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Begin with the end in mind

The following is an excerpt from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey.

In your mind's eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one.  Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out.  As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music.  You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way.  You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself.  This is your funeral, three years from today.  All these people have come to honour you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand.  These are to be four speakers.  The first is from your family, immediate and also extended - children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend.  The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person.  The third speaker is from your work or profession.  And the fourWth is from your church or some community organization where you've been involved in service.

Now think deeply.  What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life?  What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect?  What kind of son or daughter or cousin?  What kind of friend?  What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you?  What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember?  Look carefully at the people around you.  What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

What it means to "begin with the end in mind"

The most fundamental application of "begin with the end in mind" is to begin today with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined.  Each part of your life - today's behaviour, tomorrow's behaviour, next week's behaviour, next month's behaviour - can be exhamined in the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you.  By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole.

It's incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall.  It is possible to be busy - very busy - without being very effective.

People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize were far more valuable to them.  People from every walk of life - doctors, academicians, actors, politicians, business professionals, athletes, and plumbers - often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition or a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goals blinded them to the things that really mattered most and now are gone.

How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage oursleves each day to be and to do what really matters most.  If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.  We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.

If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.  It may be very different from the definition you thought you had in mind.  Perhaps fame, achievement, money, or some of the other things we strive for are not even part of the right wall.

When you begin with the end in mind, you gain a different perspective.


Alex said...

Why do you keep pestering me about the meaning of life when this book provides a close reference to it. Not there, but almost.

Btw for my funeral I want people to say "He died with his boots on", or "WTF was that guy on?" or "Damn, that guy went out with a bang" - no pun intended.

I also want "Ave Maria" played throughout the thing. That piece always puts me at peace.

sneha said...

how do u manage philosophy n finance me d secret...

Neeraj said...

I just posted this bit on philosophy because sometimes it helps to keep things in perspective. People get too involved in the "rat race" these days that they forget to live their life. By the time most realize what's really important to them, it's too late.

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