Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind

“Through imagination, we can visualize the uncreated worlds of potential that lie within us.”  —Stephen R. Covey

Habit Two: Begin With The End In Mind is a principle of power unique to humans. In an article posted in Psychology Today, titled: The Power of ‘Then’: The Uniquely Human Capacity to Imagine Beyond the Present, we learn that, as far as scientists can tell, humans are the only creatures who have developed the ability to conceive of the future—to live outside of the now and consider “then.” To do so requires immense imagination. No other creature alive is capable of worrying about tomorrow in quite the same way as humans.

Because humans do worry about tomorrow and all of the tomorrows that follow, we ask ourselves what we can do today to make tomorrow better. Over time, we develop the amazing traits of sacrifice and delayed gratification. We learn to work today so we can enjoy the rewards of that work tomorrow.

We envision. We plant. We harvest. Everything around us that isn’t part of the natural world began as a spark of insight in a human’s mind—a spark that transcended the present and projected itself upon an imagined future.

Stephen Covey teaches that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation. This is clearly evident in the process of building a home. You envision what your ideal home will be and you take that vision to the architect. Together you work through each minute detail of the house until you have the perfect blueprint. That’s creation number one. Now you simply need to hand that blueprint over to a competent contractor, and your home will be created again with wood, brick, and mortar.

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”    —Stephen R. Covey

You’ll find wonderful success as you apply this principle to the daily projects, tasks, and goals you encounter, but you can take this habit further. When your life story is distilled down to an epitaph, what do you want it to say about you? If you begin each day with that end in mind, how will you approach the tasks in front of you? Are the relationships you’re fostering consistent with your desired end? It makes you think, doesn’t it? So how do you implement Habit Two into your daily life?

It starts with a vision.

Chances are you already have a vision of what you hope to become, the talents you want to develop, and the influence you’d like to have on your family and friends. It’s already inside you, but it comes and goes in the form of great ideas, strong desires, hopes, and dreams. It’s like unorganized matter floating around in your mind. In order for this vision to undergo its first creation, you need to define it in detail.

The best way to do that is with pen and paper, and your Franklin Planner just happens to be full of paper. Take the time to write your first creations in your planner—the values that matter most to you, your long-term goals relating to the various roles you play, and your personal mission statement. These are all leadership decisions—dealing with direction, not policy, so your first creation is leadership. You can deal with management later.

Habit Two is not concerned with how you will accomplish your dream. Instead, it focuses on the dream itself and why it’s important. The leader within you surveys the landscape of your possibilities and determines where you’re going to go. Your first creation is the script you choose to follow. If you don’t take time to write that script, you’ll find that you’re playing a subversive role in someone else’s story. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t play a subversive role to others from time to time, but be sure that you do so by choice.

“Leadership is lacking in our personal lives. We’re into managing with efficiency, setting and achieving goals before we have even clarified our values.” – Stephen R. Covey

Start today to establish your governing values. Write a list of everything you hold dear—the people in your life, the talents you possess and hope to improve, your knowledge and skills, your income, your beliefs, all of it. Then prioritize each item by what you’d be willing to sacrifice to keep it. Those things, for which you’d sacrifice the most, are your highest priorities. With those priorities firmly established you can chart a far more accurate course toward personal happiness.

After all, in the words of Stephen Covey: The last thing you want to do is spend your life climbing the ladder of success only to find when you’ve reached the top that your ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.

 

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