Programming your Mind for Success

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Programming for success

A Guest Post by @PosTeacherNet

Whether you are looking to stick to a goal you have set yourself to do with fitness or you hope that a conversation with a colleague will go a certain way, having a way to increase your chances of success is invaluable.

Programming your mind for success is about embracing the concept that much of what we do is automated. We run certain automated programmes throughout the day, many of which are procedural, like driving a car, or making a cup of tea. But others are linked to our emotional and personal reactions to things. We have set patterns and conditioned responses that have often been reinforced over many years. So if I decide my goal is to start running but I have a set pattern that when it is raining I react with an overwhelming desire to curl up on the sofa with a hot drink, there is a danger that my goal to start running is quickly going to be flawed!

So, what can I do about it? Obviously setting myself a goal and committing to it can be very valuable. But if I know there might be a potential barrier to me achieving my goal then I need to do a little more than just write down my goal.

We hear lots about positive thinking when it comes to setting and achieving our goals, but this still doesn’t always arm us with the resources we need to make it work. At the Positive Teacher Network we are all about finding the best ideas, backed with reliable research to improve and develop our lives. That is why this post is going into detail on a strategy known as WOOP. It was created by Gabriele Oettingen, a Professor of psychology at New York University, who has done extensive research into what we might refer to as positive thinking. Her book ‘ Rethinking Positive Thinking’, however, attempts to convince people to go further than just positive thinking.

It turns out that we need motivation and harsh realism in a perfect mix to turn goals into reality and Oettingen has developed a strategy to achieve just this. For those of you who love research, there is extensive evidence to highlight how this has helped people develop new habits in all areas of life and across a wide age range.

But if you’re ready to give it a go and see if you can programme your mind for greater success, this is how to use it:

WOOP is an acronym for Wish, Outcome, Obstacles, Plan.

How it works:

1. Wish

What would you like to achieve or accomplish – state it in a few words and imagine it.

E.g – I would like to go for a run tonight when I get back from work

2) Outcome

What is the best outcome you would like to get if you fulfil your wish? How would you feel, what would be the best thing about this outcome? State it in a few words and imagine it happening.

E.g – I will feel energised and a sense of achievement for going for a run

3) Obstacles

What might hold you back from achieving your wish? Think about what in you might hold you back, feelings or beliefs you might have. There may be a few things that crop up, but be honest with yourself and pick the one main obstacle. Now really imagine this obstacle occurring and affecting your wish and outcome.

E.g – I am prone to giving in to a feeling of tiredness when I walk in the door and sitting on the sofa

4) Plan

What can you do to overcome your obstacle? What one action could you take to make sure this obstacle does not stop you from achieving your wish

E.g – I could remind myself how good I’ll feel after going out for a run

Now – Create an ‘if…then…’ statement.

If (insert Obstacle) occurs, then I will (insert Plan).

E.g – If I feel tired when I walk in the door then I will remind myself how good I’ll feel after the run.

Repeat this to yourself three times

This is like pressing ‘go’ on your new programmed habit. Try it first thing in the morning to get something done that day, or use it for your bigger more long term goals. You can use WOOP even for how you plan to deal with difficult situations that might arise. The process helps you programme the unconscious, automated part of your mind to come on board with your goal or idea.

I love this strategy and use it for lots of things including prepping myself for a difficult conversation I need to have with someone. It helps me work out what the obstacles within me are that might arise (probably emotional!) and plan a way round them. This makes we more effective in dealing with the issue and much more likely to get the result I desire.

Try WOOP and Programme your Mind for Success!

If you have a goal that is too big to slot easily into this strategy, it might be that you first need to go through the process of creating an Action Plan and then using WOOP for the smaller steps that lead to the overall goal. For an article about Goal Setting and a Free Action Planner Download you may want to check out this post:

Clare Martin is the founder of the Positive Teacher Network which provides online training and support for teachers to improve their wellbeing and develop resilience.

Follow her on Twitter @PosTeacherNet