“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

We’ve probably all heard this familiar quote, or some variation of it. Ask most successful women about the secrets of their success, and you’re likely to hear planning or goal setting as one of the top five. Most of us accept that in order to reach our full potential, planning is a necessary step.

But, are you getting everything you should be getting from your planning? Or, are you setting goals, taking action, and yet still falling short? We’ve all been there – frustrated, disappointed and confused.

In my experience, too many of us face these kinds of failures because we miss an important step in the planning process. Simply put, we fail to identify and plan for the obstacles we will face along the way. So, when they arise – as they undoubtedly do – we’re caught off guard and unable to respond as effectively as we would like.

Obstacles Are Just a Part of Life

Let’s face it – no matter how well we plan, we will always face setbacks and obstacles. Illnesses, market changes, competition, or even interpersonal conflict can present challenges to our plans. Not to mention those days when we just get tired, bored, or temporarily lose focus. All of these things are part of being human. Acknowledging that fact as a step in your planning increases your chances of reaching your goals.

Occasionally, I’ll run across someone who really resists the idea of planning for obstacles. It’s usually because they are fully invested in using optimism or positive thinking to fuel their success, and are afraid that by acknowledging possible setbacks they will get thrown off course. If you’ve been following me for any period of time, you know that I am huge proponent of building a success mindset in order to achieve maximum results. But, I also know this:

Sure, you can recover, and the more resilient you are the faster you’ll be able to do so. But, expecting setbacks in advance allows you to deal with them as if they were part of the plan, rather than a challenge to it.

Beyond Worry – Build a Strategy

That being said, identifying and planning for obstacles is not be confused with worrying. Worrying is a trap. It gives you the illusion of doing something about a potential problem without actually doing anything, and it robs you of the energy and time you need to really tackle your goals.

Planning for obstacles and setbacks is very different. It requires that you think through the potential issue with depth, to understand its nature, how it will affect you, and when it is likely to arise. And, more importantly it requires that you develop a strategy to move beyond the obstacle.

A strategy to overcome setbacks might be the boost you need to take your planning to the next level.

For instance, let’s assume that you want to focus more on professional development. You plan to attend at least one conference during the year to advance that goal. Perhaps you know because you are naturally introverted, this is going to be a big step for you. You know there is a significant risk that even after you find the perfect conference and the needed funds to pay for it, you will back out of registering at the last minute out of fear or discomfort. How can you plan for this potential obstacle? What strategy might you use to overcome the possibility that you will fail to meet your goal?

Perhaps you could use an accountability partner or mentor to be sure that you follow through. Perhaps you could find a colleague and plan to attend the conference together. Or, maybe you could plan a reward for yourself once the conference is booked.

These are just examples of how possible ways to overcome a potential obstacle. What will work for you will be different depending on your situation and personality. It’s really not the specifics that matter. It’s that you take the time on the front end to prepare for those things that might throw you off track.

Even great planners and goal setters can face failure because they don’t realize potential roadblocks ahead of time and make a solid plan to address them. In my experience, those who are most successful know that they are likely to face challenges in reaching their goals and don’t shy away from those challenges. They face them head on, with a solid plan to stay on track.

Let Me Know…

What obstacles or challenges have you faced in reaching your own goals?

Did you have a plan for them on the front end?

If not, how would that have changed the way you responded?