Positive Thinking and Achieving Goals


We all here from many people and many sources that the power of positive thinking can help us achieve all our dreams.  From people like Dr. Norman Vincent Peale to Oprah Winfrey, we are encouraged to think positive. Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” New York University psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen might find this closer to the mark. But as she explains in her book, “Researching Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation”, rather than positive thinking being the key to reaching our dreams and goals it may be exactly the opposite.

Mounting evidence indicates that spending a great deal of time thinking about your dreams actually makes you less likely to start putting in the work needed to achieve them.  Oettingen has distilled the results of her years of research into a four-step plan that goal-oriented people may use in place of positive thinking alone.  The plan’s whimsical acronym spells WOOP. Those of us who truly plan to achieve our dreams need to WOOP it up.


What is your wish? What do you really want? The first step is defining your goal. It can be what you want to accomplish tomorrow or your goal for the year. It just needs to be something you truly wish to accomplish; something real.


With your desired goal firmly in mind, ask yourself the following question: If I fulfill this wish, what is the best possible outcome? In this second step, positive thinking is allowed and is helpful. This is the time to allow yourself to become immersed in the daydream.  Let yourself dream about the best possible outcomes.


Many people tend to stop naturally at step two. They get bogged down in the positive dreaming. After you fantasize a while, you need to be sure to bring your mind back down to the ground and to reality. Now you ask yourself this question: “What is it that holds me back from achieving/experiencing my wish/outcome?” Imagine that obstacle. You have to understand what stands in the way of achieving your dream before you can overcome it.


When you know what you wish for, the outcome towards which you are moving and the potential obstacles that stand in the way of achieving your goals/dream, you have the knowledge you need to make a plan for obtaining your goal. Planning will enable you to execute the work needed to obtain your dream.

“If you dream it, you can do it” is true if you know exactly what your dream is, what outcome you want, the obstacles you must overcome to achieve it, and can make then execute a plan to work toward your goal.  When you successfully WOOP, it is okay to add a little positive thinking as well.

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