A funny story…

A couple of weeks ago, I was catching an 8am flight from Bristol to Dublin – something I do quite regularly as part of my job. As always, I paid attention to the safety instruction demo, which for me includes counting the number of seat rows in front and behind to the emergency exits, and then settled down for a nap.

The plane was a 70-seat twin-prop ATR and, as quite often happens, I was in a deep sleep before take-off and didn’t wake up until there were two strong thuds as we landed.

But, here’s the thing. I looked out of the window to see we were approaching Bristol Airport terminal. I was confused for a second, then the guy next to me laughed and told me that we had suffered a bird strike on take-off and the pilot turned the plan around, and here we were!

We were held on the apron for a good 30 minutes whilst the engines were checked, so I sent a text to my wife with the story. She replied ‘what irony – the closest you’ve ever been to an incident in the air and you were asleep!’

I should probably explain. I love air crash programmes, especially ones which give an idea on what made the difference for the survivors – which is probably where my heightened attention and mental routine at the start of every flight come from.

I often grab naps on a plane, wanting to use the time constructively. You can’t work on your laptop during taxi and take-off so I will often grab a sleep, usually waking up 30 minutes into the flight.

As I write this, I’m on a family holiday in North Devon and I am sat here on the apartment balcony looking out to sea with my early morning cup of tea musing back over that flight.

Did I learn anything? What can I take from it?

Well, I reckon that I am so rehearsed in my head on what to do in the event of an emergency that I sleep deeply and easily, thanks to being totally relaxed. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, and the same could be said about running, for instance. I remember Rory Coleman once told me to get out and run as often as I can (even on short runs) to instil muscle memory into the legs and body.

This is where scenario planning is so important.

Plan the different what ifs. Take stock of what could happen and make a plan of what you would do. For running, this is stuff like packing a blister plasters or additional kit. Before a big event, physically write a scenario plan, read it and rehearse it so that the alternative actions become instinctive – that mental muscle memory.

By doing this, you’ll feel that much more confident. If you’ve entered a running event, you’ll feel more relaxed at the start line, and you’ll have more headspace during the event. Do regular systems checks, remember your scenario planning, and you’re set for a good finish!

Back to sleeping through that bird strike. What did it teach me? That drilling something into yourself thoroughly really works. Scenario planning (preparing for every eventuality mentally and practically to give yourself peace of mind) isn’t just about running. Some things you can’t prepare for, but life is far too short to leave everything to chance.

Are you a runner looking to improve your preparation – mental and physical? Or a business leader who wants to steer your team through fear of what ifs? I can help. Drop me a line on andy@lifeisasinecurve.com to find out more.

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