On a Mindset Thursday video post, we talked about the WHOOPIE goal setting framework which is an elaboration on the WHOOP methodology prescribed in the book Rethinking Positive Thinking. If you care to dive into the psychology behind how these strategies for goal setting work, I recommend grabbing that book on Amazon or your favorite book store and digging in.
In this post, I’m going to outline an example goal which can be improved upon with the WHOOPIE goal setting style. What does improved upon mean in terms of goals? It means it goes from being something you get excited about once and then forget about, to something you actually take action toward in your daily life. It creates real, tangible change.
WHOOPIE Goal Setting
To begin, let’s define a very common goal you may have set at the start of the year: lose X pounds by summer. On the surface, this is not a terrible goal. It is specific (you’ve specified a number of pounds), and time-bound (summer). As long as this isn’t some extreme amount of weight, it is also most likely attainable, so we are checking many of the boxes in the SMART goal column.
So, what’s the problem?
Mainly the simple fact that writing that goal is going to feel good, and then you’re going to quickly go back to your normal habits of skipping meals, eating too many sweets, drinking too much alcohol, and not exercising enough. How do I know this? People are creatures of habit, and we all fall back into our habits, unless we find a way to hold ourselves accountable to the changes we’ve promised ourselves to make. There are many ways to do this, and most have an aspect to making progress goals, and process steps to help you make the goal a reality. The WHOOPIE goal setting system takes this a step further by adding emotional elements.
When you feel emotionally attached to something, you are much more likely to take the action associated with that feeling. Even addictions work like this – you associate smoking or drinking with relaxation or fun (emotions) and take that action to experience the emotion. We’re trying to harness the same emotional response through much healthier options.
Now, let’s take the lose X pounds by summer goal, and apply the WHOOPIE goal setting style to it.
W & H – The Wishing and Hoping
W & H in WHOOPIE goal setting stand for wish and hope. This is the stage at which you identify what it is you want to achieve. What are you hoping for? Using our example goal, you’re wishing and hoping to be a certain number of pounds lighter. Good, you’ve already done this in your original goal. If you’ve set a goal, however, that is not specific, you’re going to want to identify a goal which allows you to judge against progress.
If your goal is something less tangible such as “look good in a swim suit” you could use pictures of inspiration to judge against, and measure using your own update pictures. Make sure you’ve established a way to measure your progress, regardless of what that way is.
O – The Outcome
This O is the first time you get to truly establish what the outcome of this goal will be. This is where emotions begin to really take shape in your WHOOPIE goal setting. Not only do you identify what you’re going to accomplish, but also identify how it is going to feel when you do accomplish it. Using our example goal, when you lose the weight, what is going to be the outcome?
Maybe you’ll be able to get off blood pressure medicine if you lose the weight. Or you’ll be able to fit into that pair of jeans you’ve been dying to wear again. Whatever your desired outcome of the goal is, identify it here.
Next, attach emotions to it. Will you feel proud? Relieved? Excited? More confident?
All of these emotions matter, and they help you to stick with the goal through the tough times.
O – The Obstacles
One area almost everyone makes mistakes with when setting goals is not accounting for the things that can go wrong when you’re trying to accomplish your goal. Sticking with our example, when you’re trying to lose weight here are some quickly identifiable obstacles in your path:
- Birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations
- Travel for work or fun
- Time constraints keeping you from getting to the gym or cooking your own meals
That took approximately 10 seconds of thought to come up with. Take five to ten minutes and identify all the obstacles in your path. Why do this? It allows you to make a plan to address them. Using the ones above, here’s a quick way to address all three:
- Schedule all holidays and celebrations in your calendar, and plan for it to be one of the few meals you splurge on during the week/month
- For travel, discover three to five workouts you can do in any hotel gym or fitness center so you can stay on track with exercise
- Do a time audit – where are you wasting time, and how can you get it back? Cancel that two hour long Netflix date every night
All of the sudden, the obstacles go from throwing you off track to being easy to work around.
P – The Plan
The plan to meet the goal is where the magic actually happens. These are the daily or weekly tasks you will partake in to reach your goal by your deadline. Losing weight is a fairly simple goal when you break down the plan. Here’s an example of a few weekly activities you could put into your plan.
- Work out three times every week
- On days I don’t work out, be sure to walk or move for 30 minutes in some way
- Eat two meals prepared at home each day
- Meet my protein goal daily
- Limit alcohol to twice per week
A fully developed plan is of course better than those four quick bullet points, but you can see how the big goal has been broken down to daily and weekly steps you can follow.
I – The Identity
This may be the single most important step in the WHOOPIE goal setting process. Identity specifically makes you the type of person who does the things in your plan, regardless of what happens in other areas in your life.
Using our example goal, these are phrases such as:
”I am the type of person who works out when I travel,”
”I am the type of person who chooses water instead of soda,”
”I am the type of person who cooks my own food.”
These are identity statements, and when you identify yourself as a specific type of person, you eliminate that decision from your day. This addresses the obstacles we covered earlier, as well. If the obstacle to being active is work travel, and you say you’re the type of person who works out when you travel, you’ve already overcome that obstacle. Take the time to write down three to five identity statements for your life. Live by these.
E – The Execute Step
No goals are accomplished without taking action. You can talk about your goals, go through the entire WHOOPIE goal setting process, and still not meet your goals if you don’t decide to execute.
For this step, we can turn to our calendar for help. Every week, schedule the time for your meal prep and workouts so you can accomplish our example goal. Schedule all the things you need to execute, and be committed to sticking to them.
Time to get to work.
You have your plan. You know you’re the type of person who executes these goals. Now, go out and make it happen. If you need help accomplishing those goals, let us know. We’re here to help you when you stumble, and to hold you accountable during the tough times.