Think back over the past week… did you have a particularly tough day? Were you surprised by an opportunity that you just weren’t ready for?

Every day you influence others as they watch you respond to surprise and challenge. Whether your response is a good one or not, they’re watching how you react. Don’t hope you’ll be prepared when a challenge comes. Do what it takes to be ready.

Everyone knows about the pressure to perform. Maybe at the last minute you’re called to offer your opinion on a matter. Or, you realize with just hours to spare that you need to produce a document or even be somewhere and you show up “in the nick of time.”

In a world where an email, knock on the office door or text message can change everything, how do you prepare yourself to react, respond and act the way you want to model for those around you?

Lincoln once made a most apt suggestion applicable to such cases. When asked to appear upon some important occasion and deliver a five-minute speech, he said that he had no time to prepare five-minute speeches, but that he could go and speak an hour at any time.

Pause for a moment and wonder, “When am I at my best?”

The Oxford Dictionary defines best as: “the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.”

At your best means you’ve planned for and are in control of the controllable.

It means you’ve identified and created conditions to respond to what’s uncontrollable. To be at your best requires that you’re prepared to respond to what’s happening around you.

Before you read the rest of this article, open your notepad to a fresh page and on top write, “I am at my best when…” Next, write down specific things that come to mind when you think of that prompt.

There are three steps you can take to increase the likelihood that you are at your best every time you need to turn it on. Think back on that tough day last week, when things didn’t go your way… to be better prepared next time, do these three things.

1.) Watch What They Do

A friend gifted me the book Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferris. In the gift card included with the book she wrote, “I think you’re going to like the examples of people he writes about in his book.” Even a quick review of this book will give you ideas from amazing leaders such as: Tony Robbins, Marc Andreessen, Reid Hoffman and Seth Godin.

A good way to find out what your best could be is to explore and analyze the habits and routines of the world’s best. Now, you may or may not be interested (or even support) the outcomes the best athletes, business icons, entrepreneurs, or community leaders achieve, but you can’t argue with their methods.

Take for example a morning practice from the author and speaker Tony Robbins:

Express Gratitude for 3 minutes

Every morning, he feels grateful for three things. He says:

“I make sure that one of them is very, very simple: the wind on my face, the reflection of the clouds that I just saw. I let the gratitude fill my soul, because … When you’re grateful, there is no fear. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously.”

Look at your bookshelf or visit the local library. Go to the biography section and commit to studying other people. Once you identified the proven routines they used to be their best, you can choose which ones you’d like to try.

2.) Reflect on What You’ve Done

Think about the specific times in the past month or two where you really “showed up.” You were the friend you know you want to be. You were the leader you hope to be. As a parent, partner or community member, you were at your best; you gave your attention and felt pride in your effort.

Reflect on your productive days and study what you did to make that happen; identify what had to go in your favor to set you up for success. To get you started, ask these questions:

  • How have you influenced the conditions that set you up to succeed?
  • Did you rest well the night before?
  • Did you practice a health or mental wellness routine in the morning?
  • Eat breakfast?
  • Get a particular task done?

3.) Future-cast To a Day When…

Open your calendar and choose a day THIS WEEK that you know you will want to be at your best. Pick an important work day. Or a travel/vacation day. Or a day with your family. Choose a day when you want to give all you’ve got, and not go into mental, emotional or physical deficit!

Think about things that you can do the night before, the morning of and throughout the day to be at your best. If you like checklists, make one on that notepad page I asked you to start. If you really want to get the most from this exercise, take a picture of that list and make that photo the wallpaper of your smartphone, tablet and computer.

Personally, I figure I look at my own phone at least 5 times an hour. How about you? Imagine if you looked at your own list of “At My Best When…” multiple times per day. You know what might happen? You could make better choices, setting yourself up to be… At Your Best!

Remember, the people you work with, live with and love with are watching you. Make sure you’re setting a good example not only when times are good, but when challenge strikes as well. Use these three tactics to be ready, when surprise comes. You’ll thank your future self for it!

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