One of my favorite books is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven Covey. It is a book about personal effectiveness, and I have tried to incorporate many of the principles from the book into my life.
One of my favorite principles from the book is to Begin with the End in Mind.
A lot of times in my life, I feel like I bounce around from activity to activity without much direction. I go to work, I write a paper, I work out, I go to church, I hang out with family and friends, I watch a basketball game. Rinse, wash, repeat.
This can be a difficult way to live, because although I’m busy and I have a lot of activities in my life, sometimes I’m not sure I’m spending my time and energy in the best way. I’m not sure I’m working toward an overarching goal or mission for my life. Because I’m not clear on the overarching goal or mission, it’s hard to tell whether my activities are leading me in the direction I want to go.
Think About the End
Beginning with the end in mind asks you to do something weird. It asks you to think about the end of your life. It might be a bit morbid, but think about the time when you will die. Maybe it’s 30 or 40 years down the road. But when that time comes, what do you hope your life was about? What would need to happen in your life for you to be satisfied, and view your life as a life well lived?
Ideal Obituary Exercise
One exercise to help you think about this in a more concrete way is to write your “ideal obituary.” Imagine you have died, and you read the newspaper that gives a short summary of your life. What do you hope people say about you? What do you hope is written about your work, your family, your character, and your accomplishments?
Once you begin with the end in mind, you have a framework to evaluate all the activities in your life. Is [fill in the blank] helping you to get where you ultimately want to be? If the answer is yes, step into the activity with confidence, knowing it is aligned with your overall goal and mission for your life. But if the answer is no, this might be an activity you should stop. It isn’t helping to move you toward your ultimate goal.
Spend 30 minutes and write your “ideal obituary.” Then take stock of the activities in your life. Which ones are aligned with your overall goals and mission for your life? Which ones are not aligned?