I was talking with someone the other day after an important event. We talked about his preparation beforehand and in retrospect, there were a few things he wished he had done. It’s always easy when playing the “Monday morning quarterback” to identify things you could have done better so that the result was more in line with what you wanted. But why not have a system for doing this all the time?
Here are 10 steps you can take to be better prepared:
Visualize the desired result. Meditation is an effective way to improve performance because it gives you a chance to see yourself going through the desired motions and achieving the desired results. This starts to get the body and mind working in synch and is part of a mental strategy to ensure stellar execution. You can do this by closing your eyes, taking a few deeps breaths and then picture yourself achieving the goal.
Think about how you want to feel at the end of the task. Along with visualizing yourself “doing” the task, how about focusing on how you’ll feel? It’s one thing to acknowledge that you’ll feel great but how will you feel? For some, that first time you really nail a presentation to a large group can bring up feelings of accomplishment that you’ve hidden underneath layers of insecurity. For someone who’s heading into an important job interview, the feeling of relief that you put your best foot forward can help you find peace no matter what the outcome.
Walk through the steps from A to Z: When planning to achieve anything that matters, the devil is in the details. The proofreading you skipped, the research you skimmed through instead of reading in detail, the pants that needed to be hemmed to look “just right;” these are all the details that can trip us up as we try to execute well. Don’t shortchange yourself on any important detail in order to ensure you put your best foot forward.
Write the steps down and hold yourself accountable: Along with walking through the steps comes the important task of writing them down. When I was a technical project manager in a software company, we used Microsoft Project to spec out every step and how long it would take, along with other tasks that were dependant on others for completion. Even if you use old-fashioned pen and paper, don’t skip the important step of writing down all the steps to get you to the end goal.
Make your mission the priority. One you have the steps written down, be fully committed to not only doing the work but making the tough choices between other things and the things you need to get done in order to meet your goal. Hitting the sack early, eating well, staying in versus going out– be committed to whatever it takes to help you stay focused.
Find someone who’s been there before. Talk to others who achieved what you want. Ask them how they got there, what they did, what mistakes they made along the way.
Practice, practice, practice. Whatever it is you’re doing, it takes lots of practice in order to move from the conscious thought process involved in “doing” the thing (whatever it is) to having it come naturally. That’s an easy thing to imagine when talking about something like golf but works just as well with preparing for an interview or teaching a yoga class or running a race. The more you do it, the more it becomes natural.
Find those that share your goals. While finding someone that’s been there before is great to give you the in’s and out’s of what to expect, find those striving for similar goals once you’re in the trenches. The shared camaraderie will give you extra energy and help you as you deal with the inevitable challenges of staying true to your plan, no matter what distractions arise.
Visit the space. If your goal involves any dependency on a physical space- a golf course, yoga studio, conference room or a path for a road race, check it out before your big day. Look for any practical issues that arise, just like a final walk through before you buy a home. Be in the space and use your visualization techniques to imagine yourself executing flawlessly once game day has arrived.
Once you’re done, have faith that the best will come! As with all things, there is preparation and then there’s the final step of leaving the outcome up to the universe. While you may not subscribe to this idea and you’d certainly not want to leave the entire thing up to the universe, there is a lot to be said for doing the work before hand and then taking some time to rest, relax and let the good work you’ve done pay off by believing that your good work will be rewarded.
The things we really want in life often take time, resources, expertise and faith to manifest. One of the best ways to honor and respect the goal and your ability to achieve it is to use mindfulness and care when planning for the goal. When we approach goals in this way, we build competency, knowledge and give ourselves the best shot at the results we desire.