Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail

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CHAPTER 3 … from the book ‘PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS‘ by Andy Whipp





“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan”



My aim for this book is to dramatically increase or even kick start your professional development by focusing on the following areas:  the importance of goal setting; the danger of your “Chimp Brain”; the never-to-be-underestimated role of good old fashioned effort; and the concept of ‘deliberate practice’.  All of these factors play a massive part in our success.  All mean nothing however, if we are not pursuing the correct path for us.  This is why it is important to realize the power of our very own strengths, how to identify them and how to develop a ‘super-strength’.

Of course we will closely examine which route you is best to follow and what decisions to make in order to succeed in our chosen careers… but before we get to that, the first step is to take a close look at the consequence of setting goals, and how this is an essential practice for anybody looking to progress their career.

No Goals = No Ambition

Know Goals = Know Ambition





“A goal properly set is halfway reached”



Goal setting involves the development of an action plan designed to motivate and guide a person or group toward a goal.

From an early age, nobody achieves anything significant without first setting goals. These are not always conscious but they are always there.  As we make our way through adulthood these goals need to become more conscious and targeted.

Clarity in business is of paramount importance.  If we want to accomplish anything great in our professional careers we cannot overlook the value of personal goals.

Goals - Fail to plan, plan to fail

Setting goals offers great psychological benefits:


– Organize us

– Narrow and direct our attention

– Make us more efficient

– Aid self-belief

– Provide motivation even after possible setbacks

– Prevent procrastination

– Increase our effort levels


But without a doubt the two most powerful aspects of setting goals are:




This Chapter we will look at the value of setting goals and how it has worked for real people and how it WILL work for you too.  We will specifically examine the two main points above; vision and accountability, and how those two factors can lead us to amazing developments in our lives.





“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act.  There is no other route to success.”



A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that people who are specific about their plans are considerably more likely to act on them.  People who rely solely on mental resolutions have a 35% chance of success, whereas people who clearly state when and how they will act have a 91% success rate.

If we want to get the most out of ourselves or somebody else, there must be direction.  Even the most naturally driven people will not push themselves to their limit if there is not a strong external urge to do so.  This is where a goal is absolutely essential.

After comprehensive research Locke and Latham concluded that it is not sufficient to simply urge employees to “do their best”.  “Doing one’s best” has no external reference, which makes it useless in producing specifically driven behaviour.  This results in poor performance.

To elicit some specific form of behaviour from any person (whether it is ourselves or somebody else), it is important that this person has a clear view of what is expected from him/her.  The goal must be specifically set out and incentivized in some way.  A goal is thereby fundamental to success because it helps an individual to focus his or her efforts in a specified direction.

Goals with an appropriate incentive have a direct correlation to personal motivation.  Only motivated individuals will achieve their goal.

My junior squash days were extremely goal orientated without actually sitting down to plan what I wanted to achieve each year.  I didn’t really know anything about goal setting when I was 12 but I knew I wanted to get to the top of the England Junior Ranking List, and I knew I was willing to work damn hard to do it.  My rivalry with Jonathan Kemp was a huge drive for me.  Though in the bigger scheme of things, overtaking him was actually a mini-goal or ‘stepping stone’, which was only present as an obstacle to achieve my main goal – becoming the England junior No.1.  At this time of my life, this was a slightly unconscious goal in the fact that my Dad and I had discussed it without specifically sitting down to form some kind of action plan.  It was the drive inside me that gave me the unyielding motivation to see out my wish.

Once I was 16 I knew I wanted to go to the next level and be a professional squash player, so becoming one of the world’s best became a greater goal than wanting to be England Junior No.1.  The desire to become the best junior in England did not wane with the additional of the other goal, it merely became a ‘stepping stone’.  As I said, I did not ever actively plan these goals, they were just inside me.  Looking back, was it too young to be consciously setting goals?  Definitely not.  I had just never been introduced to it.  In fact, I was not introduced to goal setting until I was in my 30’s.  Which seems ridiculous now.

I have good friend and successful entrepreneur Lawrence Jones to thank for introducing me to the importance of goal setting.  It’s a shame he wasn’t around for me 20 years ago!

I know I could have achieved so much more if I had begun consciously goal setting when I was 16, and continued the process every year.  If I regularly sat down to assess where I was on my desired pathway toward my goal.  This is why I want to help others.  I don’t want people to miss out on their full potential.  We are never too old to start this process.

Setting a goal doesn’t guarantee success.  We must commit to our goal.  There’s no doubt Effort = Reward.  A goal in our head, made one day in a flight of fancy, and then left there with no action, will obviously not materialize.  A goal which is written down, planned, processed, regularly addressed with updated progress reports is considerably more likely to happen – I’m sure everyone will agree.  I wasn’t aware of goal setting and the gravity it holds until my 30’s.  I want you to know what I wished I had known all those years ago.  I have learned that it is never too late.  I want to show everyone what I have experienced over the past 5 years and how quickly it can lead to great things – really great.





“People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.”



