“If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.” – Stephen Covey
Welcome to Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind! This week I’m doing a post on each of the habits described in THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, a personal development/business book that has been on my to-read list for ages and which I finished over the weekend. I think all of the strategies in this book can help with stress reduction and reducing vulnerability to burnout.
Begin with the End in Mind is about visualizing where you want to go. Covey, the author of 7 HABITS, tells us that everything we produce in our lives is created twice: first in our minds and imaginations — the mental creation — and then in real life, in physical form.
We know that if we don’t take action to shape our lives, our lives will be shaped for us by the systems in which we work and live, by the will of others, by our impulses and unprocessed emotions…we will fall into whatever prescribed patterns and routines happen to evolve. Some people are satisfied with the way life is happening for them/to them and that’s OK. But if you’re feeling stifled, trapped, or like you’re running on a treadmill, Habit 2 may help.
It starts with clarifying what is most important to you — your values. Many of my clients have simply lost sight of their compass. They’ve become so inundated with parenting responsibilities and work pressure, and they feel guilty when they try to carve out time for themselves, which creates a cycle of irritability and frustration and resentment. Which, in turn, is poison to the family system, to the work environment…
Covey’s main point here is that if you clarify your values and act from that place, you will be less likely to get drawn into situations, relationships or obligations that are ill-fitted to you.
I’ve known many people to get overly caught up in the “how” of what they want to do before they’ve allowed themselves to dream fully. They want to go on an amazing vacation someday, or work fewer hours, or have a more varied array of professional responsibilities — but they’ve no sooner conjured up a possibility before they’re saying, “I have no idea how to make that happen,” or worse, “It’s impossible.”
Don’t misunderstand Habit 2: You do not need to know exactly how you are going to get from point A to point B before you even start! What you want to accomplish or create (a geographical move, a career change, a shift in work schedule, writing a book) may seem impossible because you can’t map out the specific path ahead of time. But you’re not supposed to know exactly how it will happen! All you have to do is start taking steps in the right direction. This may involve reaching out to a therapist or coach, finding accountability partners, joining a group, taking a class, reading a book…something that feels like it’s getting you closer. The “how” — the path, the way, whatever you want to call it — will clarify itself.
One thing that Covey recommends in terms of crystalizing your vision is creating a personal mission statement. I’ll admit, my first reaction to this idea was to think it was kind of contrived. But I went ahead and gave it a try anyway, and I was surprised by how powerful it was to put this stuff down on paper.
The website associated with 7 HABITS has a guided activity to walk you through creating a personal, family or team/business mission statement, and I highly recommend it. It’s free! Here’s the link>>> http://pxlme.me/8tHPVHfX.
As always, if you are thinking of getting some therapy and guidance yourself, reach out: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call/text (585) 568-7044.