Begin with the End in Mind
This post first appeared on my http://sampathd.blogspot.com blog on January 20, 2006.
It has been sometime since I read this chapter. To be honest now I am in the 4th chapter of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I got so caught up with reading, and other tasks, I intentionally skipped writing this article.
The basic idea presented in this chapter is about going through each day with an idea of where we want to be ultimately. But, for most of us, this idea about the ultimate destination is not clear.
How many of us go through life with a clear goal? How many of us have a clear vision? Do we spend each day doing things that move us closer to these objectives, or are we really moving away from them? Are we really clear about what we want from our lives? Or are we living lives that are being scripted by our upbringing, society and environment?
Covey starts the chapter with a high impact visualization exercise. He wants the user to imagine going to a funeral. And when you walk in and see the coffin, it is you who is lying in the coffin. It is your own funeral that you have come to. And there are four speeches to be made, one by your family, one by a friend, one by a colleague, and the last speaker from community or church. The basic question asked is, what do you want them to say? What character do you want them to see in you? The second question is, are you living your life that way?
With this powerful understanding, Covey drives into us the impact of living each day with that end in mind. Have this as the frame of reference to all the activities that we do each day. So each day will be spent in a meaningful way towards achieving that vision. Well at least, it won’t violate that vision.
There is another important factor. IF we are to know where we want to go, and to plan the means to achieve it, we have to figure out where we are. So the first understanding is to understand where we are now. By knowing that, we can figure out the direction that we need to step into. To borrow Covey’s analogy, you don’t want to be busy climbing a ladder, just to discover after reaching the top that the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall. This is the difference in efficiency (speed that you climb) and effectiveness (the wall the ladder is leaning against). Efficiency without effectiveness can be catastrophic. And Covey’s argument is, we can only be truly effective, when we begin with the end in mind. As it says in Alice in Wonderland, if it doesn’t matter where you are going, then any road will do.
This is also the difference between leadership and management. Leadership is determining the right thing to do. Management is doing that thing right. We should think about effective leadership and efficient management.
For this principle of beginning with the end in mind to be practical, we have to understand that all things are created twice. That is, first it is created in the mind, then physically.
How many of us, go over and over a plan or a blueprint, before we actually build a house. Visualizing over and over again. But do we do the same with our lives? Don’t you think, if the house we are going to build requires that level of attention to design, doesn’t our lives deserve more? The funny part is, if we do not design our lives consciously, we will be living a life handed down to us by default. When we let life go on, without actually taking charge of it, we are living the life as designed and handed down to us, by others. So whether the first design was ours or not, what we are is the result of that first result!
To design our own life, we need to develop our self awareness, imagination and conscience. We need these human capabilities to design our lives, so the second creation will be the way we wanted it.
So, the golden question is, how do we write our own script in life? We have to use the human capabilities of self-awareness, imagination and conscience. Through self-awareness, we are aware of our own capabilities and limitations. Through imagination we have the ability to create in our minds, things that are yet to be realized, our potential. Through conscience we can develop the personal guidance needed in achieving our potential.
In the process of writing our own script, we will come face to face with scripts that are being handed down to us, which are limiting us and are ineffective. The realization of such limitations in itself will act as powerful paradigm shifts. When such ineffective scripts are discovered, we are able to respond by choosing write new scripts that are more congruent with our values and principles, which are more effective and is in harmony with our self.
So, what is the best way to make sure that we spend each passing day, minute, second with the end in mind? Covey suggests that we write a personal mission statement. You can call this your life’s philosophy or your creed, but name not withstanding, it will be the guiding framework for you, like a constitution is the framework for a country. This mission statement will focus on what you want to be, your character and what you want to do and the values and principles upon which everything else will be evaluated.
Our mission statements should flow from the center of our circle of influence. This center is the collection of our most basic paradigms. Covey equals this to the lens through which we see the world. This center comprises of the most basic principles that we uphold and our values. It is through this center that we derive our sense of security, guidance, wisdom and power.
Covey describes 10 such centers; namely: spouse, family, money, work, possession, pleasure, friend and enemy. And he provides guidance on how we can identify our centers by describing how each center derives the sense of security, guidance, wisdom and power. And usually, from time to time we fluctuate from one center to another.
But, all of these centers have a flaw. We are allowing external factors to influence our sense of security, guidance, wisdom and power. The ideal center should be one that of principles. Then, our lives are built on a foundation that is solid and more permanent than the other centers.
And finally, Covey gives more guidance on writing the personal mission statement and using it throughout our lives. I hope to discuss that in another posting because I believe that in itself is worthy of its own posting.
NOTE: Reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has had a tremendous impact on how I see life and how I view my relationships. It has helped me identify my flaws and helped me to look at life in a different perspective. I see life in a more meaningful way now. As I read along and as I keep applying the underlying theory and practices into my life, I am sure that I will derive even deeper meaning out of life. I hope it will help you out as well.