The Mindset to Prepare

As I’ve written previously, “the mindset to prepare for dire circumstances pays off in many ways, because adequate preparation allows you to acquire helpful resources, practice important skills, develop useful plans, and feel more comfortable responding to the upcoming situation.”

A lot of people wrote in to ask me to expand on the “mindset to prepare,” so here we go:

Why Prepare?

It’s obvious: You wouldn’t normally take a drive without making sure your vehicle was adequately fueled, tuned, and equipped. So why would you tackle any other task, project, or effort toward a goal without making sure you had what it takes to succeed?

But preparation for productivity and success is more complicated than properly setting up your vehicle. This is because there are so many different kinds of tasks, projects, and goals, and consequently so many different pathways to adequate preparation.  

How to Prepare                                      ,

The details of preparation will depend to a great extent on the upcoming situation for which you’re preparing. For example, you’ll prepare one way for a marathon and an entirely different way for a state bar exam, one way for a job interview and a different way for an award acceptance speech, one way for a first date and a different way for your 20th wedding anniversary.

But despite the differences, there are several central aspects of preparation for success that nearly always apply:

Resources: A critical element in preparation is assembling required resources, plus additional helpful ones, as available. These may include physical resources like tools and raw materials, financial resources, informational resources, human resources, legal or other permissions, and more. 

Skills: Whether you’re building a house or vaulting over a barrier, giving a presentation or inventing a new mouse trap, just assembling resources isn’t enough. You must also develop and polish a relevant set of skills. At a minimum, this involves understanding the skills in detail and practicing them until you’ve achieved enough proficiency. Sometimes, you’re better able to execute those skills when you’ve further prepared by building up other attributes, such as your strength, knowledge, reflexes, endurance, and/or grace under pressure.

Strategy: Assuming you possess the appropriate resources and skills, you can also prepare at least some of the ways in which you will use them, often called “a game plan.” This is a strategic analysis of the challenges you expect to encounter and the ways you hope to deploy your resources and skills as the situation unfolds.

Of course, it’s well understood that strategic plans must be flexible, so you can better compensate for the differences between what you planned for and what actually happens. It’s even more helpful if your plan includes some options, anticipating possible contingencies that may develop out of the initial situation, and some optimized responses.

When to Prepare

The timing of your preparation can also have a big influence on your ability to cope with an upcoming situation.

Since you can’t go from totally unprepared to totally prepared in a short time, it’s generally a good idea to continually maintain a minimum level of preparation. In simple terms, you want to “keep in practice.” This may involve both staying up to date in relevant disciplines and also finding opportunities to utilize your skills, knowledge, talents, and abilities on a regular basis.

This is a big reason why surgeons, actors, and many others often volunteer or otherwise take steps to stay busy, whether or not these practice opportunities are directly important to their work and/or life.

What to Do with Your Preparation

Preparation is its own reward. That is, preparing to face a particular upcoming challenge almost generally helps you perform at a higher level.

But you can get extra benefits from your preparation if you also review what you have prepared at the last moment before the action begins. You can make a final check of your preparation for possible weaknesses, and familiarize yourself even more with any contingency plans you’ve developed. This final review will give you an extra measure of confidence going into the challenging situation, which nearly always boosts your level of performance to a higher level.

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