The importance of Goal Setting has come to prominence much more in the 21st century with the emergence of business and life enhancing “gurus”… and there is a reason for this; it works as a method to achieve sustained focus and drive.  All leading businessmen and entrepreneurs do it, top athletes do it – anybody can goal set, and everybody should!  First we must know the steps of how to set goals which we will achieve.

Step one of successful goal setting that we simply have to understand is the power of written goals (the key point to note here is the word “WRITTEN”).

People who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than the ones who don’t.  Telling a friend increases this rate to 78%.

Writing a goal down makes it more physical.  It shifts from an imaginary realm to become an accountable force which we must act upon.  I realize using the word “force” sounds rather dramatic.  Believe me though, writing down our goal does create a certain momentum.  Momentum with accountability.  Accountability is another factor which increases our chances of success.

By physically writing down our goal we create a potential in our own mind which will ensure we will see our goal through to the very end.  Having written goals provides us with an internal motivation to achieve what we have set out to do.  This ‘force’ grows even stronger when we widen the field of accountability, as we will see in the following study.

A well-documented study was conducted by psychology professor Dr Gail Matthews of the Dominican University Of California.  She found that those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write down their goals.


– Here is the study:

149 participants completed this study.  The participants ranged in age from 23 to 72, with 37 males and 112 females.  Participants came from the United States, Belgium, England, India, Australia and Japan and included a variety of entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, artists, attorneys, bankers, marketers, human services providers, managers, vice presidents, directors of non-profits, etc.

Research Design:

Participants were randomly assigned to one of 5 conditions (groups):

Group 1 – Unwritten Goal;

Group 2 – Written Goal;

Group 3 – Written Goal & Action Commitments;

Group 4 – Written Goal, Action Commitments to a Friend;

Group 5 – Written Goal, Action Commitments & Progress Reports to a Friend.

  • Participants in Group 1 were simply asked to think about their goals (what they wanted to accomplish over the next 4 weeks) and then asked to rate that goal on the following dimensions: Difficulty, Importance, the extent to which they had the Skills & Resources to accomplish the goal, their Commitment and Motivation to the goal, whether or not they had pursued this goal before and if so their Prior Success.
  • Participants in Groups 2-5 were asked to write (type into the online survey) their goals and then to rate their goals on the same dimensions.
  • Group 3 was also asked to formulate action commitments.
  • Group 4 was asked to formulate action commitments and send their goals and action commitments to a supportive friend.
  • Group 5 was asked to formulate action commitments and send their goals, action commitments and weekly progress reports to a supportive friend. Participants in this group were also sent weekly reminders to email quick progress reports to their friend.

At the end of 4 weeks participants were asked to rate their progress and the degree to which they had accomplished their goals.



  1. Types of goals:

Participants pursued a variety of goals including (in order of frequency reported) completing a project, increasing income, increasing productivity, getting organized, enhancing performance/achievement, enhancing life balance, reducing work anxiety and learning a new skill.

Examples of “completing a project” included writing a chapter of a book, updating a website, listing and selling a house, completing a strategic plan, securing a contract, hiring employees and preventing a hostile take-over.

  1. Goal Achievement:

Group 5 achieved significantly more than all the other groups; Group 4 achieved significantly more than Groups 3 and 1; Group 2 achieved significantly more than Group 1.

  1. Differences between all writing groups and the non-writing group:

Although the previous analysis revealed that Group 2 (written goals) achieved significantly more than Group 1 (unwritten goals), additional analysis were performed to determine whether there were also differences between the group that had not written their goals (Group 1) and all groups that had written their goals (Groups 2-5).  This analysis revealed that the mean achievement score for Groups 2-5 combined was significantly higher than Group 1.



  • The positive effect of accountability was supported: those who sent weekly progress reports to their friend accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals, wrote their goals, formulated action commitments or sent those action commitments to a friend.
  • There was support for the role of public commitment: those who sent their commitments to a friend accomplished significantly more than those who wrote action commitments or did not write their goals.
  • THE POSITIVE EFFECT OF WRITTEN GOALS WAS SUPPORTED: Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals.


“With the proliferation of business and personal coaching and the often anecdotal reports of coaching success it is important that this growing profession be founded on sound scientific research.”

“This study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools:  accountability, commitment and writing down one’s goals.”

Dr Gail Matthews


Pretty compelling evidence wouldn’t you say?  We all knew after reading the results what the conclusions were, it was obvious for all to see.  What was fascinating though was the addition of including other people for accountability.  Thorough goal setting is a crucial step toward personal development – and the more people we involve, and in particular close friends or people we admire, the more chance we have of achieving our goals.

  2. WRITE it down
  3. TELL at least one person you respect and regularly encounter (accountability)
  4. MONITOR progress at specific points along the journey

Goals - be accountable





“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”



When asked about personal goals, most people conjure up blurry targets for themselves, for example, make more money, get promoted, or start my own business.  These goals are no good.  We must understand how to set meaningful goals and the techniques required in order to achieve them.  Professional goal setting gives us clarity.

