The second habit: Begin with the end in mind

The next habit we’re looking at from Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ is about developing a sense of vision. Not only for our careers and our business goals, but for our lives.

Habit two – Begin with the end in mind

“It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the business of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall.” [Stephen Covey]

The second habit is exactly as it says – start out on any mission, task or project with clarity and vision so that you know what your destination looks like.

The human imagination is a wonderful thing, and you can use yours to build a picture of what you want to become in life or what you want to achieve. It is only then that you can make conscious decisions to help you reach that destination.

Imagine a pilot taking off in a plane – having left the ground, it’s now soaring at 30,000 feet. He may know how to handle the aircraft and use all the instruments to navigate the plane. But without a destination, there is no direction.

Instantly, all that knowledge is useless because without a destination the plane will carry on flying until it runs out of fuel. Then a landing will be forced wherever is available, (and possibly even a crash landing).

While taking off and flying, we feel great – busily doing what we’re supposed to be doing in the moment. But as soon as the reality hits  (that we have no future and maybe will shortly be forced to crash-land), past achievements have come to nothing.

This is so important in business. If we have no idea where we’re heading, we’ll never be able to measure success along the way.

But if we set a strategic vision, and then work on a roadmap to get  there, everyone is on board and heading in the right direction.

Ask  “what are we trying to achieve?” and then measure activities and results against the values you’ve set.

You also need to find your ‘centring point’ – what governs and influences everything you do?

It may be family, or money, or pleasure, or socialising or many other factors. Covey iterates that we shouldn’t be held up by these centres but instead should identify the principles that our lives should be lived by. That way, he says, we can align our behaviours with our beliefs and values.

Here’s a few tips to get you started:

Visualize your destination

This should be deeply personal. Ask yourself: Where do I want to be? What are my priorities? What really matters in my life? What do I want to achieve? This will give you focus and make you efficient in everything you do.

Set your goals

Set three or four goals for your roles in life. This may be more than one (ie. as director or manager, as husband or wife, as father or mother.)

Face up to your fears

Spend some time thinking about worst-case scenarios – things that would be devastating to you. Then visualize and write down how you will meet and get through these crises.

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