Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation– Robert Schuller
A Lesson That Needed Reminding
I did something regrettable this week. It went against everything I stood for. I violated this principle due to impatience. In my haste to get our children to bed as soon as possible and have enough time to catch up on the latest ESPN news before bed, I crushed my daughter Esther’s desire to prepare for the next day. This is a concept I have taught her by example and instruction. Every night, I ask her, “What are you wearing to school tomorrow?” Instead of celebrating her initiative, I robbed her and myself of a moment of appreciation and growth in her life. I saw her preparation as time-wasting.
Fortunately, I realized my error, apologized to Esther, and watched with joy as she systematically picked her clothes and explained to me why she chose each item of clothing. That night, after watching the ESPN highlights that almost robbed Esther and me of a growth moment, I learned again the value of preparation, especially on the precipice of a new year.
A new year drums up a certain level of excitement in terms of our hopes and dreams. Preparation often appears as a time-wasting activity. Who knows if the opportunity I prepare for will even come? Preparation sometimes borders on boredom. It involves creating routines and habits that don’t always create excitement equal to the opportunity we envision. Preparation demands an investment of time and focus, which is an antithesis to the busy and distracted lives most of us lead. While it may appear boring in the interim, there is value and power to preparation.
The Value of Preparation
Through preparation, we recognize and take advantage of opportunities that come our way when they do. Preparation is a bridge between the present and the future. While opportunities are future tense occurrences, preparation is always a present tense posture. We learn the value of preparation from one of the planet’s smallest creatures: the ant. In the Bible, the book of Proverbs reminds us that ants “are not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.” Because the ant knows winter is coming, they understand preparation is key to survival. In the coming year, our ability to thrive borders on our willingness to be prepared. When we fail to live in the now of preparation, we forfeit the future of opportunity. The mismatch of waiting for an opportunity without the input of preparation leads to disappointment and frustration. Preparation paves the way to leverage opportunities when they come your way. With such an emphasis on preparation, where does it begin?
Where Preparation Begins
According to best-selling author and leadership expert, Dr. John C. Maxwell, “preparation does not begin with what you do. It begins with what you believe. If you believe that your success tomorrow depends on what you do today, then you will treat today differently.” Because Esther believes getting to school on time tomorrow is directly related to her preparation today, she invests her time and focus before bed to prepare her clothes.
How do you treat today? Do you see it as a waste of time as you await your next opportunity? Or, are you utilizing your today in light of the possibilities tomorrow may bring? Those who live by the latter sharpen their ability to see and reach for opportunities once they come.
Consider the following questions to test how much you value today:
- Do you see today as a bridge to your future?
- How often do you procrastinate on a task?
- What did you do today to invest in your future?
- Are you proactive or reactive?
What you believe about today and its value regarding preparation is reflected in your daily actions. Preparation not only paves the way to opportunities but also positions us to grow while on the path to the opportunity. Without preparation, growth is never achieved. Preparation creates an environment for continuous development. Ultimately excellence in anything comes on the heels of diligence in preparation. Preparation builds in us ingredients such as courage, humility, sacrifice, integrity, resilience, and confidence that sustain a successful life.
Final Thought: Over the years, I have learned it is better to live life by preparation than “winging it.” Preparation is a mental sharpener. It teaches your mind to stay alert and aware of opportunities that come your way and seize them. Choosing to live by “winging it” only guarantees another frustrating and disappointing year. Through preparation, you hone your gifts and talents and unleash your potential in a manner that makes you too good to be ignored. Refer back to the four questions that test your value of today. Remember friend, a better tomorrow begins with your preparation today.
Keep on Keeping on!