Wishes are a powerful adjective that permeates our thoughts, language and desire.

We ‘wish’ for things that are often fanciful, aspirational and beyond our control.  But what if we could use the emotive power of a wish to focus on what we CAN do?

This month I want to provide you with a tangible, practical tool that you can apply to your life and that allows you to reap the benefits for how you think, feel and behave; think, act and interact; notice, savour and value.

The importance of 33 has been discussed, framed and explained in previous blogs that can be found here, today however I am going to introduce the concept of WOOP and the work of Gabriele Oetingen (NYU) and her book ‘Rethinking Positive Thinking’ (2014).

WOOP provides a framework for positive thinking and recognises that simply wishing it doesn’t make it so.

Change, for any of us, is difficult. It can be a risky venture.

We hardwired to be wary of change. This wariness is what kept our nomadic ancestors alive.  It’s the reason we ‘stop, look and listen’ to cross the road, it’s the reason we are adept at noticing a change in the behaviour of our children so we can respond appropriately and it’s the reason that when we consider making a change for our lives all too soon we can revert back to previous patterns of behaviour.

Change is often referred to as ‘managed’ or ‘unexpected’.  What makes the WOOP a very helpful tool is that it can help you to be more effective at managed change whilst providing you with contingencies for the unexpected.

Try saying WOOP without smiling, you can’t! So there’s a quick hit of valuable serotonin right there!

Wishing to win the lottery, wishing to fly or wishing for three more wishes is not helpful, the return on your investment on your wish will be serotonin poor; serotonin is the reward we get for succeeding therefore it is important that our ‘Wish’ is something we can actually do.

So let’s break that WOOP down…

W is for Wish

A wish is a powerful, evocative image for many however, in this context I am asking that we articulate our wish as something we have some control over.  It must be achievable, whether that’s today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. As with all change, it’s best that we start small, the proverbial small first step.

An example of a Wish could be ‘I wish I was healthier’.


O is for Outcome

An outcome is a specific metric for you.  This means it is personal to you, specifically when you achieve your wish what will be different for you?

An example of Outcomes for being healthier might be; I’d be able to run around with my children/grandchildren.  I wouldn’t feel so tiered all the time.  I’d be more active and be able to do more things outside.


O is for Obstacle

This acknowledges that change is hard, that there are obstacles in our way. But the majority of obstacles we can actually do something about.

Now be advised this part of the WOOP is tinged with difficulty, it can be a gateway for negative thinking. We must be prepared to challenge, intervene and rebut those only too familiar negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

An example of Obstacles for being healthier might be; I start but loose interest so what’s the point?  I love cake and chat with my friends.  I always justify my excuses for not doing something.  It’s just easier to not do something rather than try and fail.


P is for Plan

The plan in its most basic form is your strategy for ‘planned’ change however, it’s important to understand that ‘plans are also subject to change’.  It is the flexibility to respond to the ‘unexpected’ change that will ensure your plan has the best chance of success.

In practical terms this means ask yourself the following questions on drafting that first plan; ‘if’ this happens ‘then’ I will do that.  By doing an ‘if/then’ plan you are building in a contingency to your plan, you are better prepared for ‘unexpected’ change for you have already mitigated against it.  Doing this gives you a little proverbial wiggle room, you have capacity to cope, be resilient and be light of foot to respond proactively to change.

An example of a Plan to being healthier might be;

I’ll go for a 15min walk every morning at 0800 and then have my breakfast.  If it’s raining then I will take an umbrella and choose to notice the sound, smell and sight of raindrops on flowers.  If I wake in the morning not wanting to walk then I will walk on the spot whilst the kettle is boiling.  If my friends offer/expect me to have another slice of cake then I will politely decline and ask for another cup of tea or place a sugar free mint in my mouth. If I start to wain then I will look at a picture of my children/grandchildren and remind myself who I am doing this for, all the things I will be able to do with them.

Each person is different and therefore everybody’s WOOP will uniquely reflect the small measured steps that you can take towards achieving your own goals.  The WOOP drills down into the practical implications of positive thought, asks the challenging questions so that the transformational, sustainable change you seek is in your gift.


Brett Rennolds is a qualified psychotherapist DSFH, HPD, MNCH NCH Supervisor and registered with the Complimentary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).  Brett specialises in a solution-focused approach, complimented by the principles of CBT, mental health first aid and hypnotherapy.  He continues to provide therapy online, via an encrypted platform.  For more information please visit his website.