Recently, a group of colleagues and I began reading and discussing Stephen Covey’s classic book and workbook, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Now what came about from our initial meeting was the realization of just how ineffective many of us were. Some of us may have even thought we were fairly productive and balanced. But when confronted with our bad habits, the reality was undeniable.
Naturally, I can only speak for myself here. I know my flaws. I know my distractions. (I’ve written about them extensively in this blog, so clearly I’m aware.) But awareness doesn’t always do the trick. I need a kick in the ass every now and then. And I especially appreciate when it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.
I’ve got to say, I’m with Covey on this one. It’s time that we all use our valuable time much more effectively.
So right at the start, one of his messages hit me hard. It’s this concept of beginning with the end in mind. This is nothing new, right? We should always know where we’re going before we get started, or we’ll get lost along the way. Or worse, we’ll forget the goal entirely. Of course that makes a lot of good sense.
But admittedly, I’m not that great at this whole begin with the end in mind business. I tend to set my sights severely low, perfecting that one thing like there won’t be any others. So my end in mind is never quite the actual end. Instead it’s a big step or milestone along the way. And once the step is taken, all motivation is lost. After all, I never planned on what comes next. So I feel done.
Here’s an example. I’m currently studying for a certification exam. The exam is hard. How do I know? Because I’ve already failed it once. So, I’m giving it another go, but this time with a little more umph. What should my end in mind be?
[raises hand] To pass the test?
Wrong! No! No! No! Passing the test isn’t the ultimate success! Although, it is a huge one. Passing is great and relieving and all those good things, and I’m sure it will be incredibly useful in my career. But until I get some opportunities as a result of that certification, I’m still on the journey. Passing is just another step, just like signing up to take it (twice) was.
But let me not discredit these wins. Battle wins still count for something. They mark our progress. They’re great reminders of how far we’ve come. I believe they should be celebrated. We should take a moment to breath and acknowledge what we’ve manage to accomplish. Because the battles are damn hard too. So pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.
Then get back to work. You’re not at the end, are you? Getting a certification, running one lap of a mile, starting a blog, or even getting your degree wasn’t it, right? There’s more to your story, isn’t there? This can’t be the end of the road, can it?
I didn’t think so.
So I’d like to propose a new challenge for us – inspired by Covey, of course. See further! Rid yourself of limitations. Be greater! Eliminate all doubt.
The end in mind is the bigger picture. It’s the healthy retirement fund, or your final student loan payment. It’s completing the marathon, or reaching your goal weight. It’s the point of no return, with no more battles, and no more setbacks. It’s maintenance mode. This is where we’re actually done. And the best part is, we get to paint our own personal bigger pictures right from the beginning.
Let’s see further. Let’s be greater. Let’s begin with the end in mind. Let’s go.