Stephen R. Covey's famous 'Begin with the end in mind' habit is a staple in the toolbox of a successful coach. If you've been wondering why to try it, how to put it in practice and even how to handle challenges that come with it - we're sharing it all in this article.
Stephen R. Covey’s famous ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ is probably a book you’ve heard of before. Maybe you heard of the main ideas, maybe you’ve even read it. If you’re a student with The Coaching Academy, you know that the book is a staple in the toolbox of a successful coach.
The second habit Covey famously talks about is beginning with the end in mind.
He puts the focus on the result, on the goal you are trying to accomplish. The idea is that there are multiple paths to get the result you want, as long as you are clear on what it is you want to accomplish.
Covey argues that there are two parts to this habit: the mental creation and a physical one. The mental process is letting your imagination do the work, focus in on the goal and design a mental blueprint to reach it. The second part is doing the work, bringing the mental blueprint to life.
It sounds pretty commons sensical so why is it often a challenge for some people to implement?
In short, it’s because, to follow your version of the blueprint, you have to ignore the little marks everyone else is willingly or unwillingly making on that blueprint. You’ll find friendly advice is available from most of your peers but will you find the willpower to create your own blueprint and start implementing it?
Here’s the tricky part: you have to focus in on your goal, work on making it happen, while at the same time being flexible enough to make changes on the path leading to the goal if something is not working.
At this point you might be thinking, this sounds difficult to do. So why should you do it?
1. Visualizing helps you get clarity and focus
Seeing yourself in that future situation, experiencing the wonderful results of your accomplishments, helps you get clarity on what exactly you’re looking for.
Are you dreaming of running your own company? Visualize the details – what are you doing day by day? Do you have a team around you? Are you just a founder or running the daily tasks? Maybe you'll find that you're only drawn to the flexibility of owning a business. Imagine the goal and hone in on what’s important.
2. Visualizing a goal helps it become reality
Do you start saving for retirement as a 20-year-old? Probably not, today’s fun seems like the most important thing to focus on, retirement is not even on the radar. However, If you’d see a digital portrait of your 70-year-old self, the future would suddenly become a reality. That’s the power of visualization – it helps our fleeting thoughts become clear and thus more real.
3. It helps with your why
Many have discovered that unless there is a clear reason behind why they do what they do, they will quickly give up on a goal that seemed so thrilling just 10 days ago. Building your dreams, making your goals happen often takes time and there will be moments when you will want to give up. For those moments particularly, it’s important to know why you are doing the work. Hone in on your why!
We’ve seen why this habit is important. Now let’s see how to implement it!
1. Break down your goal into three milestones
It’s important to have realistic milestones so you can celebrate your accomplishments so far and find the strength to keep going. Breaking down your big goal in three steps also helps you create a manageable plan and help you set a realistic timeline.
Is your goal running a marathon and you’re currently binge-watching Netflix with some spicy wings on the side? A timeline of a month would be setting yourself up for failure, however, if you start by breaking down the steps, you can get clear on how much time it would actually take you to accomplish the goal. Milestone one would be sticking to a healthier diet that will energise you. Milestone two is a building up a habit of running 3 times a week. Milestone three is finishing a marathon. How much time do you need to accomplish this? Looking at all the stages, a year seems more realistic.
That’s setting yourself up for success instead of failure.
2. Reward yourself
Make sure you celebrate your accomplishments at all milestones. We talked about the pattern of habit building before and we learned that you must let your brain know that you accomplished something great in order to keep going.
Here’s the hard truth about the brain: it remembers everything and it’s always trying to protect itself. If all it can remember is the physical exhaustion without any end in sight, it will start chipping away at your resolve. ‘Pssst, are you sure you want to go running today? It’s cold outside and this blanket is heaven itself.’
Deliberately celebrating results and milestones tells the brain that ‘this is working, no need to give up, you’re safe’.
3. Set up Rituals
Setting up rituals helps you stick to certain habits and it also signals your brain and body what is about to happen. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be, as long as they help you stick to your goal.
4. Put a deadline on it
Are you the kind of person who finishes a task right after it’s been given one or do you wait till the last moment? Most of us will wait close to the deadline. So use this to your advantage. Put a deadline on a goal that would normally have none, and watch how much more urgency you create to make your dreams a reality.
Those steps work for all goals. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big goal, a small goal, anywhere in between. If you have a clear goal, this is the way to make it happen.
But what if you don’t have clarity on the goal?
Many of us can get stuck in a rut, lose sight of what’s important or simply haven’t found an answer to the age-old question – what do you want?
This can be especially daunting as a teenager or young adult, with so many possibilities around us, how can we choose? How can we even begin to start choosing? How do we know if that’s what we want or if it’s simply what others want for us?
One of the most common pieces of advice is to ‘follow your passion’. If this works for you, do that. Try out whatever ignites your passion. Try and then test and test again.
But most people who face this difficult question, can’t even find their passion. And so this mantra becomes an overwhelming idea that they can never live up to and they have failed before even beginning.
So we suggest a different approach: follow whatever energizes you.
Do you feel energized by talking to people? Go and do that. Does a spin class energise you? Go to multiple spin classes a week. Do you enjoy reading books on the weekend? Read all of the books you can get your hands on! Go to book shops and ask for similar reads. Join a book club and discuss your thoughts.
If you let this thought guide you instead of putting pressure on yourself to find your passion, it might take you places you never thought possible. You might recognize patterns you enjoy and build a goal around that.
Now we have talked about the why, talked through the steps, gave you an idea of where to look for bigger goals, but you still might be sitting there, thinking, ‘I still don’t think this works for me’.
In this case, you might want to consider that your brain is trying to protect itself by not even starting.
It is not an uncommon reaction. The brain is marvellous but it is not our most supportive friend. It remembers the bad patterns and it will always work on protecting us from any pain.
So you might want to consider some self-reflection. What exactly is it about the idea of setting a clear path towards a goal that you don’t like? Is it the firm context? Does it seem overwhelming?
We challenge you to dig deep and try to pinpoint your trigger. You might find that something has been holding you back from success that you never even realized.
So, how do you feel about starting with the end in mind? Have you tried it as our award-winning students have?
Do you have any other techniques you used to make this habit work for you? Share it with us in the comments below!
If you found this topic interesting and you want to discover more ideas that will help you change your life, consider joining us in our interactive live webinar. Choose from available dates here.
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