In order to increase the likelihood for success in self-determination advance planning and preparation is necessary. We need to be able to take what we know about and value in ourselves and create an action plan. This involves setting long-term goals, breaking long-term goals into short-term goals, and breaking short-term goals into a series of steps that, when accomplished, will yield the desired result. In other words, we need to be able to see the BIG VISION and then create baby steps to get there.
Our plans are more likely to take us in a positive direction if we try to anticipate potential results of the actions we’re planning to take. One of the most frequently stated concerns about self-determination is that people, especially young people, may, in their efforts to be self-determined, engage in actions that are too risky. This concern can be partially alleviated by helping young people assume responsibility gradually, so that they begin by making the types of decisions that have less potential for negative impact before they start making decisions that carry a higher degree of risk. Another way that potential negative effects can be minimized is by identifying the potential negative consequences of actions while we are still in the planning phase of the self-determination process. If we think there may be negative consequences to a planned action, then we can decide whether we want to modify or discard our original plan or if we want to go ahead with our plan as it stands and take the risks.
Creativity is often needed when we are planning for self-determination. Sometimes self-determination doesn’t come easily; we may encounter significant challenges. Sometimes barriers can be broken down through persistence alone. However, being creative–“thinking outside the box”–can often help us discover unique strategies to get around barriers that persistence alone can’t overcome.
The final element in the planning component of the Self-Determination Action Model is visual rehearsal. We are more likely to be successful in our actions if we practice and imagine ourselves being successful as part of our preparation. Sports psychologists have long acknowledged the importance of athletes mentally rehearsing and imagining themselves succeeding before they compete. Rehearsal (actual physical practice, if possible, or, if not, in our imaginations) can help us become more comfortable with and confident about our planned actions.