Effort doesn’t always lead to results.
It’s frustrating when you’re exerting effort but not getting the outcomes you want. This leaves you feeling confused, disappointed, and burnt out. It’s tempting to give up altogether.
Oftentimes, the problem lies in not beginning with the end in mind.
Your Most Important Work is Always Ahead of You
Beginning with the end in mind is a concept coined by Dr. Stephen Covey.
It's the second habit in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And it means "to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen."
Whether it’s a personal or professional goal, envisioning your end destination keeps you motivated and ensures each step is purposeful. In Covey's words:
“People are working harder than ever, but because they lack clarity and vision, they aren’t getting very far. They, in essence, are pushing a rope with all of their might.”
This concept can teach us how to work smarter, not harder.
All Things Are Created Twice
Beginning with the end in mind is a mental blueprinting exercise.
In Covey’s explanation of the principle, he discusses how all things are created twice–once in your mind, and once in the real world.
This reality is empowering and energizing!
In practice, beginning with the end in mind could be a novelist envisioning how their book will end. Or a professional athlete envisioning themselves performing at their best. At work, examples include having a five-year vision for your income or creating a strategic plan for your company.
How to Begin Envisioning: Your Personal Mission Statement
Imagination comes before strategy.
Creating a personal mission statement can help you start learning how to begin with the end in mind. It requires creativity. And it can help guide you in every area of your life, professionally and personally.
Consider these questions to get you started on your mission statement:
- When do you feel most engaged and passionate in your personal life? In your professional life?
- What talents and skills come most naturally to you?
- If failure and money were non-barriers, what would you seek to do with your life?
- What circumstances and environments bring out your best? Your worst? And why do you think that is?
- Imagine being at your future retirement party. How would you like people to describe your impact and contribution?
- Think about three people you deeply admire. What attributes and characteristics do you seek to emulate?
- When do you feel most balanced in your life? What behaviors help you find balance? (physical, spiritual, mental, social, and emotional).
After reviewing your answers, synthesize your reflections into a mission statement of about 50 words or less. Below are some examples of personal mission statements to inspire you:
- "To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be." — Oprah Winfrey
- “I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child to be educated.”- Malala Yousafzai
- “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”- Maya Angelou
- “To make people happy.”- Walt Disney
Using your imagination is the first step towards truly beginning with the end in mind. Creating a personal mission statement helps you feel a sense of control and motivation around your goals, helping you to better visualize and define them.
Make Strategic Progress and Maximize Your Time
Once you've envisioned your success and anchored your "why", start strategically planning your actions. This will help you maximize your time.
Using SMART Goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) is a great way to get more specific about your goals and hold yourself accountable for achieving them.
You may also want to set milestones and "chunk" work into more manageable pieces.
Additionally, project management software like Trello or Asana helps to track each action item.
To simplify, keep yourself on track with these 5 steps:
Step 1: Create your mission.
Step 2: Devise a few SMART goals. Craft action items for each goal.
Step 3: Identify major milestones.
Step 4: Map out and schedule your action items. Begin from the end goal, then build backwards from there. Fill in the gaps along the way. Use a tracking system to schedule and visualize your workflow from one milestone to the next.
Step 5: Celebrate your achievements!
Highly effective people begin with the end in mind. They recognize how all things are created twice and that creative vision-setting is a precursor to strategic action. They use their creativity and imagination to create a clear vision of their end goal, both personally and professionally.
Want to learn another habit that's foundational to your success? Check out our article: How to Be Proactive in Work and Life.