- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On July 17, 2015
I’m continuing my second journey through Stephen Covey’s 1989 book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The book is such a productivity classic that I recently dug it out of my home library for a second reading (the first reading was about 20 years ago). Every Friday, I’m sharing a summary of one of the 7 habits from the book. Last week’s post on this blog covered habit #1: “Be proactive.” This week’s post is about habit #2: “Start with the end in mind.”
Habit #2: Start with the end in mind
This chapter of the book begins with an unforgettable image. We’re asked to imagine we’re at a funeral. But not any old funeral, our funeral! Covey asks us to imagine we can hear the eulogies being given about us. His question to us is, “How do we want to be remembered?” How will people describe us in the end?
By design or default
Covey challenges us to consider how much we are in control of our lives. Do we let life “happen to us” or do we know how we want things to come out in the end? If we know what we want people to remember us for at the end then we can think about how we get there from here.
Personal mission statement
To take control of our life Covey counsels us to develop a “personal mission statement.” This personal mission statement defines how we will act and what contributions we will make. He suggests we think of our personal mission statement like a personal version of the US Constitution.
What’s your center?
But before we can write our personal mission statement Covey tells us we must find our true “center.” He tells us that most people start with a “center” that is not a true “principle-based” one. Examples of people’s typical centers are:
- Money center: People with a money center put money first. They treat money as a source of their security and often make family and friends a secondary priority to acquiring more money.
- Spouse center: Spouse-centered people make their spouse a priority. Their whole existence can become dependent on the feelings of their significant other.
- Family center: Family-centered people make their family the priority. They place a huge significance on the family’s tradition, culture and general well being.
Setting a new center
The “7 Habits” urges us to develop a “principle-based” center instead. We should state our principles in our personal mission statement and review this mission statement frequently.
Covey says we can find our principles by inner reflection. It was his belief that these principles exist inside us and are different for each person. He states that by taking uninterrupted time alone with ourselves we will be able to identify our principles and capture them in our personal mission statement.
A strong center
Our personal mission statement, based on our own principles, will help us stay on track to the end we want. Once we have a personal mission statement, everyday events will not blow us off course. We will be able to fall back on our values and check how to respond to the stimuli we receive.
This chapter of the “7 Habits” is a philosophical one. It’s definitely not a productivity “tips” chapter. It borders on the religious. Some of the concepts in this chapter have roots in Stephen Covey’s Mormon beliefs.
I’ve tried tools like his personal mission statement in the past and found them very helpful so I recommend you not be put off by the religious undertones in Covey’s work and try something along these lines that might work for you.
Next Friday I will report on habit #3: “Put first things first.”