Stephen Covey gets our attention in Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind when he fast forwards to our funeral. There we see loved ones and friends and listen to what they have to say about our life. Are we going to like what we hear?
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, had a similar message in his 2010 Princeton University commencement speech. After sharing a valuable lesson learned asked the graduates to fast forward the years.
“I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story…”
Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People describes the habits of effective people. And, he describes how to layout a personal map that assures alignment between our life’s ambitions and daily choices. This is the third article in the series. And, if you haven’t already you are encouraged to start with the first article here ”The 7 Habits’ Powerful and Timeless Lessons.”
Balancing Different Roles
You have different roles in life. Maybe you are a spouse, parent, and employee, or business person. Maybe you’re a student, a mentor, volunteer, and a neighbor. Since each role is essential, how do we give each one the appropriate amount of our attention? How do we keep from getting absorbed in one at the expense of another?
Has your workload taken priority over your family or health? Will your children remember your sports activities or the time spent with them? Will your spouse remember you for your career or the love you gave them?
The problem is we get caught up with the urgent, the trending, and unimportant at the expense of the things that matter. That’s Covey and Bezos message; you need to focus on what is important so things don’t deviate from the incredible ambitions for you and your loved ones.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind shows us how to start writing our own story. A story that reflects our deepest values and allows us to live by the principles that give our life meaning. And, to become all that we can be.
Let’s choose where we want to end up, envision our True Wealth, and decide how to get there. That way, there will be no regrets because in the end its your definition of success. And, not the script that was given to you by others.
How can you begin with the end in mind? Let’s dive in.
Habit 2 is the principle of personal leadership and is about doing the right thing. Next, in Habit 3: Put First Things First, we’ll discuss doing things right. Covey explains the difference:
“You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.
The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies, and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.
The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!”
But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We’re making progress.”
Personal leadership is lacking in our lives if we live scripts handed to us by others. It’s easy to do because that is what we first learn, and adopting those scripts gives us their acceptance, their love, and a feeling of worth.
There is not necessarily anything wrong with that provided the scripts are consistent with what we value in life. As our self-awareness develops, and we consciously begin with the end in mind, we assure the scripts we live by are what we value.
Reactively adopted scripts without examination may be rooted in dependency, insecurity, or vulnerability. The stakes are too high to do this by default.
The principle of Personal Leadership recognizes that what we value in life must come first to create your vision of True Wealth, to write your own story. And it must be your design.
We already live with the scripts handed to us so, Covey calls this process re-scripting. It is changing some of the underlying paradigms we already have.
We can do this because of self-awareness, imagination, and conscience through which we can visualize the potential that lies within us.
Our conscience enables us to combine principles, talents, and goals and develop them to become all that we can be.
Covey uses the example of how Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, realized he was leading his country down the wrong road. He dared to re-script himself and his nation. In doing so, Sadat “realized that real success is success with self. It’s not in having things, but in having mastery, having victory over self.”
Personal Mission Statement
We can have the same victory with a vision of the end in mind, and a compass to help get us there. The vision is what you want to be, your character, defined in a personal mission statement.
The compass is the set of principles to guide us over the unknown roads we travel through life. Also, it is an inner compass to use as we make our judgments along the way.
Covey says the personal mission statement “becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making major, life-directing decisions, the basis for making daily decisions amid the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives. It empowers individuals with the same timeless strength in the midst of change.”
Your mission reflects your vision and values; it defines your True Wealth. And, it provides the standard against which you can direct and measure the most effective use of your time and talent.
Writing Your Personal Mission Statement
To begin, start at the very center of your Circle of Influence, whatever that is in your life that resonates with you. At the center of our life are the four interdependent factors of security, guidance, wisdom, and power.
- Security represents your sense of worth, self-esteem, and personal strength.
- Guidance is your source of direction in life, the internal frame of reference that interprets what happens, and the standards that govern your decisions.
- Wisdom is perspective: your sense of balance, how principles apply and relate, and judgment and comprehension to bring wholeness.
- Power is the ability to act and the strength to accomplish something. It’s the energy to make decisions and the capacity to overcome bad habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.
Covey summarizes: “These four factors — security, guidance, wisdom, and power — are interdependent…present together, harmonized and enlivened by each other, they create the great force of a noble personality, a balanced character, a beautifully integrated individual.”
Your mission statement may take weeks to write before you have a finished product. But, if you make it an expression of your values and directions, it will inspire you.
As you look at it over time, don’t be surprised as life’s experiences bring new insights and eventually nudge you to change your mission a little.
“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” – Viktor E. Frankl
Example Personal Mission Statement
I’ll use my Personal Mission Statement as an example. However, a Google search will find many excellent examples and websites to help you write your own.
Mine was first written almost three decades ago. And it was revised every ten years or so as I experienced and learned more. Surprisingly for me, the revisions were relatively minor and more cosmetic than substantial.
I started merely thinking about where I was back then and where I wanted to go. Then I followed Covey’s suggestions and read others’ mission statements for inspiration.
My Personal Mission Statement
I am going to use the time and talent God has given me to provide for my family’s happiness and security. I will be the best person and role model I can be to help prepare my children for life. I’ll encourage them to love, laugh, learn, and grow through their unique talents.
I’ll serve others by obeying God while continuously seeking His renewal. I will help others by connecting with them in a positive and meaningful way. And I will strive to be a reflection of His light on the path of those who have yet to find Him.
I value my personal freedom of choice and the right to exercise that freedom. I am a product of my decisions, not my conditions. So, I will not allow the present circumstances or past conditioning to determine my response to the opportunities and challenges I face.
I’ll be an honest, kind, courageous, and happy person who is respectful of others and try positively to influence those around me. I will accept responsibility for my life, take risks, learn from my mistakes, and look forward to continually growing and learning. I will have no regrets, and with God’s help, I will graduate from this life with honors.
Is this the person others see in me? I hope they see some of it, but they don’t always. The point is we are all a work-in-progress as we go through life. And, as we do life’s “work,” we make mistakes, learn lessons, and try to get better.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind is simply a message we’ve all heard before. “Think before you act.” That is especially true in this case where that act is your life.
What We Learned
- Highly effective people live a principle-centered life.
- Covey distilled those principles in “The 7 Habits.”
- The 7 Habits take us sequentially from dependence to independence to interdependence.
- Personal leadership is the first creation of your vision to do the right things.
- We re-examine the center of our life and identifying what is important.
- Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind, encourages you to define better what you want to become.
- A Personal Mission Statement is a guide to help ensure your daily activities align with your vision.
- Its center is the source of your security, guidance, wisdom, and power.
- Placing unimportant things outside prevents them from influencing and distracting you.
- A life centered on correct values creates the foundation for success and achieving True Wealth as defined by you.
Our next article on The 7 Habits of Very Effective People will be on Habit 3: Put First Things First.