In our previous post, we explored Habit #1 in Sean Covey’s book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” a book that helps teens live their highest aspirations. (You can read about Habit #1 here.) This book is so life-changing, we send it to all our students upon enrolling. Today, we’re digging into Habit #2 in Covey’s book: “Begin With the End in Mind.”
Habit #2: Begin With the End in Mind
Imagine a 1,000 piece puzzle set. You spill the pieces out onto the floor, then look at the box cover to see the image of what you’re making. It’s blank. How much longer do you think it will take for you to assemble this 1,000 piece puzzle when you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like when it’s done? This is the analogy Covey uses to explain the importance of beginning with the end in mind. If you have no idea where you’re going, it will take you considerably longer to get there.
“Would you tell me please which way I ought to walk from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where—” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way to walk,” said the Cat. FROM ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
“But wait,” you’re thinking. “I’m a student. I have no idea what the end looks like!”
You probably know more than you think. Here’s a simple exercise Covey recommends: “In your mind’s eye, visualize someone walking toward you about half a block away. At first you can’t see who it is. As this person gets closer and closer, you suddenly realize, believe it or not, it’s you. But it’s not you today, it’s you as you’d like to be one year from now. Now think deeply. What have you done with your life over the past year? How do you feel inside? What do you look like? Has your personality grown? (Remember, this is you as you would like to be one year from now.)” Take this image of who you’d like to be a year from now, and use that as the picture on your puzzle box. When we know what we want our life to look like, it becomes inordinately easier to put pieces in place that will build toward that image.
“Why’s it so important to have an end in mind? I’ll give you two good reasons. The first is that you’re at a critical crossroads in life, and the paths you choose now can affect you forever. The second is that if you don’t decide your own future, someone else’ll do it for you.” - Sean Covey
Being a teenager means living, as Covey calls it, at the “Crossroads of Life.” You’re deciding so many important things that will shape your life for years to come. Do you want to go to college? Do you want to date that hottie in homeroom? Do you want to travel? Who will your friends be? What values will you choose? What relationship will you have with your family? What passions will you pursue?
Because teendom is filled with so many crossroads, it’s crucial that you know who’s in the lead. Covey asks, “Do you want your friends to tell you what you stand for? You may have fine parents, but do you want them to draw up the blueprint for your life? Their interests may be far different from yours. And how about the media? Do you want to adopt the values portrayed in video games or gossip blogs or on TV?” It’s been said that we are the sum of the five closest people to us. Choosing wisely who we bring into our lives helps ensure we hold the reins, instead of floating passively through life on the whims and needs of others.
“Without an end in mind of our own, we often wind up following anyone who’s willing to lead, even into things that won’t get us far… Never assume that the herd must know where they are going because they usually don’t.” -Sean Covey
A Personal Mission Statement
One way to help ensure you stay in the lead of your own life is by creating a personal mission statement. Covey describes a personal mission statement like a tree with deep roots. “It’s stable and it’s not going anywhere, but it’s also alive and continually growing… You can deal with change if you have an immovable trunk to hang on to.” But how? You’ll need to go on a fact-finding mission into your own brain. Covey calls this exercise “The Great Discovery.”
The Great Discovery
This neat exercise not only helps you uncover your personal mission statement, it also helps you unpack the talents that make you unique. Take a few minutes to answer the ten questions below. (Try to write, instead of just answering aloud. Writing untangles and clarifies thoughts moving too quickly to translate into speech.)
Think of a person who made a positive difference in your life. What qualities does that person have that you would like to develop?
Imagine 20 years from now. You are surrounded by the most important people in your life. Who are they and what are you doing?
If a 6-inch wide steel beam were placed across two skyscrapers, for what would you be willing to cross? A thousand dollars? A million? Your pet? Your brother? (Think carefully!)
Describe a time when you were deeply inspired.
List 10 things you love to do. (Seriously… anything.)
If you could spend one day in a great library studying anything you wanted, what would it be?
Five years from now, a major news site is doing a feature piece on you, and they want to interview 3 people you’re close to. Who are they and what would you want them to say about you?
Think of something that represents you-- a flower, a song, an animal. Why does it represent you?
If you could spend an hour with any person that ever lived, who would it be? Why that person? What would you ask them?
Everyone has one or more talents. What are you good at?
Use these answers to help hone your unique mission statement, and then use that framework as a basis for creating goals that bring you closer to the end you want!
Stay tuned for our next installment in the series, delving into Covey’s Habit #3: Put First Things First.
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“Remember, life is a mission, not a career. A career is a profession. A mission is a cause. A career asks: What’s in it for me? A mission asks: How can I make a difference?” - Sean Covey