In Why Winging It Will Help You Succeed, I talk about the importance of taking action and why it’s better to focus on action instead of endlessly planning until you get the perfect strategy to overcome the challenge at hand.
The truth is, planning is a good thing. But over-planning and over-thinking your situation is not only a waste of time, but it’s a sign of indecisiveness and lack of confidence.
Enjoy the Moment
When you see professional football teams go out to play in the Superbowl or even playoff games, they obviously have done their homework, analyzed the other team on film, practiced scenarios defending some of their favorite plays and exploiting their weaknesses. They do their best to prepare before the game, but when it comes to game time and the players step out on the field, you’ll notice something a lot of coaches say to their teams and to the media as the game is about to begin.
Something along the lines of:
“You’ve done the hard work, you’ve prepared, now go out there and have a good time. Enjoy the moment.”
This is great advice and a clarification I wanted to add to the advice I gave in the first article, Why Winging It Will Help You Succeed. It’s stupid not to prepare. Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, says that winners win the battle before it has begun, and there is a lot of truth to this saying. You must prepare yourself mentally and physically for the task at hand, or else you will run into roadblocks that may have been avoided if you had done a little bit of homework.
That being said, I believe it is a mistake to overdo this process, and carrying this into the time where you need to perform is absolutely lethal. If you are still planning and stuck in your head when it is time to take action and get results, you will over think everything and try to be perfect.
What the coach is saying to his team in the example above, is that you should congratulate yourself for the work you have done, and the practice you put in. You worked hard so that you are prepared now in this moment when you have to perform. But you can’t do that if you’re still in the locker room watching film and preparing.
The time for preparation is over. You’ve done the groundwork, now trust that the work you’ve put in will carry over to your performance. Now is the time to act. Get out of your head, and into the game, have fun, keep it loose, and win.
What are you trying to accomplish?
If you want to perform at your best, you must have a goal and a direction. I continue to stand by my belief that if you must choose between taking action now and waiting until you come up with the perfect plan, taking action now is always better.
There will never be a perfect plan.
That being said, it’s a fool’s errand to take immediate action without having a goal to direct your efforts.
If you are trying to improve your basketball skills and you go out on the practice court, how are you going to take action? In which direction are your actions going to take you?
Do you want to improve your free throw skills?
Do you want to improve your 3 point shot?
Ball handling skills?
Shooting ability in the paint?
I played a lot of basketball when I was in elementary school, and I still play recreationally to this day. I am much better today. Some of that improvement is obviously age and emotional maturity, but a large part of it is how I practice.
When I was in elementary school and I would “practice” in my driveway, I was all over the place.
I would shoot a few 3 pointers, then dribble around a bit. Then I might shoot a few layups. This would go on and on and I would more or less be taking random shots, not really choosing any particular skill I wanted to improve.
Fast forward to present day. I play a lot more pickup games, and learn what skills I have to improve. One of the best practice sessions I ever had was when I decided that I needed to work on my left-handed lay-up. I was constantly driving to the right, and even when I drove to the left I would still try to shoot with my right hand and get blocked every time.
So I went out to the practice court, and did lefty lay-ups for 45 straight minutes. I must have done 150-200 lay-ups in this amount of time, maybe even more. But it was worth it. From this practice session alone, I developed a level of comfort with my left hand which carried over to competitive games.
After this, I instantly became more of a threat because of my versatility. But the main point is that I went to the practice court with the goal of improving my left-handed lay-up, with the intention of developing my versatility as a player.
I had a goal, and every single action I took during that practice session brought me closer to it.
This applies to so many areas of life. Do you have goals when you go to work? Is every action you take bringing you closer to your goal?
I cannot put enough emphasis on how important this is.
Choose Action over the Perfect Plan every single time. But without a goal to direct your actions, you are more or less wasting your time.
Next time you are out with friends, talking to girls, practicing your jump-shot, or in the gym, think about what it is you are trying to accomplish. Every moment is an opportunity to move forward.
Even if you are with your best friends, you can try to improve your listening skills by asking about what they have going on in their life. Keep asking questions.
If you are going on a walk, have a goal. Maybe it’s to get out of your head. Practice it.
Maybe it’s to improve your posture.
Maybe it’s to get in better shape.
If you are out at a party, focus on having a great time and see how you can personally enhance the experience of the people around you.
With every action you take, take a step forward in the direction of your goals.