How to maximize your chances of success with an action plan

Ready for the fun stuff? This is part three of the series on developing and applying your mental imagery skills, but you don’t need to have read those.

In this post, we’ll deal with situations where someone else is involved. Although I will refer to the other person as the “opponent”, this doesn’t have to apply to competition only. What situation in your life could do with an action plan? Is it sports, martial arts, a business meeting, a date, or maybe even making up with someone you had an argument with? These are obviously more complicated than we dealt with previously – but much more fun!

Why do we need action plans? Without one, you will not be acting, and will forever be reacting. Can you imagine the Special Forces streaming haphazardly into battle without a strategy? Preparation is always a fantastic idea, although obviously it can be a lot of work.

Creating an action plan – Step One

Let’s get started. First, ask yourself a few questions about the overall scenario.

  1. What is my objective here?
  2. What are acceptable damages or losses? It could well be none!

Now, size up the people in the scenario, starting with the opponent.

  1. What is he or she like?
  2. What are their strengths?
  3. What are their weaknesses?
  4. Do you know anything about their previous history?
  5. What would they normally do?
  6. How would they react to stress or adversity?
  7. With all that information, what’s an effective strategy you can employ?

Then, turn it around and ask those questions of yourself.

There are two ways you can approach this section. First, ask from your own view. The other choice would be putting yourself in your opponent’s shoes and asking those questions from there. You’ll be surprised at the insights you can get from that, especially if you’re honest. It could get uncomfortable, though.

Step One example

Now, in the post on assertiveness, I mentioned a noisy neighbor, Robert. He plays Britney Spears at 3 in the morning, and keeps everyone awake. You want to do something about it, but lack the assertiveness. Now, applying such preparation to this example might be overkill, but it’s “vanilla” enough an example for you to adapt to your own situation.

Let’s size up Robert. He’s loud and overbearing. He’s six foot three, an ex-bodybuilder with a neck like a bull. He doesn’t have a weakness, but you do know he likes to think of himself as a reasonable man. You might also remember that he hates rudeness, and he responds by using his size to intimidate. How much do you know about his history? Does he follow up his threats with physical violence, or does he have enough common sense not to?

Now, turn it around to you. Your biggest weakness is a lack of assertiveness, and stutter when talking to larger men. But put yourself in his shoes, and you’ll gain added insight. Does he see you as a friendly neighbor, a scrawny wimp, or did you borrow his favorite DVD and returned it all scratched?

Can you see how that will affect your approach? Obviously politeness is the way to go. But if you are too shy, you might decide to write a memo instead. If he’s upset over the DVD, it might be a good idea to calm the waters with a peace-offering.

Now, you might be thinking that this is common sense, but until you make it a formal process, there’s a lot you are likely to miss.

Preparing the Meeting – Step Two

Ask yourself a few more questions here. It will help you plan for your approach.

  1. How do you know you have met your goals?
  2. How do you intend to approach this meeting?
  3. How do you structure it?
  4. Do you have a fallback position?
  5. Size up the “battlefield”.
  6. What can you improve on? What do you have to keep in mind throughout the meeting?

How would you approach the meeting? Are you friendly and humble, or do you make a show of force first, and approach from a position of power?

How would you structure it? Do you go for friendly chit-chat to start out with and work your way into the business talk? In a sales meeting, do you try to close the sale straight away, or would you be happy to leave with a phone number so you can follow up later? How about a boxing match? Do you start out offensively, or do you feel out the other fighter for the first round?

Let’s analyze the battlefield next. This can apply to the physical situation – if you are on a date, it might be a good idea to go a regular hangout, so you have lots of friends to make you look popular. How about a meeting? Many offices are set up with “power” tables and furniture, designed to make the visitor feel small. If you are in such an office, you might decide to take him out of his power spot by suggesting you do a business lunch, or even suggesting a chat around the water cooler.

Sometimes, the battlefield refers to the abstract conditions surrounding your meeting. Will your job depend on whether you close the sale? Is he richer, or does he have some sort of pull or advantage over you? Maybe he has sensitive information that he could use to blackmail you? Again, these will all influence your game plan.

Next, draw on your previous experience. Maybe you were too timid in previous meetings. This time, you might remember and force yourself to be more assertive and push for the sale when it’s a good time to.

Remember never to underestimate your opponent. Most of the time he or she will be strategizing too!

The game plan – Step Three

With all that background info, the game plan will most likely be half formed in your head. It’s time to double check and finalize it. Base it on the six common sense points:

  1. Play to your strengths.
  2. Play to their weaknesses.
  3. Strategize against his strengths – think of counters to them.
  4. Strategize for your weaknesses – how can you stop them from being exploited?
  5. Think of counters to his counters.
  6. Be flexible. Be ready for the unexpected.

This might be sounding like a lot of work at this stage, doesn’t it? How much effort can you afford to put in to your preparation – how important is it to you?

How about another level? What are his counters to your counters, and how would you counter those?

Let’s go back to Robert. You know he’s the type of guy who likes politeness, and you have decided to send him a peace-offering before approaching him, based on previous disagreements. Now, what if that doesn’t work? What if he somehow becomes even more incensed at your present – he sees it as some sort of bribe? How are you going to prepare for that?

So the final step is, write a strategy down. Then reflect on it. Just like writing an article, it is possible to gain new perspectives and alternatives after putting it aside for a few days.

How action plans work with visualization

Once you form your action plan, spend some time visualizing it. Visualize your successes and your mistakes. See yourself doing it right, and then doing it wrong and recovering.

It is also a good idea to incorporate the unexpected what if you are hungry, or couldn’t sleep the night before, or someone begins to hassle you? What if it begins to rain, what if it begins to snow?

Olympic athletes are encouraged to include everything in their mental simulation – including pain, fear and fatigue, which are some of the biggest obstacles any athlete can come across. They include all these sensations, and see themselves pushing past all these. So, incorporate all your weaknesses, and push past those until you see yourself succeeding.

What’s next?

Back to emotional mastery. I recently cleared out a good 99% of all my pains, and I spent a few days structuring how I did it. It’ll be ready real soon! Subscribe to get it as soon as it comes out!