Silly idea. People don’t need to plan screw-ups. They get plenty of experience at it. But you can get more out of screw-ups by planning. Start by knowing what you are dealing with.

What is a screw-up? It is when things are not working out the way you intended. And you are going to have to fix things or give up, And you sort of feel it is your fault. Some examples:

Make a resolution. Break it.
Miss a deadline.
Make a promise and fail to keep it.
Be late for an appointment
Run into a problem you could have prepared for and didn’t.

An effective screw-up is one that you recover from and learn something from.

How do you plan for screw-ups? Start with people you know. You probably already plan for screw-ups by some people you know. You don’t plan for them to happen. You plan to cope with them.

Think about somebody you know. Somebody who sets goals: a resolution, a project, an appointment, or a promise. A person who sometimes screws up on these things. Imagine this person working on a specific goal.

STOP HERE! You can’t read and imagine. So stop reading. Rest your eyes. Imagine. Run a story in your head. (Remember that stuff you read about right brain thinking? Well, it’s sort of true, but you won’t get much out of it by reading.)

Unscrewing questions. Now check yourself on the story.

1. How many screw-ups did you see? Run through the story again and count.

2. How many possibilities for screw-ups did you see? Imagine again and count.

3. How many ways of bouncing back did you see? Imagine again and count.

4. Did you notice any pattern about where screw-ups are most likely?
Do this a few more times if you like. You may find some useful ideas about working with people who screw-up. When you are satisfied that you are familiar with what’s wrong with other people, think about similar experiences that you have had. Pick one and answer the same questions. If you like the results, do that a few more times. It builds self-confidence.

Once you are comfortable with imagining effective screw-ups, pick a goal you might want to think about. Imagine carrying it out. Then answer those unscrewing questions again. If you actually decide to target that goal, make a note of the answers. Put the note where you will see it often. Check it. Ask yourself how good you are at predicting the future.

You can reuse this trick as often as you want. But don’t mention it to other people unless you are bothered by their screw-ups.

Author's Bio: 

Selby Evans was formerly Professor of Psychology at Texas Christian University and an independent consultant in behavioral research. He retired some years ago. Not yet having attained the age of senility, he now provides consulting to the Applied Cognitive Research Lab at Texas Christian University and maintains a website,, intended to disseminate the findings of applied cognitive research to people interested in self-improvement, self-growth, and self-direction. He also maintains a blog at