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Getting tangled up in frustration when all you want is results

Sometimes you just really, really need something to happen.

You’ve lined up all your ducks, done all your homework. Now you need a break. An opening, the right kind of opportunity. If you’re the type to pray or ask the universe to provide, you do that. Daily. The problem is, what you want and need to happen is refusing to happen.

I have the feeling that the real problem is that we tend to think in binaries: We get that job (or contract, or promotion, or sale, etc.) that we wanted, or we don’t. But is life ever that clear cut? I mean, is life a flow chart of yes/no boxes that you can click through? Our lives are tangled. The whole world is tangled. When you focus on pulling for one single result and start pulling really hard on one end of one thread, all you wind up with is a really impossible knot.

If, on the other hand, when the universe isn’t taking your calls, when you’ve done your song and dance and all you get is the sound of crickets, instead of pulling solely for what you want – and getting really frustrated – you start loosening things up, opening up some of the tangles surrounding you, engaging directly with difficulties . . . things shift.


But how do you do that ? You WOOP.  

Seriously. WOOP is a “mental contrasting tool” developed by the psychologist Gabriele Oettingen. 

1- Meditate on a wish

2- Then picture yourself enjoying the outcome of that wish. Got that ?

3- Then turn your attention to an obstacle that is stuck between you and that outcome.

4- Now you’re ready to work out a plan that will get you through that obstacle.

In other word, when you’re looking for a job/project/client/opportunity, visualize it and mentally go over all the ways in which you will benefit from that situation. Then dive right away into the nitty gritty of all that is standing in your way, in as much detail as possible. Meditate on those gnarly details. That part – unpleasant as it may feel – is the prep for some truly strategic planning.


I know, I know. It sounds flakey.

But do a bit of poking around the research and thinking behind this, and you might begin to see the logic of it. Oettingen researched the correlation between positive thinking and the achievement of goals and found that…well, there isn’t any.

It seems that imagining positive results doesn’t get us to address real challenges that require effort and planning. Maybe WOOP has potential because it starts out by relaxing you with positive thoughts, making it easier to think through the problems that are likely to stress you out. Its power lies in its chronology, I think. Dive into your worst tangles. Your best opportunities might be hiding there.

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