The second habit of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of Highly Effective People is Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind. In this habit, you realise with certainty, what you want from life and then proceed to create a plan on how to achieve it. It can be difficult at first, but once you have an idea of your goals, things become much clearer. 

Let’s Start By Jumping Forward

Covey begins habit 2: Begin with the end in mind, by fast forwarding to your funeral. The reason is simple. If you picture yourself there watching your funeral at the end of your life, how satisfied would you be at looking back at what you accomplished?

Are you doing enough right now that would provide the feedback you’d love to hear at your own funeral?

  1. Did you leave a legacy? 
  1. Were you an overachiever or underachiever? 
  1. What story do you have? Was the life you lived the one you envisaged?  
  1. Where did you make a compelling difference in this world? 

The most important question is not what you would like to have happen at your funeral, but rather how will you be remembered in life?

It’s Starts With Understanding What You Want In Life

Covey states that “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation.” 

1. The first creation is in your mind. It’s the idea of what you want to create; What you hold dear and you really want to accomplish.

2. You have to be able visualise it so clearly that you can see it, feel it, and even taste it before you can make it happen. 

3. And then there’s a second creation: the physical manifestation of that idea into something that actually exists in the world. This involves the work you’ll do and the decisions you’ll make that will propel you towards making it a reality.

Highly successful people are aware of this recipe.

They follow it and use it. 

The majority of people, however, don’t.

They lose their way in life. 

They lose their focus. 

And then they forget to keep doing the same things to get to where they originally envisaged they wanted to be.

We Bumble Along in Life If We Don’t Set a Clear Direction

Sometimes, It’s hard to know what direction we should go in life. But if we don’t set a clear direction and purpose, we quickly and regularly bounce from one idea and crisis to the next. 

Covey describes these types of situations and people as being reactive. They are at the mercy to life’s external events.

Some examples are:

  • Constantly complaining about misfortune in your life
  • Jumping from job to job 
  • Making poor life decisions (career, love, financial and so on)
  • Chopping and changing between career choices and ideas

By having no direction, it means we’ll often perform like a scattergun through life; trying many things with little clear conviction or purpose. Equally, with no clear path to walk down, we can feel lost. 

Our lives can be empty with that feeling that something is missing.

Get Clarity and Become a Master of Your Own Destiny

On the contrary, if we have a clear objective of who we want to be, what we want to become, and how we can make a difference in life and for our future, it makes it easier to make better decisions and live with purpose right now.

We can quite literally use our goals to drive our values and daily decisions. 

When you follow your passion, it will lead you in the right direction and give your life meaning and purpose. 

You will no longer feel lost because you will know exactly where to head to. 

Covey identified this as being so important that he gave this concept its own habit: Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.

“A life without goals is a wasted one,” he says. “It’s important to have something that you’re working towards and striving for, so it doesn’t feel like your time on this earth was all in vain.”

Being Busy With Activity Doesn’t mean Being Busy on the Right Things

Just because we are busy, it doesn’t mean that we are busy on tasks that will propel us forward in life. In other words, we may be busy, but busy on the wrong things.

“This is a common misconception that many people have.  It’s important to be mindful of what you are doing and how it will affect your future life, because if we’re not careful about the things on which our time gets wasted, then those tasks can become habitual for us in no-time at all.” – Covey

Covey gives us the analogy of climbing a ladder. Sure, you may be busy getting to the top of it and even succeed in doing so. But when you do, you may find that the ladder is on the wrong wall, in the first place.

Only climb the ladder if it is the right one for you in the first place, and if it is, position it exactly where you want it. 

Goals allow us to point ourselves in the right direction. And lean the ladder on the right wall.

Improvement Begins With Your Personal Mission Statement

So, how do we begin with the end in mind? It starts with a mission statement. 

A mission statement is a personal constitution. It’s the guideline by which everything in your life should be evaluated and directed. 

It becomes the basis of everyday decisions you make. 

A long-term goal can only happen when we have our mission statement defined. It also helps identify what our true values are. 

Indeed provide a great article on how to write a mission statement and also 40 examples.

Now it’s your turn to create your mission and direction. Here’s how to do it.

Your Action Plan

Step 1. Start with Your End in Mind

The first in your journey to make habit 2: begin with the end in mind an important part of your success is to start at the end.

In order to get your direction right, you must first start with fast forwarding to your own funeral. 

  • What do you want to have completed in your life?
  • Where do you want to have gone?
  • What things do you want to see?
  • What friendships do you want to hold?
  • How do you want to be seen as a parent?
  • How do you want to be seen as a spouse?
  • What about your career?

