We fail to plan. One of the most important and enduring life management principles I learned from Naval Aviation was the importance of planning and how it relates to success and a general sense of well being (reduced stress, anxiety, etc.). From the beginning of our training in Pensacola our Marine drill instructors drilled into our young minds (“listen up maggots!” Not you, dear reader, but we, the aviation officer candidates) the axiom “Prior planning prevents poor performance!” And the drill instructors were right. It is a truism in every aspect of life, from driving a car, to painting a room, to embarking on a trip, to doing income taxes, to beginning a job search. Lack of planning produces chaos, stress, disappointment and often unsatisfactory results. Planning greatly increases our chances for success. Our missions in the P-3 maritime patrol aircraft were lengthy and often varied in scope. During a typical 6 to 11 hour flight we could be doing a combination of missions: working with a carrier battlegroup, tracking a submarine and/or launching a harpoon missile, with a search and rescue thrown in for good measure as we departed station, for example. Planning would sometimes begin days in advance, depending on the complexity of the expected mission. Aircraft preflight would typically take 3 hours, not including a detailed operations briefing at the Tactical Support Center. Sometimes the “plan” would be altered due to new circumstances on station, but at least a plan gave us something to deviate from. We often called it “chair flying” the mission. Going through every anticipated aspect of the mission and imagining my specific response to each possible circumstance. Who will I be talking to on the radio, what tactics will I employ, what special equipment or pubs do I need to bring with me, etc., etc… Think of a job interview, for example. How much less stressed you’d be if you rehearse questions and answers (out loud) and anticipate the environment, much like a flight show pilot walks out their flight routine on the ramp prior to flight, rather than “winging” it or figuring out the routine on the fly, so to speak. In business and in life, I’ve found the same principles to be successful. Prior planning prevents poor performance. In my next blog I’ll discuss the necessary ingredients to goal setting, planning and achievement.