Begin with the end in mind to maximize your potential

Team Asana contributor imageTeam AsanaOctober 21st, 20216 min read
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Summary

“Begin with the end in mind” is the second of the seven habits of highly effective people Dr. Stephen R. Covey defines in his bestselling book. The habit is based on the principle that all things are created twice: once in your mind and once in the physical world. In this article, you'll learn how to begin with the end in mind by writing a personal mission statement.

How do you get to where you want to go? Whether it’s your company’s goals or your personal ones, defining them and creating a game plan with action steps can help keep you motivated and make your journey feel more purposeful.

To “begin with the end in mind” is the second of the seven habits that New York Times bestselling author Dr. Stephen R. Covey addresses in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. By beginning with the end in mind, you can train yourself to become more goal-oriented and create a clear vision for yourself or your team.

Covey believed that “your most important work is always ahead of you, never behind you.” So let’s dive into how you can shift your mindset and work smarter toward your goals by incorporating this second habit into your lifestyle. Then, learn how effective leaders also share this concept with their teams and inspire them to prioritize their personal development.

How to begin with the end in mind

How does one begin with the end in mind? Stephen Covey based this habit on the principle that all things are created twice: once in your mind and once in the real world. According to Covey, envisioning and creating your goal mentally first allows you to determine whether or not the second, physical creation of the goal will be possible.

How to begin with the end in mind

There are a few different ways you can approach beginning with the end in mind—one of the best and most efficient ways to get started is to create a mission statement for yourself.

Write a personal mission statement

Unlike a mission statement for your company, you can apply your personal mission statement to pretty much any aspect of your life. This exercise can help you visualize and define your personal, fitness, family, or career goals. 

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.

Creating a personal mission statement takes time and energy but allows you to work strategically toward your goals. Here are a few things you can ask yourself:

  • When do you perform your best or worst?

  • What makes you passionate about your personal life or career?

  • What are your natural talents and gifts?

  • If you had unlimited resources and failure was out of the question, what would you do with your life?

  • What is your life’s journey? Define what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, the reason behind your actions, and the results you’re aiming for.

  • Picture yourself at the end of your career. What would you like people to say about you as a person?

  • What contribution would you consider the most important in your future and who are the people it should touch?

  • Is there anything you would like to change about yourself?

  • Think about up to three people who have influenced your life thus far. Write down their names and the qualities that you admire about them.

  • How can you achieve a sense of balance in your physical, spiritual, mental, social, and emotional life?

Creating a personal mission statement puts you in the driver’s seat of your own life. You can also write a family mission statement or a team mission statement to include others in your goal-setting exercise.

Read: New to strategic planning? Start here.

Let’s have a look at what someone’s personal mission statement could look like. 

Meet Kat Mooney. Kat performs best when she feels seen and valued by her colleagues, friends, and family. Whenever she feels isolated or disconnected, her performance drops. She has a passion for helping and supporting others and has amazing people skills. 

When she’s being honest with herself, her current role as a remote HR manager at a large corporation isn’t what she’d chosen for herself—it’s more of a means to an end. If she could choose any job, she’d probably become a life coach or work for a non-profit.

At only 27 years old, Kat hasn’t really defined what her life’s journey should entail. She’s happily single and doesn’t feel rushed into getting married or having a family. For now, she wants to focus on what’s best for her and how she can contribute to making this world a better place. When she pictures the end of her career, she’d love for people to see her for who she really is—an energetic, kind, and giving person.

Something she’s not happy with is how stuck she feels in her current role without doing anything about it. Kat is sure that by cutting these ties and finding a position that fits her personality and goals, she can achieve a sense of balance and happiness in her life.

After creating her personal mission statement following the questions above, Kat may realize that taking the risk and changing her career to become a life coach is going to make her happy. Or maybe she finds a company where she can work in the office again to make personal connections and feel less isolated. Another route she could take would be to shift gears and switch from HR to the Diversity & Inclusion department of a company so she can lean into her passion for building strong communities.