Generally considered there are 4 steps which successful entrepreneurs use to create clear and measurable goals.  If we follow them these steps will not only help us to set the right goals for ourselves but also make sure we remain focused and achieve them no matter how many obstacles we face or how long they take.

Here we go:

  • Create a Vision

Close your eyes and try to picture what it is you want?  What does it look like?  What does it feel like?  Do you already have skills that can help toward your ideal vision?  Yes you do is the answer – we will examine what unique skills each of us have at length in the next Chapter.  Don’t be afraid to dream big.

  • Make It Measurable (we’ve already seen the power of this with Dr Gail Matthew’s study!)

Now think of your goal and quickly write it down.  Ask questions depending on the kind of goal you have set for yourself:  Do you work for yourself; do you have an employer; or is it best to start off working with a company to gain experience and learn guided pathways?  Here we want to be as detailed as possible.  Choose an achievable time frame.  Set yourself up for success by outlining smaller, more obviously achievable goals that will all be stepping-stones toward the larger, end goal.

  • Set Manageable Benchmarks

Be willing to continually break down each stepping-stone, into even smaller goals.  These are a great way to keep us motivated and on track.  Be willing to adjust your stepping-stones slightly as you learn, but never lose sight of the end goal, just know what has to be done to reach it.

  • Celebrate your successes

Congratulate yourself after each completed stepping-stone.  Maybe a beer, a glass of wine or a nice take-away.

Don’t forget why you want to achieve your end goal, and don’t be afraid of thinking how you will celebrate once you get there.  A Shopping spree?  Time off?  A holiday?


The absolute key points to be taken from these steps are:

– Create a goal which is right for you.

Write it down (we know this).

– Set a realistic time frame.

– Break down your ultimate goal into smaller goals – stepping stones.

Celebrate your mini-victories.

– Learn as you go.

– If needed, adjust your stepping stones but…… NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF, OR COMPROMISE YOUR END GOAL





“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible”



When starting out on a journey of self-improvement it can be hard to keep sight of the end result.  It can be easy to become bogged down with the “what-ifs?”  This is where our action plan comes in to play.  This action plan is paramount to keep us focused and on track, no matter what comes our way.  We have chosen to set our goal for a reason – it’s something we strongly desire.  We must not allow ourselves to be deterred.  Eyes on the prize at all times.

For you to do this regularly, visualize your end goal, and remind yourself of the manageable smaller steps you need to tick off in order to reach the end.  Don’t be afraid to think about how you will celebrate when you get there (champagne works for me!).

In order to achieve our goals we must stick to our four point action plan.  Let me emphasize these points one more time:

Write it down.

This is the one key point I want everyone to take away from this Chapter.  WRITE IT DOWN.  It turns our goal from mere fantasy with a 1% chance of follow-through, into a real driving force that we will act upon.  Once we have set the right goal for us, committing it to paper or a whiteboard is the first step to achieving this goal.  If we don’t do this we might as well throw the towel in now.

Tell someone:

Become accountable.  No one will want to fail now, especially in the eyes of a person who we respect and admire.  Make reasons to see this person regularly.  The more we see them, the more they will ask how we are progressing, and the less we will want to fail.

Break down your goal:

Turn your goal into ‘fast wins’ with stepping stones.  These make your goal seem more manageable and more achievable.  It is not a ‘cop-out’ to do this.  These smaller, easier goals are still building toward the greater goal, never forget that.  They simply make the goal more manageable and less daunting.  These stepping stones will give us stamina and will keep us focused until the very end.


Don’t be afraid to celebrate even the smallest of victories.  This will serve to keep us happy.  A happy worker is a motivated worker.  A motivated worker is a productive worker.





So, we now know how to set a goal but how do we set the right goal for us?  Goals are useless if they are not relevant to us.  Do you even know what career is best suited to you?  Do you think you know, or do you have no idea?  Many of us do not but the next Chapter will deal with this question head on, and could prove to be a big eye-opener for many of us.

No Goal = No Ambition

Know Goal = Know Ambition


“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere”





You can buy the full paperback book on Amazon by clicking this link.


Entrepreneur and ex-professional sportsman, Andy Whipp explains how setting goals, quality practice, persistence and that ‘playing to our strengths’ is the surest way to succeed in our lives.

This book outlines powerful research and delves into the lives of well-known successful people (including Nick Matthew, Roger Federer, Bill Gates, The Beatles, Vera Wang, Steve Jobs, Rafael Nadal, Richard Branson and many more) to show these concepts are not just theories, but definitive principles we should all live by.

Reading this book is the first step on your path to a better future.



“This is great – I’ve never really read books like this before but immediately I see stuff that I should take on board and be doing…
You are the master and I am the student! Thanks”


“Andy Whipp’s business ethos is honestly inspiring. I have directly used his ideas to help other businesses in Denmark with amazing results.”


“Simply fantastic. I immediately felt inspired to take action and change my business approach.”


“I can’t believe my luck – I was given this book as a pre-release and a month later I’ve been offered a big promotion at work due to my improved performance. Massive thanks to Andy.”