Begin with the End in MindAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction." ~ Alvin Toffler
How would you like to be in a few years? You’ve probably read or heard this question in countless places, but you’ve never taken it seriously, because you believe that thinking about “it” isn’t going to lead you to “it”. Or because you don’t want to face the harsh reality: Are you who you’ve always wanted to be? Are you doing what you’ve always dreamed to do?
A lot of people spend their lives being very busy at things that aren’t really that important, achieving success at the expense of things that are much more valuable to them. If we don’t have the right vision, every step we take will lead us to the wrong place quicklier.
Begin with the end in mind is one of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that Stephen Covey’s famous bestseller defines. At its most basic form, it means always having the image of the end of your life as a frame of reference for evaluating everything else. It’s about starting things off with a clear idea of what the destination is, so that the steps we take are always in the right direction. If we are going to be busy, let’s do the things that matter to us.
It’s based on the principle that things are always created twice, the first time in our mind and the second time in our physical reality. Studies on our Reticular Activation System suggest that by visualizing our goal and being fully aware, we activate all of our energy and all of the necessary faculties to effectively achieve it.
Today, this powerful concept is applied in many contexts and areas of our lives: leadership, business creation, project management, sports competition, personal productivity… Coaches teach elite athletes how to imagine the ultimate success of an event before it begins. By having a clear idea of how a project should end, we will be able to plan it effectively, we will be able to better communicate its purpose to the people involved and we will have the right motivation to face it.
David Allen, pioneer of the GTD methodology, also supports this concept by defining his natural way of planning projects: “to access the conscious and unconscious resources available to you, you must have a clear picture in your mind of what success looks like”.
In addition to it, he also suggests a 6 levels of perspective model to evaluate our daily work in relation to our vision of life. The first two levels are in charge of programming our brain to go in that direction:
- Purpose: What do you want to do with your life?
- Vision: How do you want to be in the next 3-5 years?
- Goals: What do you want to achieve, personally and professionally, in the next 1-2 years?
- Areas of Focus: What areas of your life deserve your attention?
- Projects: What commitments are you making to achieve your goals?
- Actions: What steps are you taking to meet the higher levels?
Reflecting on where you would like to be in a few years, at all levels (career, family, personal accomplishments, etc.), can change the way you see your life. Clearly defining your vision helps you make decisions, identify solutions and address critical issues.
They say that the best way to do this is by writing a statement of who you want to be, what gives your life meaning and how you would like to live. Do you want to try it? The statement should be very clear, unambiguous. It should describe the desired future, in an attractive and memorable way. It should show realistic, attainable aspirations, and be aligned with your life purpose and values.
Of course, things are not going to happen just by thinking about them. If you visualize but don’t act, you are only daydreaming. The vision must be supported by a strategy, a plan that allows it to be addressed effectively. That’s what the other levels of perspective are for: goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions.