Updated: Jul 1
Without a proper plan, it can be difficult to meet your health and performance goals. After reading this article, you’ll know why.
As the author, Alan Lakein, remarked: Failing to plan is planning to fail. Why? The process of planning—or thinking about how to achieve something—helps us to actually achieve that thing. I know, rocket science. But this is not just based on intuition; social psychologists have developed theories that explain how humans make decisions based on this principle. One such theory, the Theory of Planned Behaviour, states that more or less all of human behaviour is guided (in a lot of cases, loosely) by planning (1).
Source: Danielle’s Health Blog
Of course, plans—or intentions—are not enough. You have to follow through. As we have written about before, research has shown that having good intentions doesn’t always translate to actual behaviour (2). Despite this ‘intention-behaviour gap’, creating the intention (or plan) is the necessary first step to achieving your goals. This is precisely why planning is important to reach any goal, be it health-related, performance-related, or otherwise.
How to Start Planning For Success
Now that you know the importance of planning, here are my top tips for successful planning:
Set SMART Goals: These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound. For example, a SMART goal could be to eat two more pieces of fruit per day (Specific, Measurable, Achievable) each day next week (Timebound) if your goal is to eat a healthier diet (Relevant).
Involve Others: Let those close to you know about what you're planning. For example, if you’re planning to eat better, it might be good to let those who live with you know, as they may be able to support you in your efforts. If you’re planning a new exercise routine, it would be good to mention this to your football coach so that you can manage your training load appropriately (to ensure you don’t get injured).
Regularly Review and Adjust: It is crucial to review your progress to ensure you’re actually making progress. We can all be great at making a plan, but we rarely follow through on all aspects. This is okay; we can adjust the plan to be more suitable. But without regular review, we can get overwhelmed with the fact that we may not be following the plan, and ultimately fall short of our goals. In addition, reviewing progress can highlight where problems may lie, which ultimately lets you develop a more appropriate plan.
Make Strategic Action Plans
One good way to translate intentions into behaviour is to develop a strategic action plan. Briefly, these plans are specific regarding the where, when, and how of goal-striving, as opposed to just stating the desired outcome. To use the earlier example of eating two pieces of fruit per day, here are some potential specifics:
Where: ‘When I’m at work’
When: ‘At lunchtime’
How: ‘I will buy a banana and eat it, along with the apple I brought to work’
These strategic action plans—or implementation intentions—are research-backed ways to help you follow through on your plans. Check out our previous article on this, for the details.
I hope this article is the spark you need to start planning to succeed (hey, that rhymes!). I will finish as I began, with a quote:
A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow — George S. Patton
If you want supplemental football training to improve as a footballer, reach out to our team of expert coaches at [email protected] to get started.
Thanks for reading, I hope you got something from this article. All the best!
Patrick Elliott, BSc, MPH
Health and Nutrition Science Communication Officer at Training121
Health Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice. For health advice, speak to a physician or other qualified health-care professional, and for nutrition advice, speak to a qualified nutrition professional (e.g., registered dietitian). The use of information on this site is solely at your own risk.
(1) Ajzen I. From Intentions to Actions: A Theory of Planned Behavior. In: Kuhl, J., Beckmann, J. (eds) Action Control. SSSP Springer Series in Social Psychology. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 1985. Available at: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-69746-3_2
(2) Webb TL, Sheeran P. Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavior change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychol Bull. 2006;132(2):249–68. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16536643/
Intentions: When we talk about intentions in this context, we’re usually talking about goal intentions, i.e., people’s self instructions to achieve certain outcomes, e.g., I will write that book someday. Behaviour intentions, which are self instructions to perform the actions needed to achieve these outcomes (e.g., I will sit at my desk every morning at 8am and write that book), are more specific and action-oriented, and therefore more in line with the concept of implementation intentions, or strategic action plans.