Years ago, I heard a fantastic definition of luck: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Observations through the years have taught me that this is largely true. While there are some people who have achieved success accidently, this is not the common rule.

Over the years, I have had the privilege to get to know many successful people. Some have been clients, while others are people I have sought to get to know so I could learn from them.

Based on my rather small sample size, my conclusion is that most of the time—in fact, nearly all the time—success is the result of deliberate plans and actions that people take. Successful people are successful because they are willing to plan and do things that less successful people are unwilling to do. While temporary success may find a few truly lucky people, over the long term, people whose success is based on luck tend to falter badly in difficult times.

Planning is essential to achieving success in your personal life and your business life.

First, it is critical that you keep the big picture in mind. The best plan in the world will not make you successful if you pick the wrong industry at the wrong time. Similarly, if you want to start a new time-consuming hobby, you are not likely to be successful if you are also trying to be a successful parent of young children.

Timing is important. Your success at changing the direction of your life or starting a new endeavor can be strongly impacted by the timing of your decision. When going through your decision process, think about how your decisions will affect the people that you love.

Additionally, make sure that your goals and plans line up with your talents and passions. Be realistic about evaluating whether or not you have the gifts to be successful as you take on your new challenge. True success in any endeavor requires a significant level of talent and expertise. We live and work in a competitive world. If you are going to succeed in a profession or activity, you must have the skill and drive necessary to achieve excellence.

Whether you are launching a new business, getting ready for a career change or even starting a new hobby, creating a written plan is essential to your success. Your plan should be realistic and comprehensive. Your planning document should match the complexity of your goal. A plan for getting a new job probably only needs to be a few pages long. If you are starting a new hobby, perhaps your whole plan can be jotted down on a piece of note paper or a task list on your phone.

However, if you are starting a new business, you probably need a 5-15-page business plan that starts with the market and explains your business idea. The plan should describe clearly your competitive advantage. It should explain the resources that you need for your business including people, capital expenditures, and operating expenses. It should include a simple financial model that shows how you will make money and how much capital you will need to get the business started. Lastly, you will need a detailed sales and marketing plan that explains what you will do to get people to buy your product or service.

As an example of a planning process, allow me to share the course of action that I have been using to work through the decision to take up bicycling as a hobby.

The process started with an invitation from a long-time friend to go bike riding early on a Saturday morning. I really enjoyed the experience. While we were riding, I recalled how many times I had thought about starting to get into serious bicycling through the years. I also recalled how much I had enjoyed riding my bike as a teenager in the Creve Coeur area.

When we were finished our ride on that Saturday morning, I began asking my friend a series of questions about the sport. I learned where he rides and what kind of bikes are best for different types of riding. I quizzed him on what type of bike he had and why he had decided to purchase that particular type of bike. I also asked about how he liked the bike rack he had on his car and if he would get that kind of bike rack again. Further, I inquired about where he purchased his bike, and would he buy from that store again.

Obligingly, he also offered counsel on things I did not know enough to ask about. For example, he mentioned that his bike has disk brakes which means that you can stop if you are out in light rain since disk brakes work when they are wet.

When I returned home, I made notes from our conversation. I started to put together a list of things related to my possible pursuit of bike riding. I began to research on the internet. I started reading articles about different types of bikes. I also started a list of questions for my first visit to a bike store.

This process helped me confirm that this was a hobby that I wanted to pursue. As I did the research and worked on my plan over the next few days, I started to get excited about my new pursuit. My plan became more comprehensive as I started making notes about where and when I would ride. I spent time thinking about the benefits of taking up bike riding including more exercise, time with friends and time spent riding on bike trails in wooded areas where I could enjoy tranquility.

I also considered the costs both in terms of time and money. I thought about what other things I might need to give up if I committed to riding my bike a few times each week.

The planning process is preparing me for my new adventure. In fact, through the planning process, my new hobby has already started. In reflective moments, I pull out my list and modify it for new ideas. I also scratch off things that are completed or that I have discarded in favor of a better idea.

Sometime soon, I will purchase a bike and begin riding regularly. When that happens, it will be the final step in a process that has ensured that I know what I am getting into. My planning will allow me to begin this activity with confidence and enhance the chances that it is something I will enjoy and find rewarding for a long time.

The same process that I have outlined to pursue a new hobby also works for any significant life change that you want to make. Your planning process for finding a new job or starting a business will be far more complex, but it will include a similar process.

Taking the time to develop a comprehensive plan for new things in your life will allow you to “Be Lucky.” It will make you one of those fortunate few who are prepared for success when opportunities come your way.