No, that isn’t a reference to the hit song from 1993. (You can see Tag Team doing a medley of their greatest hit at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-FPimCmbX8 if you must. One of the rappers actually went by “Steve.”) This WOOP, as a complement to my last blog entry (see https://jamescrandell.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/in-praise-of-criticism/) which dealt with the reluctance of people’s accepting constructive criticism, has to do with the belief that it’s much better to have an eternally sunny outlook. WOOP (which stands for Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan) is the key to achieving goals, according to Gabriele Oettingen, in her book, Rethinking Positive Thinking. Although I haven’t yet read this book, it is on my list, given the two reviews/analyses of it I read on-line in The New York Times and Men’s Journal.
If you recall in that last blog entry, we discussed how students’ overly high self-esteem and their teachers’ difficulty in being able to offer constructive criticism was creating an educational system based on good feelings that did not adequately prepare our young people for the rigors of the real world. Having an unrealistic view of your abilities can hinder achievement which will often come only after many hardships and disappointments have been soldiered through first. Oettingen took a look at the belief that we should all have positive outlooks and that being negative holds people back. That belief has led many to think they should always see the glass as half full, without allowing the slightest negativity to enter their heads, and has contributed to our non-critical school system.
It turns out that a sunny disposition really does need a few clouds in order to help people navigate to get where they want to go. Without planning for the obstacles that typically arise whenever we attempt to achieve anything, people tend to give up way too quickly. Thinking about the things that might go wrong with our plans (what some would call, “being negative”) actually prepares us for the problems we encounter and helps us to overcome them. Oettingen’s studies found over and over that those who started out with nothing but a positive belief in themselves wound up giving up way more readily than those who thought through their route and assumed that there might be a few unavoidable potholes along the way.
This doesn’t mean that we need to be overly negative, either. As with most things, a healthy balance is the key mixture for success. If you assume nothing will ever go wrong, you will be unprepared and wilt as soon as the first problem confronts you. If you assume nothing will ever go right, you’ll never get off your butt to try anything. Believing in yourself, but anticipating that obstacles will arise before you begin is the right recipe to get the furthest in your plans. WOOP doesn’t guarantee success any more than anything can, but the studies Oettingen has conducted in support of this book suggests it will give you your best shot.
Yes, the sun will come out tomorrow, but you can bet your bottom dollar that you should be aware of the damage it can do to your skin and put on some sun screen.