still working for you, then great! If this approach never quite clicked for you or you’d like to try something new, you might want to consider using the WOOP process.  WOOP was developed by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen, who examines the ways we think and how it impacts our behaviors. You can find out more here, but essentially it stands for:

W – wish
O – outcome (best case)
O – obstacle (main inner)
P –  plan


Think about a wish you have for yourself. It is important that this wish be important to you. It needs to matter and mean something to you, rather than being a wish that somebody else thinks is important for you. 

Now, imagine that what it will be like for this wish to come true. What will that feel like? What will it mean? How will you celebrate? Visualize as much as you can. Then, after your moment of visualization, return to real life and jot down some of these imaginings. 

What will your biggest obstacle be? WOOP is specific in stating that this should be an internal obstacle, something that will come up inside of you that could potentially derail your wish from happening. Maybe it is your self-talk or your tendency to distraction…whatever it is for you, identify it. 

Planning is at the crux of all goals, no matter the framework you choose. With WOOP, the focus is on developing a plan to overcome your obstacle. This often means developing “If – then” scenarios. If I find myself distracted, then I will take a 10-minute walk and then re-engage with the activity.” Think of this as your action plan to course-correct continuously. In addition to obstacle planning, you’ll also want to consider your overall planning. 

-When will you work on your wish/goal?
-What will your due dates be?
-Who will you connect with when it feels hard?
-Who or how will you motivated yourself?
-What will help you stay accountable? 

Whatever your goals/wishes/resolutions are for 2024, remember that OITE is here to help you along the way.  You can check out our wellness and career resources, including access to workshops and 1:1 appointments here Wishing you much success this New Year!

The Fresh Start Effect

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… January 22, 2024
model thinkers

An interesting research paper from the NIH sheds some light on new year’s resolutions. The article “Put Your Imperfections behind You: Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings” explores the phenomenon of temporal landmarks and their impact on goal initiation.  Temporal landmarks are significant points in time that promote a break from the past and a sense of renewal moving forward. Common temporal landmarks include: a new year, birthdays, anniversaries, start of a new semester, start of a new job, moving into a new home or city. Some even think of a Monday and the start of a new week as a landmark.

Researchers believe that linking aspirational change with a temporal landmark helps an individual mentally wipe the slate clean. They call this the “fresh start effect”.

Most people have difficulty mustering the motivation to initiate goal pursuit; however, the authors of this article propose that planning changes around a temporal landmark, like a holiday or a personal event, can help increase your success. These act as cues for new beginnings and most importantly, they help create a psychological disassociation between a person’s past, imperfect self and their current aspirations. This separation allows individuals to distance themselves from their past failures and imperfections.

Creating this distance has an effect on self-perception and self-efficacy leading individuals to set more challenging goals and work more persistently. The practical implication here is that interventions to support long-term goals may be more effective when there are temporal landmarks for designate a new beginning.

What does this mean in practice? Recognize the importance of these landmarks in your life and act accordingly. We all just experienced a big on with the start of a new calendar year but look at your own personal calendar and note upcoming dates of importance to you.  Plan a new goal to coincide with a landmark event and behold the power of the fresh start effect in your own life.