By Gabriella Aratow
“Fortunately this is a prize we can all take home.”
I’ve always found sage advice in the adage, “Hope for the best; Prepare for the worst.” Now science is proving it to be true.
In her book, Rethinking Positive Thinking, Gabrielle Oettingen, Professor of Psychology at NYU (and, incidentally, a German Princess) proves with decades of research that simply visualizing what we want is, in fact, less effective for getting it than also picturing what could go wrong.
Professor Oettingen refers to this negative visualization technique as “mental contrasting.” As it turns out, only fantasizing about what we desire can be so satisfying it reduces motivation to achieve it in reality.
At the same time, using mental contrasting to picture ways our hopes could get derailed, followed by strategizing solutions, forces us to take action on our goals, as well as prepares us for the hurdles.
She says when you have something you want, you should WOOP: Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan.
For the last 8 years I’ve run a matchmaking service. I think it’s fair to say nearly everyone is going for relationship gold—to find a person they are delighted to be with who feels the same about them. Fortunately this is a prize we can all take home. For Valentine’s day, I thought it might be beneficial to apply the WOOP strategy to partnership and perhaps a life-changing shift might occur.
First, declare what you want. For me, it’s a deep, ever-lasting love. Next, in your mind’s-eye, illustrate scenarios of your dream coming true. Third, juxtapose these scenes with alternatives. In mine, I am either alone or with someone who disappoints me. Finally, the important part—make your plan! For example, my method will be to foster larger social circles by doing more volunteer work. And if I do end up solitary, I will always carry a sketchbook to draw interesting things since I’ll have the opportunity to stop and focus when I otherwise possibly may not. I am purchasing that sketchbook today.
By performing this mental exercise of WOOP not only are we statistically far more likely to actually manifest our match but we shore-up our ability to be joyful without one. Remember, the ultimate treasure is not another person, but loving your life exactly as it is.
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