If your clothes catch on fire, then stop, drop and roll.
That’s planning at its simplest. Imagine the emotion of such an experience.
You feel heat, notice flames. Pain begins surging through your brain. Melting skin. Thoughts of death. What would your reaction be?
You might be tempted to run fast hoping to “blow it out”; it worked with birthday candles. You could scream at whoever is nearby; who would blame you, maybe it was their fault? You could run like the wind to the nearest water hose. Please don’t.
There is this simple plan: “Stop, Drop and Roll.” A little pre-planning allows you to achieve your goal and escape great harm: If you are on fire then stop, drop, and roll.
That’s too easy!
Showing up late had become a habit, a self-limiting behavior for a very successful client of mine. One morning, she arrived 15 minutes early for a 7:30 a.m. session; no, she had not miraculously developed into a “morning person.”
What happened? She created a simple plan.
If it is 7:00 a.m. then I will leave for the coaching session.
The Secret of Planning
Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
People always visualize an action before they take it. Peter Gollwitzer calls this implementation intentions.
An implementation intention is a self-regulatory strategy in the form of an if-then-plan (“If situation X arises, then I will perform response Y”) that can lead to better goal attainment. It is subordinate to goal intentions as it specifies the when, where and how of a goal-directed behavior.
The simple secret … If–Then planning identifies a barrier to your performance and predetermines your response, solution or action. Without visualizing it, you’re less likely to do it.
If my clothes catch on fire then I will stop, drop, and roll.
If it is 7:00 a.m. then I will immediately stop what I’m doing and leave for the meeting.
How If–Then planning works
Heidi Halvorson, in her book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals states that the “…most common problem we run into when trying to achieve a goal is missing opportunities to take action.” (Page 177)
If–then planning seizes the moment and recruits our brains to help us take action in three ways.
- The act of planning creates a link between the situation or cue (the if) and the behavior that should follow (the then).
- The situation or cue [When it is 7:00 a.m.] becomes highly activated in your brain. As a result, the situation is easily detected, even when you are busy doing other things.
- Once the “if” part of your plan actually occurs, the “then” part follow automatically, without any conscious intent. In other words, your brain already knows what to do because you already decided what to do when you made your plan. (Page 177, 178)
With journal in hand, identify a goal you want to achieve. Now, what obstacle is likely to hinder you from taking action? Write your If–then plan.
If I have self-doubt then I will remember one of my clients, our success and express my gratitude for the work I get to do.
If I want to skip exercising then I will think of those I love and go for a walk at 5:30 pm for 30 minutes.
You know what to do when your clothes are on fire. Now, what are your If–then plans for achieving your goals?