There are many systems and acronyms for helping people set and reach their goals (including the well-known S.M.A.R.T Goal). Most of them are for adults, written in adult language and concepts. I recently learned about WOOP, developed for students, as young as elementary school age. WOOP may be just what parents and educators have been looking for to help children evaluate and accomplish goals.
For many, both children and adults, a goal begins as a wish. A wish is a dream without a plan. We all know that positive thoughts are a good start, but go nowhere until there are actions to back them up. WOOP takes the dreamer through a four-step process to identify the goal, the benefit, the obstacles and the steps. Visualizing each step is part of the plan.
W = Wish
A meaningful, challenging, and feasible goal
The word ‘meaningful’ is important. Your child might be in love with the idea of becoming a professional athlete, but have no desire or commitment to ongoing training. There’s no point in going through this process if they’re not really motivated. On the other hand, if they’re not sure, going through the four steps may help them focus on something more meaningful.
O = Outcome
The best result or feeling from accomplishing your wish
The feeling one gets from accomplishing a goal is usually the real, but not often recognized, outcome. For a shy or marginalized child, the goal of having more friends is really about feeling she belongs and is accepted. It’s a subtle but important distinction.
O = Obstacle
Something inside you that prevents you from accomplishing your wish
We all struggle with big and little demons (or gremlins, as they are called in the coaching world). It’s the voice that whispers or shouts, “You’re not good enough. What makes you think you can do this? Who do you think you are?”
This is the very young, inner child. What he or she needs is an alternate nurturing belief and a plan. Which leads us to the last step,
P = Plan
If [obstacle], then I will [effective action].
When that gremlin pops up, thank it for sharing. Oddly enough, it was created to protect you in some way. Be gentle with it, and yourself. Tell it, “Thanks for sharing. I have something else to tend to now. I’ll get back to you later” and watch it fade away. Now you are ready to replace it with an action step to help you accomplish goals.
This formula links the plan directly to the obstacle, which makes it more effective. It is also the step that will require the most help to refine.
Here’s an example of the process in action (quoted from the WOOP website):
W: I want to get an 85 in math.
O: I will graduate with honors, and I will be allowed to get my driver’s license.
O: I am afraid to raise my hand and ask for help.
P: If I am afraid, I will write down my question and hand the paper to the teacher.
Visit www.cdn.characterlab.org for general information, and
to read more about the WOOP Toolkit for Educators. It makes perfect sense for helping students (and everyone) accomplish goals.