The Tale of Every Wish

Gabriele Oettingen, an NYU psychologist, studied the curious mechanisms of wish fulfillment from inception to realization for over two decaades. It appears that the journey of wish fulfillment revolves four main protagonists: the dreamer, the dream, the fantasy, and the obstacle.

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On Making Wishes Come True

psychologytoday.com

Self-regulatory cognitive wish-making pattern

With the study having thousands of participants, she discovered that there was a pattern that people typically follow:

  1. Indulging - People spend many hours fantasizing that they're fulfilling their dreams
  2. Dwelling - People brood over the possible obstacles that are hindering them to pursue their dreams
  3. Mental Contrasting - They fantasize their desired future but then explore the obstacles
  4. Reverse Contrasting - They explore the obstacles first, then fantasize about the desired future

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Fantasies Are A Double-Edged Sword

In Oettingen's finding with her research, she was shocked when she found out that the very images that allowed us to virtually live through our heart's desire actually had hampering effects on our realizations.

We then ask, "why would fantasizing about fulfilling a wish hinder the pursuit of the wish?" To which they reply, "that when we experience a mental attainment of our wish, in our mind's eye, we've already experienced the rewards of having achieve our dream which in turn makes people exert less energy and effort that's required to turn our wishes into reality."

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Mental Contrasting Helps Us Achieve Our Dreams

By knowing the fact that fantasizing about our dreams have hampering effects, it can be offset by mental contrasting. 

Mental contrasting gives us a healthy dose of reality even when we fantasize therefore giving us energy to pursue our dreams.

When we identify the obstacles that stood in the way of our wishes, our desired future is slowly being established because we're binding goals, intentions, and making the appropriate plans to move past hurdles to pursue our wishes. 

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Wish-Fulfilment Strategy

Gabriele Oettingen's research bore this wish-fulfilment strategy called Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan, WOOP for short.

WOOP is a mental contrasting action where we place the four protagonists (the dreamer, the dream, the fantasy, and the obstacle) together in order to get to know one another before pursuing the journey. WOOP is a change agent that asks us:

W: What is it you really wish for?

O: What's the best possible outcome if it were to come true?

O: What obstacle is standing in the way?

P: What can you do to overcome this obstacle? Devise plans. 

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