This is the time of the year when people make New Year's resolutions and set goals for the coming year. Every year I hear many people saying, "This year I am really going to do better."
An old expression from the days of barnstorming airplane pilots comes to mind when I observe the way many people approach their goals in life. These pilots were flying planes with limited instrumentation, and often had to rely on their senses to inform them of the condition of the plane. They felt it in the seat of their pants.
Many people approach their "flight" through life in a similar fashion. They set goals, look out over the horizon and start moving toward those goals without a good plan. They wake up every day, go through what appears to be a regular routine, and hope for the best. However their daily sojourn is everything but regular. Every day they encounter more complex challenges unprepared, or less well prepared than they could be. They try to rely on their natural talents and past experiences to get them through the challenges. They are"flying by the seat of their pants."
The reality of life in the 21st century is that the challenges we face are increasingly more complex. A Boeng 777 is much more complex than a 1920's biplane. The pilots in the 1920's did a walk around and kicked the tires, looked for oil leaks or shaky parts. The pilots of modern-day aircraft regularly go through re-certification, and they have extensive checklists that must be followed by each pilot before takeoff. Even the flight attendants have their checklists in preparation for the flight. None of them are "flying by the seat of their pants."
Every successful organization, team, entertainer, teacher, doctor, professional has a checklist for success. The most successful among them are those who prepare with intensity, and execute as flawlessly as possible. Are you going through each day flying by the seat of your pants? You can dramatically improve your outcomes with a simple lesson from airplane pilots and crews: develop your own personal checklist for readiness and excellent performance.
When I was 10 years old, my baseball coach said to us, "The hardest part about this game is making it look easy" to those who are watching. The only way to make it look easy was to practice, practice, practice. This preparation and reviewing the checklist of the game situation -- how many balls, strikes, runners on base, tendencies of the batter, what the pitcher is going to throw -- all players must go through that checklist before every pitch if the team is to play well and win.
Do you want to improve your performance and reach more of your goals in 2016? Don't fly by the seat of your pants. Develop a personal checklist for success.