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WOOP: Motivating Goals for You and Your Students

What’s the difference between a goal that’s just written on paper and a goal you actually achieve? Whether you’re thinking about your personal goals for the next school year, or how to help your students write goals, using a framework helps define goals to make them more attainable. You’ve probably heard of SMART goals, so today I’ll talk about WOOP goals.

What’s WOOP?

WOOP is a goal-setting framework that stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.

While most goal-setting includes only positive visualization of the goal, WOOP encourages mental contrasting between the Outcome (desired future) and Obstacle (present reality). With mental contrasting, people make a stronger connection between their future and reality. Instead of avoiding or not thinking about their obstacles, they realize that they need to overcome their current reality in order to achieve their goal.

If you’re interested in using WOOP, I highly recommend you check out the Character Lab’s resources. They have a great lesson plan and student worksheets with guiding questions.

Components of WOOP

As I break down the components of WOOP below, I’m using language that I picked up from industry to better fit my engineering/entrepreneurship classes, but the Character Lab’s student language is fantastic for all classes.
  1. Wish - What do you want to achieve?
  2. Outcome - How will you know you’re successful? What does wild success look and feel like?
  3. Obstacle - What’s blocking you from achieving this outcome? Look internally (e.g. procrastination) instead of externally (e.g. lack of time).
  4. Plan - How will you overcome this obstacle? The Character Lab suggests a when-then plan, but I can also see connecting this plan to a lesson on The Power of Habit to create a cue-routine-reward loop.

My WOOP goal this year

One of my goals this year is to encourage more student accountability for completing work and contributing to their teams. I hope to do this through more frequent peer and team feedback. So, here’s my WOOP goal this year:

W - Wish


I want to implement more frequent peer review

O - Outcome


Students are motivated by each other, instead of by their teacher, to complete and improve their work

O - Obstacle


I don’t make time for peer review

P - Plan


When - Every 2 weeks on Fridays

Then - I will alternate between a teamwork assessment and a peer review session

For other examples, check out this sheet from the Character Lab.

How I plan to use WOOP with students

In my startups class, students write me a letter in which they visualize wild success for the year. As a teacher, I help them achieve this better self they describe in their letters. While my students’ letters last year were beautiful and aspirational, my mistake was not helping my students turn these aspirations into structured, attainable goals. This year, I will ask students to identify specific goals within their letters. Every module, they will write at least one WOOP goal and track their progress on their existing goal(s).

Did I kind of write another WOOP goal there? I think so! :)

What kind of goal-setting will you facilitate with your students? And, what’s a goal that you want to accomplish next school year?

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