So often we mention the importance of preparation without discussing what it means and what it entails. That's a mistake.

The definition of preparation varies from one person to the next; therefore it is possible to lack preparation from the very beginning of any process in one person's view, and to be totally prepared in another's. It happens all the time and it shouldn't - especially in team situations where individual preparation is key to the collective preparation of the team.

Merriam-Webster defines preparation as the following: 1 a: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action b: the act of looking forward; especially: pleasurable expectation.

Looking forward is anticipation. Because we are conditioned to think of preparation in terms of "levels," anticipation is often overlooked as a major component to being fully prepared. According to George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard, anticipation is an "adaptive mental mechanism." He defines anticipation as "the capacity to perceive future danger effectively as well as cognitively and by this means to master conflict in small steps" (Vaillant, 2000).

The concept of being fully prepared, for many, means the amount of time that you spend in preparation; physically, academically, or experientially. What about mentally? The greatest anticipation there is, is knowing what is likely to occur or what we are likely to experience in any conceivable situation or scenario.

From professional sports teams who spend hundreds of hours studying film of competing team's tendencies in order to better anticipate what they may do when they play them, to companies who conduct exhaustive background checks on executives to examine their past behavioral tendencies in an effort to anticipate how they will perform in a new position in the future, anticipation enhances and solidifies the aforementioned forms of preparation.

Though many reports say that 9-11 could have been prevented, the reality is that it occurred because it was not anticipated. Experience and imagination is the key to anticipation. The 9-11 attacks were both heinous and unimaginable. We were not prepared to defense such an attack simply because we could not imagine it. After the experience of 9-11, we are better prepared to prevent and defend such an attack because it is now within the realm of our imaginations, and thus can be anticipated. Our focus should now be on anticipating the next unimaginable attack.

Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, said that the most important part of coaching is getting the players prepared to anticipate any and every scenario that can arise in the scope of a game. No wonder his quarterback, Tom Brady, has been so effective at engineering wins in the waning moments of football games: he practices those scenarios.

But it was the New York Giant's quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Plaxico Burress who put in more time anticipating a last minute drive, capped off by their end zone throw-and-catch which won the game for them in the Super Bowl which effectively ended hopes of the Patriots completing what would have been the first perfect season - of any sports team - in history.

Announcers showed footage of the two rehearsing the winning play over, and over, and over again before the game which they showed when it ended. The Patriots did not get out played in their historic Super Bowl run; they were out anticipated.

Whether we are preparing for an interview, our first day on the job, a project, a venture, or for athletic competition, being able to anticipate any and every scenario that can arise which may pose a threat to our success or pleasurable expectations is vital.

If you lack experience, tapping into someone else's experience will enable you to better anticipate what you may encounter in a given situation or scenario. If you have experience, think imaginatively. What types of questions are least likely to be asked? Prepare for them. What type of circumstances are you least likely to face? Anticipate what you will do if you find yourself facing them. Once you do this instinctively, you will not only arrive at a higher level of preparation, but will step into a different dimension of preparation; one which others seldom enter.

Author's Bio: 

Gian Fiero is a speaker and author who lectures throughout the country.