On to Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind! – as befitting of the end of another year, haha.
Covey literally begins the chapter with the end, i.e. by asking us to imagine our own funeral.
No of course no one is wishing for your early death, but if you’re superstitious, just grab a wooden thingy and hold tightly on to it.
Similar to how every chapter of a textbook has intended outcomes at the end, what kind of outcomes do we envisage at the end of our life? What kind of person/friend/daughter/sibling/student/colleague do we want to be remembered as? What do we want them to feel about us, about our character, personality, achievements, and so on? What difference do we want to make in the lives of people around we?
To “Begin with the End in Mind” is to begin everyday with the paradigm (of the end of our life) as the frame of reference, criterion, or context by which everything else is examined and evaluated, of what really matters most to us. Knowing our purpose/goal in life allows us to better understand where we are now so that the things we do are always in the right direction, contributing to that deeper meaning, instead of empty successes that come at the expense of more valuable things.
In light of our mission and goals, we need to clearly define what we want to accomplish – not merely restricted to life goals but also long and short term goals. How can we best accomplish these things?
Before we delve into the core advice of this message, let us remind ourselves that we write our own script (see Habit 1). We should always act of our own will instead of subjugating to others’ expectations and demands. Same things Habit 1: don’t let our environment and circumstances shackle us to a certain behaviour, attitude or mindset.
Having our own personal mission statement (something like a constitution, the foundation of our self/being) that focuses on what we want to be (character) and to do (achievements and contributions), and the values/principles upon which being and doing are based. With this direction clarified and established, our decisions, short and long term goals, and how we deal with challenges will be based on these values. We can be better proactive, value-driven, and act with integrity instead of reacting to the emotion or circumstance.
To begin, we first have to identify our centre.
There are many centres we are individually biased towards, such as spouse, family, work, money, possession, pleasure, friend, enemy, church, or self-centredness. Our centres frame our worldviews. If we are money- centred for example, we tend to base our decisions of buying this or that in terms of their financial benefits and costs, instead of its viability or sustainability. Our centres fundamentally define the basis of our motivations, decisions, actions and inactions, and interpretation of events.
At the intersection, a principle centre is what we should ideally work towards. A principle-centred person views the situation holistically as a balanced whole (e.g. work needs, family needs, etc.) and the possible implications of other alternatives (think opportunity cost and priorities).
Of course, finding our meaning in life is dayum hard okay. I also feel as though I’m living this aimless life, that I think even clouds scudding across the sky has more worth and aim than myself. But before I start to rant, Covey provides this simple guideline for us to start, alongside the questions he posed at the beginning of Habit 2:
Who do you want to be remembered as? What achievements or contributions do you want which group of people around you to recognise?
As mentioned, having a personal mission statement can guide us and give us a sense of direction on how we direct our lives. On writing a personal mission statement: 1) look at your professional, personal, community roles; 2) what are the values that should guide you?; 3) Identify the long term goals you want to achieve in each of these areas – the goals which reflect your deepest values, unique talent, and sense of mission.
What kind of life do you want to fondly reminisce as you near your end?
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