Use SMART goals

A personal mission statement is a great way to begin with the end in mind, but it can be difficult to grasp what that actually means. This is where SMART goals come in handy.

The act of attempting new things helps us grow. Whether or not we achieve a specific goal, it’s the courage to try and succeed—or fail forward—that builds resilience, character, and the energy needed to propel us forward in our careers.

SMART goals can help you plan your career or set realistic expectations for your team’s performance. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Once your personal mission statement is done, you can use it as the foundation for setting SMART goals. 

In Kat’s example, one of her goals may be to start looking for a new job. This is a very vague goal which she can turn into a more precise one using the SMART framework:

“In April (time-bound), I will spend four hours every week (measurable and achievable) to send out applications for Diversity & Inclusion roles at companies in a one hour radius from my house (specific). My goal is to find a new position by the end of June that meets or exceeds my current salary (realistic).”

Whether you’re trying to set long-term or short-term goals, making them SMART will not only help you break your goals down into more manageable pieces; this will also ensure that they’re trackable. This step will help you transform your personal mission statement into actionable goals.

Write a retrospective about your life

If you struggle to come up with a mission statement for your life, try to turn things around and literally begin at the end with this little exercise. Choose a time in the future (five or 10 years from now) and picture that this time is now. Write a diary entry or a letter to your current self from that point of view, sharing your accomplishments, struggles, and hopes. 

Writing this retrospective from the future can take some of the pressure off of you since you’re writing from the perspective of having already experienced the next few years. This exercise can help you get a clearer picture of your priorities in life, career goals, and wishes for the future.

A broken down version of Kat Mooney’s retrospective may sound a little like this: 

“The year is 2030, I am the Director of Diversity & Inclusion at my dream company. Since I quit my HR role a few years ago and started at this company, my mental health has drastically improved. I no longer feel isolated, I feel a sense of control over my work, and I know that my work is positively impacting the lives around me which makes me very happy.”

This exercise is also an enlightening tool to share with your team when they’re struggling to define their goals or feel stuck in their current situation. While they don’t have to share the results of their retrospective with you, you can offer to support them in reaching their newly discovered milestones.

Read: 6 steps for a successful project post mortem meeting

The 7 habits of highly effective people

The 7 habits of highly effective people

Beginning with the end in mind is one of the seven habits that Dr. Stephen R. Covey established in his book on highly effective people. He viewed habits as consistent, unconscious patterns that affect people’s effectiveness. According to Covey, habits are the intersection of skill, knowledge, and desire:

  • Knowledge is the “what to do and why”

  • Skill defines how we do things

  • Desire is the motivation behind our actions

If you’re fascinated by the concept of beginning with the end in mind, you’re probably wondering what the other six habits entail. Let’s take a quick look at the full list he created:

  • Habit 1: Be proactive—Be aware of your surroundings so you can anticipate when and how you have to take responsibility for your life.

  • Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind—Create a goal for yourself and work toward it.

  • Habit 3: Put first things first—Focus on the things that are important and don’t let random tasks get in the way of your productivity.

  • Habit 4: Think win-win—Make sure everyone you work with is treated fairly and all interactions provide a mutual benefit for the parties involved. This will help you create strong and reliable relationships that you can count on when you need support.

  • Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understoodActively listen when someone comes to you with a problem. Avoid jumping to conclusions or trying to provide solutions before you know the full picture.

  • Habit 6: Synergize—Remember the importance of teamwork and foster a culture of collaboration.

  • Habit 7: Sharpen the saw—Rather than overworking yourself, Covey suggests creating a sustainable lifestyle that allows you to balance your work and time outside of work.

The main takeaway from these habits is that success doesn’t just come to you, it’s the result of hard work, teamwork, and smart planning.

Set strategic but flexible goals

Setting strategic goals can be challenging. After all, real life doesn’t always go as planned. —outside factors, lack of motivation , or miscommunication can shift your timeline or change the goals you’ve been working toward.

A digital goal-setting software allows your team to create agile company goals, refine them when necessary, and visualize each teammate’s individual contribution so everyone feels inspired to do their best work.

Try Goal-Setting Software

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