The 2nd Habit of Highly Effective People: Begin with the End in Mind

Begin With the End in MindMany of us live very full, busy lives. Sometimes they can feel a little bit too full and busy! But are we busy with things that really matter to us or are we busy at the expense of what is most important?

Our society provides us with many goals that are seen as “important” and if people reach them, they are seen as “successful.” This includes finishing a degree, getting promoted at work, becoming a parent, being elected to a position, winning a competition, etc. But there are many people who work hard for years to reach a goal, only to feel a short burst of joy at achieving their goal, followed by a feeling of emptiness or “now what?”

It’s very easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life. There are many activities that take up our time, numerous demands and requests that are being placed on us by others and expectations that we may try to live up to. Or we may be using the busy-ness to escape something.

If we are busy with things that are truly meaningful and fulfilling to us (while still taking care of ourselves), that’s great. But if we are pursuing a goal just because we feel we are supposed to or have to, we will feel that something is missing.

Beginning with the end in mind means knowing where you are going, so the steps you take are going in the right direction. It means defining what is most important to YOU and pursuing YOUR definition of success. It involves creating a set of guiding principles so you can make choices about what you want to say ‘yes’ to and ‘no’ to.

How do we begin to do that?

You can simply start by asking yourself the following questions and writing down the answers.

  1. “What is important to me?” and “What’s meaningful to me?”
    It may be important to you to have a flexible job or to be financially secure or to be authentic. You may find spending quality time with my family and friends or teaching others or protecting the environment meaningful. Some things are important AND meaningful to us.
  2.  “What do I really love to do at work?” and “What do I really love to do in my personal life?”
    Maybe you enjoy researching different topics, organizing data, bringing together people, working in a team, coming up with new ideas, etc.
  3. If you had unlimited time and resources, what would you choose to do?
    Would you travel, start your own company, paint, rescue animals or do something completely different..?
  4. What do I consider to be my most important future contribution to others?
    Your contribution doesn’t have to touch tons of people or be grandiose in nature. What do you bring to the people around you?
  5. What are some possible life goals for you?
    Think about different roles you have in your life (as a co-worker, manager, wife/husband/partner, parent, daughter/son, sibling, teacher, coordinator, leader, volunteer, friend, etc.) What is your goal for each role?

Based on your answers, you can now write our own “What does success mean to me?” statement. (For more details, and to see the statement I came up with, read: What Does Success Mean to You?)

Steven Covey points out in his ”7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book: “How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters the most.”

It may take some practice to break our habit of living up to other people’s definition of success, but it is definitely changing the way I am making choices in my life. Will you live today according to what really matters the most to you?

Manuela loves helping smart and creative women bring more balance, happiness and success into their lives through Professional Life Coaching!

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