Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prep Time

Last week I had an amazing experience - I took part in a single day rim to rim hike in the Grand Canyon.

Of course, this wasn’t just a spur of the moment kind of hike. It took a lot of time and effort to prepare. I spent several months seeking advice from a variety of people on how best to tackle this challenge, I researched the best equipment to bring (and not bring) and wear (and not wear), I trained to ensure I was ready physically and mentally, and I made sure to set aside enough time before and after the hike so I didn’t feel rushed.

The result of this preparation was that I was able to fully enjoy and appreciate the hike. I wasn’t stressed out or exhausted, or too hungry or thirsty. I wasn’t in pain or wishing I had done something different. By planning ahead, I feel as if I was really able to embrace the experience completely, without distractions.

Now, I don’t think I’m saying anything profound or original when I point out that by being prepared for this task made it much easier to complete. That is simply stating the obvious.

And yet, I find all too frequently that this seemingly obvious lesson isn’t heeded in our line of work. Preparation matters in what we do here at Imagine!, and in the field of serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities, and a lack of preparation shouldn’t be tolerated. We’re not just talking about a hike in the Grand Canyon here, we’re talking about people’s lives.

Let me give you an example. Too frequently in the course of my duties, I have attended meetings where it was clear the meeting organizer hadn’t prepared. There was no agenda, there was no clear goal or outcome for the meeting, and sometimes the meeting organizer didn’t even know where to start. Sadly, those meetings often turn into some of the longest meetings I have to attend.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-meeting. But I do believe that if a meeting is being planned, it is incumbent on all participants to come prepared. To do their homework ahead of time, and to be prepared with questions to ask or solutions to offer. When everyone is prepared, the likelihood is that the results of the meeting will be better.

And it is not just meetings. Those of us in this field should be prepared no matter what effort we are undertaking and no matter who we are interacting with. Now, I know we can’t plan for absolutely everything. Sometimes things sneak up on us that we haven’t been able to plan for and that require immediate action. But I also believe that we will have far fewer of those sorts of incidences, and we will be in a better position to react appropriately when they do arise, if we keep ourselves as prepared and knowledgeable as possible at all times. The work we do is far too important for it to be otherwise.

Then again, what do I know?

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