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Begin with the End in Mind

By Reverend Molly Cameron

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind.

Habit 2 has to do with what Dr. Covey calls First Creation.

Everything is created twice, first in the imagination, and then in real life. We are responsible for the first creation. The designer of a chair spends time in quiet mind, melding design with practicality to come up with a blueprint for this creation of chair. She also has values in mind for this mental creation. She might say, “This chair I’m designing needs to be utilitarian, able to be folded or stacked.” Or, “this chair needs to be comfortable and large enough for big people.” She has the end in mind for this chair.

We use this habit all the time; often, however, we are not conscious of what we’re doing, so we work from old scripts, recreating the same patterns, the same experiences, the same relationships. It’s only when we consciously dream a different idea that we break old mental habits and start creating the lives we love to lead.

Although this habit can be applied to any worthy goal, Dr. Covey doesn’t mess around — he actually means begin with the End in mind, and that’s with a capital E End. In the book he gives us this exercise to do, and I encourage you to actually do this — you’ll be surprised what comes out of it.

He suggests that you take 30 minutes of quiet time, eyes closed, and imagine that you are going to a funeral. If you’d like to do a short version right now, feel free to close your eyes, and imagine yourself driving your car to the chapel or funeral home. You park the car, and walk in past a large group of people who are talking about the one who has died. You feel the loss of this person, and the love that remains with those in the room. As you approach the casket you see that it is indeed your funeral.

There are four speakers at your memorial: one from your family, one is a good friend, the third is from your work or profession, and the fourth is from your church, or spiritual home. Now think deeply; what would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you like them to remember? What difference have you made in their lives?

If you do this, you will have gotten a picture of some of your deepest, most fundamental values. You’ve just touched the deepest part of yourself; in Covey’s words, you “established brief contact with that inner guidance system at the heart of your Circle of Influence.” 

You’ve created the End in Mind. You’ve identified whom you have come here to be, AND, the values that you hold dear are how you get there. Your values are your compass to get you there. How many here have a GPS in your car?  Why?  So you don’t get lost! Living your values guarantees that you won’t get lost along the way to your destination.

I just saw a great movie that teaches this lesson. How to Train Your Dragon 2 — who saw it? OK, here’s the story. It takes place in the world of Vikings, and the people are plagued with fire-breathing dragon attacks killing and destroying the villages. All of the villages want their skies to be free of impending danger. They don’t want to have to wake up every day in fear and dread for their lives and the lives of their children. They all had the same End in Mind – their skies free from the danger of dragons. 

Two villages in particular had this end in mind, and chose to be proactive and do something about it. So they began working in their Circles of Influence — what could they do to achieve this end of freedom from dragon threat? That’s where values come into play. These two villages had very different values guiding them. One village valued safety and security above all, and decided that dragons were the enemy and set out to capture and conquer them, to make them submit to rule. They inflicted misery on the animals, believing that was the best way to achieve their ends.

Another village also valued safety; however, they also valued friendship and love. They recognized that they could actually partner with the dragons and live in harmony and peace, making true friends out of them. You see how we can have the same End in Mind, but approach it very differently! Oh, I tell you, things got rough as dragons fought dragons. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but heck, it’s a kids film, so you can guess.

There is a first creation for every part of our lives. It’s created in the mind and heart as a blueprint for our becoming. Taking charge of the process of first creation is critical to our success. It’s the first step in taking the leadership role in our own lives.

Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, both business gurus, tell us: Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Dr. Covey adds: Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. 

We are all climbing a ladder of success, whether it’s as successful parents, or spouses, or success in our work or friendships. When we practice Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind, we are making sure the ladder is taking us where we really want to go.

Dr. Covey writes: Because I am self-aware, because I have imagination and conscience, I can examine my deepest values. I can realize that the script I’m living is not in harmony with those values, that my life is not the process of my own proactive design, but the result of the first creation I have deferred to circumstances and other people. And I can change. I can live out of my imagination instead of my memory. I can tie myself to my limitless potential instead of my limiting past. I can become my own first creator.

A critical part of this process is recognizing what is at the center of your life. Whatever is at the center of your life will be the source of your security, guidance, wisdom, and power. Each of us has one, although we might not recognize it as such. Here are a few you might recognize:

Spouse-centered. If your sense of emotional worth comes primarily from your partner, you are likely very dependent upon that relationship, and vulnerable to the moods, behaviors and treatment of that person. 

Family-centered. If your sense of security or personal worth comes from family, family tradition and culture, you are vulnerable to any changes in that culture or tradition.  

 Money-centered. Economic security is basic and puts aside family or other priorities, assuming everyone will understand that economic demands come first. 

Work-centered. One’s fundamental identity comes from what one does. Because identity and self-worth are wrapped up in work, one is vulnerable to anything that that happens to prevent that work from happening.

Possession-centered. A driving force of not only material possessions, but also intangible ones such as fame, glory or social prominence.

Pleasure-centered. We live in and depend upon a world of instant gratification.

Friend/Enemy-centered. We define ourselves by either whom we hang out with or whom we hate. 

Self-Centered. This is the most common center today. Covey likens self-centeredness to the Dead Sea — it accepts and never gives out and it is stagnant.

None of these centers give us what we really need — security, guidance, wisdom or power. These are all volatile, and change in any of these centers results in our personal upset. However, if we become principle-centered, we root ourselves in timeless, unchanging principles that help us withstand the vicissitudes of life.  Principle-centeredness means standing apart from the emotion of any situation and evaluating the options in order to come up with the best solution to any problem. It means taking into account the long-term, the End in Mind, engaging with personal values, and acting from a solid, balanced, center.

Covey opens the chapter with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes that I’ll leave you with today: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  PracticingHabit 2: Begin with the End in Mind is the beginning of this great inward adventure.

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