My five-year-old nephew beats me at cards sometimes. We play “War.” We face off and flip cards. The player with the higher card wins. We keep going until one of us has all the cards. It is completely random and involves no decisions, and therefore no strategy. He wins sometimes. I win sometimes.

Contrast this with chess. Chess is all decisions and no random chance. In fact, each turn a player might have to choose from six good moves.. That means over the course of a typical game, a player would make 1077 decisions. That is roughly the number of particles in the observable universe.

Where there are decisions, there can be strategy.

Think about your business or your life in general; is it more like war or more like chess?

Unless you are in a coma, your life is a lot more like chess.The average adult makes around 35,000 conscious decisions each day.

But despite the fact that life is made up of an infinite number of decisions, most people approach it on autopilot, turning over card after card, without an effective strategy.

What’s your process for building an effective plan to help you achieve your goals?

You might already have this dialed in, but what I’ve learned through almost seven years as a leadership coach is that almost everybody is just winging it. We  spend huge amounts of effort going after what we want, but because there is little focus and not much of a plan, we end up getting frustrated, burning out, and settling for something less.

Strategy is a force multiplier. It makes everything work better.

One of the most valuable results of coaching with me is that my clients become strategic thinkers. They learn principles and processes they can apply in any situation.

Here are three of the most effective and simple strategic behaviors:

1. Ask more questions. Strategy requires curiosity. Start asking a lot more questions to get clear on exactly what is going on and what you want to happen next.

“What exactly is our goal with this and how are we going to measure success?”

“What are the likely causes of failure?”

“Who has already solved a similar problem that we could learn from?”

“What’s the one thing that is causing the biggest problem.”

2. Test your assumptions. Every plan starts out as a guess. We never know for certain what is going to happen in the future. Building a rigid plan that requires everything to go your way in order for it to succeed is a waste of time. The best strategic thinkers build a plan, then    go execute the first steps and test the results. Based on the actual results, they adjust the plan and the next steps.

3. Learn from others. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Even if you ARE attempting something nobody has ever done before, somebody has done something similar. Go talk to people you know who have already figured your problem out. Don’t know anybody? Cool, go read books    and articles written by people who have already solved your problem. Go get help.

Stop just turning over cards day after day. Ask more questions, test your assumptions, learn from others. The effort you put into an intentional strategy is time well spent.

It’s your move, what area of your life would really benefit from a better strategy?