December 13, 2010

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

“To Begin with the End in Mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

"Covey's Second Habit"

The second habit of effectiveness, “Begin with the End in Mind,” is a favorite of mine. Covey points out how easy it is to get caught up in climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. Effectiveness doesn’t depend solely on how much effort we expend, but on whether we expend the effort on the right things—something I’ve tried to remember in my personal and professional life.

To be effective, we must first be self-aware and critically examine how we view others and ourselves. Then, we must imagine or visualize our life’s purpose, which must be centered on a core of unchanging, “correct” principles. Finally, we must bring it into physical being, guided by our conscience and values. Doing so successfully allows us to demonstrate personal leadership, which means we take control and responsibility for our own lives.

My involvement with charities is one example of how I’ve applied Habit 2. The core principles of family, community and philanthropy underpin a personal mission to help those who are less fortunate, to give back to the community and to inspire compassion in others.

According to Covey, developing just such a mission is one way to begin with the end in mind. It focuses us on what we want to be (character) and do (contributions and achievements) and on the principles that guide our being and doing. When we ensure every decision and action is congruent with that mission, we practice Habit 2 successfully and become more effective people—and leaders.

 – Jim Majeski