Making positivity pay off with the WOOP approach

Research suggests that positive thinking alone won’t motivate you in challenging situations

This is an optimistic industry, with good reason, given broking’s achievements over the past year. However being positive won’t help you in the tough times, argues New York University psychology professor Gabrielle Ottingen, writing in the Harvard Business Review.

Ottingen’s research team analysed the blood pressure of participants involved in positive thinking about a challenge, finding it was often lower – subjects were less energised to engage with the challenge. Other studies showed positive thinkers were more reluctant to take more difficult steps towards a goal. As Ottingen explains it “dreaming about a successful outcome in the future is pleasurable, leaving you with a nice, warm feeling of satisfaction. But in a workplace setting, that’s counterproductive.”

What’s needed, she explains, is a way that properly visualises the challenge faced, but avoids dwelling on it, or building obstacles up unnecessarily. Therefore Ottingen and her team developed the WOOP approach;


Define a goal; i.e. increasing your settlement total


Imagine what that goal would involve: a strong upturn in clients perhaps, a bigger office or a new marketing campaign succeeding


What is standing in the way of that outcome? Perhaps you don’t have the money for a new office, or aren’t sure how to start a marketing campaign


Some obstacles may be unpassable in the short term (i.e. limited funding for an office), but you can deal with many once you understand their nature; marketing may simply require a call to an agency, for example. 

According to Ottingen WOOP works because “the process either helps people understand their wishes are attainable, giving them energy and direction, heightening their engagement and prompting them to act; or it helps them realize their wishes are unrealistic, leading them to disengage  and freeing them up to pursue other, more promising endeavors.”

Read Ottingen’s original article on the HBR website here; you can read the scientific report of one of her studies here.

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