Most people have heard of the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” but have you ever really thought about what this really means? Like many things in life, the simplicity of the statement almost makes it appear to lack in any real, true value — but the reality is that this is one of the most powerful truths when it comes to achieving our peak potential in life. As we work to be better than the competition, it’s important to remember that planning is actually an activity 100% under our control, and something we can get so good at that it not only helps us be our best, but provides advantages over other, seemingly more talented people who simply don’t plan.
Many times in life we fail or come up short not because someone was actually better than us, but instead because we didn’t do our homework and plan to play our best. Maybe a late homework assignment clouded your thinking, or you forgot to bring an important piece of your equipment to the game — it is in these very moments where our lack of planning and responsibility takes away from allowing us to put all our focus and energy on the game ahead, thereby leaving us vulnerable to play poorly and lose the game as a result. Fortunately, none of this has to happen with a little responsible life planning.
What should you plan?
There are countless places where athletes can plan ahead of time and get a leg up on the competition, including the following:
- Predictable stressful times & events. Psychologists recommend people use stress inoculation to prepare for and respond to stressors that are predictable, like previously scheduled exams and due dates for papers. How people plan for predictable life stressors makes a huge difference in how well they respond to stress, and how successful they are as a result.
- Pre-game routines. Athletes generally know how much time they have before each game to prepare, and even knowing they have time to prepare far too many still do not. Successful athletes take ownership of their pregame outline and prepare their minds and bodies to excel every time out.
- Equipment. Is your equipment ready to go? Do you have backups in case things break? Prepared athletes think through these questions, leaving less margin for error — and less stress.
- Transportation. If you are a youth sport athlete who relies on rides to and from practices and games, do you adequately prepare and have transportation lined up? Not only is it unfair to drivers to spring up your needs in a frantic state at the last minute, it also leaves you scrambling to make it on time for the game — hardly an ideal condition to be successful.
- School work. For student athletes school should always be priority #1, but many student athletes overlook their academic schedules and seem relatively surprised when made aware of upcoming tasks and obligations.
Get started with goals
One way to improve planning is to set goals that are specific, controllable, and measurable. For example, a student athlete might set a goal every Sunday night to write out all tasks and responsibilities for the upcoming week, including deadlines and any other time-sensitive obligations. Of course, setting goals won’t account for all of your preparation, but you might be surprised how powerful goals can be when they serve as reminders to take care of things in your life. Goals should be written down, placed where they can be seen, and most importantly actually followed.
Yes, failing to plan is most definitely planning to fail, but the good news is that every one of us can excel when it comes to taking a moment to list out our tasks and responsibilities. If, on the other hand, that’s asking too much, then you must ask yourself how bad do you really want to be the best?