List these down on a bit of paper. For now, we’re looking to brainstorm as many things as possible. Think of achievements and actions that would inspire you.

Step 2. Distill them into Categories

After spending a few days thinking step 1 through, it’s now time to distil your goals down to the vital few important one. 

Draw a box for each of the following areas on a bit of paper:

  • Career
  • Health
  • Wealth
  • Family
  • Friends and Relationships
  • Spiritual

Group each of the ideas you wrote down in step 1, into their relevant box.

Step 3. Expand on Your Ideas

Now add to these ideas in your boxes. Spend a few more days thinking about things that make you happy, as well as things that you are currently doing which are making you sad or frustrated. 

Find out why they are making you feel this way. Sometimes, these give clues as to what your true values are. 

For instance, you may be feeling extremely frustrated and anxious about work. After deep thought, you realise that the fact of reporting to a boss and working a “9-5” existence is totally against your inner values.

You need to work freely and a boring traditional job is just not you. You’ll never feel fulfilled with this career choice.

If that’s the case, then write it down.

Step 4. Rank your Ideas in Terms of Priority

When you’ve done the previous exercise, it’s time to rank all of your thoughts and ideas, so you can score them based on how much they matter to you. A simple 1 to 10 scoring system is fine.

Step 5. Craft Long Term Visionary Goals

Now, taking your top scores, craft a long term goal that would achieve these ideals. Take each category and ask, What do i need to do to ensure I’d be totally fulfilled with life? 

Each category should have a long term goal or statement associated with it.

Step 6. Craft Yout Personal Mission Statement 

Take note of these goals and craft your personal mission statement, which describes your true self. For each category, take the relevant statement and add it under it’s heading. You’ll have a personal mission statement that covers all areas of your life. 

For ease, you can Use Covey’s online Mission Statement Generator to help. Their app is free and will allow you to take what you’ve defined above into a simple statement by answering 10 different questions. 

Here’s an example of mine taken from Franklin Covey’s website:

This statement will form your true purpose and values to work towards in life. 

Is it set in stone? No, you can change it as you uncover more about yourself, and so it’s a fluid thing. 

From now on, use it to ensure you’re doing the right things on a daily basis. You can define how, in Covey’s third habit – First Things First.

Create Your Goals

The next step is to create meaningful goals to work towards. You do not have to know exactly how to achieve them; you merely need to set the direction for your life to follow.  

Life will unfold as long as you get clarity in direction.

In this section, we’ll create goals for 10 years out, down to 5 years out and then for the next 12 months.

This helps create clarity and focus to know what to work on each week, over the course of the next 12 months.

Step 1. Create your 10 Year Goals

Ask yourself, for each category in step 1, what do I want to achieve in 10 years’ time? For instance, in the wealth category, i may have the following goal which helps align my mission:

“I will sell my third business with a total of over $1 Million in total profit.”

It’s a goal you may not know how to achieve right now, but remember, Creation happens twice: Once in the mind, then in reality.

Repeat this process , creating your 10 year statement goals for each category (wealth, health, family, relationships, career, spiritual).

Step 2. Create your 5 Year Goals

Now, with each 10 year goal to hand, drill down to what you want to achieve in 5 years’ time. This obviously feeds into your 10 year goal, so think about what would ideally happen at year 5, in order to achieve year 10 goals.

Again, taking our example of $1 million total profit, by selling 3 businesses, I may have the following as a 5 year goal.

“To have Successfully bought, grown and sold my first business for a profit.”

Now, repeat this for each category, cascading your 10 year goals into your 5 year objectives.

Step 3. Create your 12 Month Goals

Now, it’s time to create 12 month goals. What do you need to achieve this year, to ensure you’re on track to achieving your 5 year goals?

For example, for our 5 year goal above, we may have the following targets this year:

  • To learn how to buy a business the right way
  • Build a network of contacts to help find the right business
  • Find a mentor to help guide me through this process
  • Save enough money to help fund my first acquisition

Try to keep it to around a handful of key milestones, that help you achieve your goals. You don’t want to overload yourself. Repeat this for each category.

Step 4. Continuously Review your Mission Statement and Goals Each Day

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind doesn’t end once you’ve got this far. It involves continuously checking in and evaluating and re-evaluating your goals. Is there anything you need to take action on, or any new goals that have come up? If so, update them and continue. 

Note: continue building your personal blueprint for success – never stop updating it! Your goal should be living the life YOU want today — not waiting until later when things are better (or worse).