Such an unprecedented time we find ourselves in with the COVID-19 virus running its course throughout the world. As the parent of a college age child and one soon to be in college (or perhaps some online version of that come fall), I had originally thought this pandemic would pass through the US in a few weeks. My attitude was actually that I’d finally gotten the family vacation I’d been wanting – minus the exotic location.
We were all home together again, just as it had been for so many years prior. I have to say, I was enjoying it. Yes, things would’ve been different had a loved one been ill, lost a job, was working on the front lines, or if I had young children who needed moment-to-moment assistance with online learning or juggling time on a sole family computer. But that was not my reality, for which I’m infinitely grateful.
My March and April had simply shifted into low gear and evenings were filled with the following questions: what game should we play tonight? What puzzle should we attempt now? What movie should we watch? What should we make for dinner? But after slowly working through the puzzles in our home, reading the books we once hoped to have time for (which we now had way too much time for), watching many a movie (then the rest of that movie’s entire series), hoping that Saturday Night Live would return again to make us laugh (then realize SNL had just hosted its season finale), etc., it soon became apparent this was going to last a lot longer than I had thought.
Something as simple as going to the grocery store – man, remember what that used to be like? – had become a stressful experience. I used to love going to the grocery store and thinking up tasty new menu ideas for our family to enjoy while strolling through the aisles. Strolling through the aisles? That’s the olden days now, people. Shopping excursions today officially just suck. My focus solely has become getting in and out as safely and quickly as possible, while handling my parents’ list as well to help keep them healthy too. The best aspect of meal planning these days is deciding what local restaurant or business to support next.
Some weeks pass slowly, some more quickly. Heck, I learned to master Zoom (I’d never even heard of that platform back in February) with the help of family, friends, and colleagues. I’d rekindled my affinity for sewing while making masks out of my husband’s old, frayed Vineyard Vine shirts (I knew that cute fabric would come in handy one day), completed our taxes, and dusted off my to-do list. But then reality hit. I remember it vividly. While watching local news, the broadcaster began, “Reporting from week 9 of shelter at home here in California…” Excuse me, did he say “week 9”?
I realized in that moment that I needed to take better advantage of this quarantine time, not only for myself, but to encourage others to do so as well. Let’s achieve more than this virus is trying to take from us, I thought, and seize the opportunity to make positive change in our lives.
I was now determined to start accomplishing my wishes with this extra time. That’s right, my wishes. Call them goals if you’d prefer something less fairy-godmother-, genie-in-a-bottle-sounding, but one of my first ones was to share what I recently learned about wish fulfillment with as many people as possible.
So here I am!
I discovered this unique tool while taking an online course by Yale University. The tool is called WOOP. That’s right, WOOP. The program is described as “a science-based mental strategy that people can use to find and fulfill their wishes, set preferences, and change their habits.” It sounds challenging, but the beauty is that it just takes a few minutes each day, and could help change the course of one’s life.
WOOP was researched and developed by a psychologist named Gabriele Oettingen. The WOOP acronym stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. It’s a super simple concept to learn, and the best way I’ve found yet to work through my wishes – in the categories of professional, health or interpersonal. The best thing I’ve found the WOOP tool offers vs. other goal-setting strategies is that it makes you really think about how you will fulfill your wish by examining what’s potentially keeping you from doing so.
In addition, WOOP helps you decide what your wishes really are (note that they should be challenging but something you can fulfill), fine-tune them, and perhaps even realize that a wish you have isn’t really the one you want. It’s already been a more effective process for me than my former way of writing down a list of New Year’s Resolutions in January, trying my best for a few weeks, and ending up seeing many of them right back on my list the following year.
Oettingen’s program recommends the following:
WOOP every day
WOOP to sort things out
WOOP when you feel uneasy
Stressed out? Make a WOOP!
So what’s your wish today? In one month? Over a longer time period? Let WOOP help you. Give it a try and I hope you find value in it. All it takes is an investment of just a few minutes a day (at the same time is apparently ideal). The simple program overview and instructions can be found at woopmylife.org. There’s also a WOOP app, but I’d visit the website first to learn the basics. I found the program overview and instructions there to be more clear for a beginner.
So let’s get WOOPing, people! And may the WOOP be with you.