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What Can “The Art of War” Teach You About Planning?

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By Sofia Sibila | 27th August, 2022

What is the Art of War?

The art of war is a book that received a lot of appreciation. Being embraced in the business and military world, it is considered an essential read for a person seeking success. Could there be a book better to help you, a student, with the best planning strategies? Maybe, but this famous book has crucial lessons which will be covered in this article. Let’s go!

This book has “Chapters” that explain each stage of a war, full of short rules to follow. We’ll be covering the first rules related to the initial planning of a war. But first, let us better understand the importance of planning.

We may think that students should plan just their school's duties, but that's not right! You can define goals for each subject or plan out a way to equilibrate your hobbies with school. Again, we plan for victory, and if victory means being able to do what you love and do well in school, you're not stuck at boring study tables! That is another “importance” of planning; by planning, we question what we want and we see our goals with a different set of eyes.

By planning you aren’t just perpetuating perfection, but you’re better understanding what you have to do. To be victorious it is necessary to be ready for whatever’s in your path, and by planning you can prepare yourself for the unexpected.

“The one who does not carry out any planning will have little chance of victory”
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Five Fundamental Objects To Meditate On While Planning

Sun Tzu said in his book there were five fundamental objects to meditate on while planning, these are:

  • Tao: It is what makes the people at harmony with their chief, ready to follow him wherever he goes.
  • Time: It is described as the flowing change of everything around us (Yin and Yang and the change of seasons).
  • Terrain: a physical place, stressing the difficulties in getting there and the differences between your initial position and where you’ll be.
  • Command: all the values you may have, such as wisdom, honesty, benevolence, courage, and severity.
  • Discipline: The organization of the army.

Let us understand what each one of these objects means in our lives and ask ourselves the hard questions.

💡While reading the next paragraphs, try to relate the text to your life, if possible. You can do that by choosing something you need to plan and relate to these questions!

Tao (The Way)

In this context, Tao is the harmony between the chief and the people. The chief needs the people to support him because his force as a leader can only be achieved when he has someone to lead.

We can interpret this as ourselves being the chief and the people being all that is within our reach. No matter how much potential we have, we need control of our bodies, emotions, and abilities to develop something amazing! (You do not need to be in 100% over control of your body, just enough to do what you want to.)

It depends a lot on your context, so ask yourself: What do I need to have more control over to be able to succeed? What do I need not just to have potential but to act too?

Tao is all about communication.


This one is not the time we usually think of and it is certainly not related to time management. Rather, this time represents the permanent chances you and your surroundings will experience. It’s a classic saying that “everything is permanently changing and nothing is forever”.

Ask Yourself: How do I react to change? How can I learn to adapt to the changes in my life? What is the worst change that can happen?

Time is all about change.


Terrain could be all the unforeseen surprises that may come through our journey as students. How do you think you can prepare yourself for the unexpected?
In my opinion, the best way to prepare yourself for what you're not expecting is to work on what you're weaker in. Our minds are essential but stupidly weak sometimes, so I guess this is a good place to start.

Having awareness of everything that can come to hand and saving it somewhere for later can prove to be very useful. It may be a video on certain study hacks, a book that makes you happy, or a hobby. Listing your problems from the past can show you what you should work on in the future. It’s essential to have a way to keep advancing yourself while you're able to.

Terrain is all about preparation.


Command is about understanding yourself and what lessons are useful for you. It is important to have principles and stick to them. By knowing what you believe in and what you want is easier to find the strength to persist.

Write down what you want your life to be like and ask yourself: Do you want to be less anxious? Do you want to finally finish a project of yours? Do you want to be someone better? What do you think you’re good at? What do you think you could work on?

Command is all about your values.


We need enough discipline to get up and live, to sit down and study, and to say no. By being able to restrict your life you’ll be able to have the liberty to do whatever you want.

There is a video talking about habits that would be a great cue to start thinking about yourself (The video can help! Stick to the end to get the link). Ask Yourself: Do you feel enough control over yourself to do whatever you want? If not, how can you do it?

Discipline is all about order.


These five objects should help you to plan with a broader perspective and then be able to conquer victory easier than before (apart from being enlightened by this knowledge). These attributes can be somehow considered in all areas of your life to help. There is a lot more about planning to dive into, but for now, I hope you had the opportunity to view things with a different perspective. If so, good luck in conquering victory!

If you need extra help for the previous step, check out the video below about habits and my other article about habits as well!

Click here to watch The Video

Don't you ever forget: keep going, there is always a wonderful opportunity at your doorstep ;)

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