Begin With the End in Mind

Certain books stick with me for a while. That’s not quite true because it isn’t so much the book that stays with me as much as one or two ideas from a particular book. In 1989 Stephen Covey released 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I read it in 1992 and 17 years later I still apply what I learned. I think that that’s largely due to the fact that although the author is a Mormon, much of what he wrote overlapped with biblical truths.

The second of the seven habits is entitled “Begin With the End in Mind.” The chapter opens with Covey asking the reader to imagine their own funeral. Four people are scheduled to speak: a member from your family, a friend, a co-worker, and a member from your church. What would you want them to say about you? Or better yet “What do you want to be true of you in each of those areas of your life?” What kind of spouse, parent, friend, employee, Christian do you want to be?

Most of us haven’t thought enough about those kinds of questions. We’re just living life from day to day trying to survive the best we can. But it is possible to be very, very busy without building the kind of life that we really want to build. And if that’s the case, we might die with a lot of disappointment and the feeling that we wasted our life.

That’s where beginning with the end in mind helps us. Here’s Covey…

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.

Later in the same chapter, Covey compares building a life with building a house. He points out that while we’d never even consider building a house without first putting a lot of time into developing a blueprint, we live our lives without putting hardly any effort into developing a life-plan. Most of us put more time into thinking through a vacation than we put into thinking through what kind of Christian we want to be. Does that make sense?

One more Covey nugget: If we don’t have a plan for the kind of person we want to become, we end up empowering either other people or circumstances and allow them to set the agenda for our lives.

All this came to mind yesterday as I ate lunch with a friend. He shared that the men’s group he’s in recently wrote out their life goals and then shared them with the others in the group. He said that that exercise has already made a significant impact on his choices. And he’s finding that it is very helpful (almost necessary) to revisit those goals frequently.

Fast forward your life all the way to the point that you are soon going to die and stand before God. On that day, what will you want to be true of your life? What kind of relationship with God will you want? How will you want to have spent your time, talent, and treasure? What kind of parent, friend, or worker will you want to be? What will you want to be true of your character?

I would encourage you do what my friend did and write out the answers to those questions. You might decide to include others in the same exercise and even share your goals with each other. The first step to being on the right path is knowing where you are going.

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