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We read over the past few days how we have the ability to choose our response to any event that happens to us. So how do we address the biggest event of all? Through Habit Two – Begin with the End in Mind.

On first sight of that term, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we do that any time we plan a project, be it going to the shops, applying for a job or planning a holiday, for example. My response would be that you’d be surprised how little effort many people put into even those projects. And rarely to the biggest project of all.

Have you ever gone shopping, then got home and realised you forgot to get something you planned, or more likely forgot to plan to buy something you needed. Beginning with the End in Mind is often something to which only lip-service is paid. But I digress.

Beginning with the End in Mind, remember, is a Habit of highly effective people. Not just a tenet, it’s a way of life. And this is where it can have the most impact – life. As one writer put it – we spend more time planning our holidays than we do planning our lives.

The most impactive and profound exercising of Habit Two occurs when what you have in mind as beginning – is the rest of your life.

All things are created twice – there is a mental creation, which gives rise to the physical creation. A building is planned in meticulous detail before ground is broken, so why not your whole life. Your physical, mental, social and spiritual lives can all be planned, selected – chosen. Beginning with the End in Mind is leadership – self-leadership. It is deciding how you will live the rest of your life. It is establishing a vision for the legacy you will leave, and then making it happen. It is using the four endowments discussed earlier – self-awareness, creative imagination, independent will and conscience – to decide how you will achieve what you want to achieve.

When you exercise Habit Two, you approach as many experiences as possible with a plan – what is the objective of what I am about to do? Conversations will have new purpose, relationships will be more rewarding, projects will have a higher success rate – if you know what the objective is before you even start. Including your life.

Viktor Frankl is famed for suggesting, from his experiences in concentration camps, that having a purpose beyond ones self is a sound basis for living a long and happy life. He called his theories ‘Logotherapy’ from logos – meaning. A man or woman with a purpose is a hard thing to oppose!

What we choose – or fail to choose – to do in the face of this knowledge predetermines our sense of personal self-esteem and our levels of success. If we know what we are for, and set about it, every success is a victory, every setback just means we change direction, just as an aircraft does on a flight. It gets buffeted by winds but always gets back on course, arriving at its intended destination despite all that buffeting.

Covey promoted the creation of a personal mission statement, a document created by an individual in which they stated in clear terms what they wanted to achieve (vision) and how they would behave in order to achieve that (values). I have found that having such a document can be extremely empowering – particularly when, having stated therein that I wish to be fit and healthy, I don’t want to exercise. I read it – I exercise. I reinforce my own desire towards a particular ‘end’ when I state, in advance, what the end actually is. Like writing this series of articles to convince others to read a book that can change their lives.

Tomorrow – what is at the centre of your life?