Begin with the End in Mind


Are you truly doing what you believe you were called to do?

We all walk through life with regrets, but we often don’t like to think about them because they make us feel bad. We only want to address them when we’re on our deathbed, when we know we don’t have much time left.

The problem in life is we often let others decide our priorities for us, or we put certain priorities above others, like work ahead of family. Many of us work day-to-day, rarely considering what we’re truly doing with our lives. So, are you truly doing what you believe you were called to do?

What Are You Called to Do?

What’s so interesting is we humans are 99% the same in our DNA code, and yet each individual is still unique. There’s no one else in this entire world just like you with your exact personality, history, or natural talents. Because everyone is unique, everyone has a unique calling.

Imagine you’ve got 2 days to live. What would you be thinking? What would you regret?

When you begin with the end in mind, you set priorities for yourself that are truly important.

Most individuals’ priorities are family, faith, and friendship, but it’s hard to have the same sense of urgency as you might if you knew you only had a few days left to live. So, it’s important to define what’s important to you and set out your principles, which are fundamental truths interwoven into your life, guiding all your decisions.

Suppose your boss calls you into work on your day off. If you’re principle-centered, you don’t use emotions or fear to guide your decision to go in or not. You remove the emotion from the process and instead allow your principles to guide you.

Being principle-centered is a positive thing. It creates:

  • A proactive mindset—you’re making decisions based on your principles.
  • Effective decisions—it matches with what you think is important.
  • Personal ease—you can accept the decisions you make because they match what you believe is important.

I’ve written previously about Viktor Frankl, the Jewish doctor who was trapped in a Nazi camp and realized he could choose his reactions to his circumstances. Frankl said we detect—rather than invent—our missions in life. Everyone has a specific vocation or mission in life. Therein, you can neither be replaced, nor can your life be repeated. Your task is as unique as your specific opportunity to implement it.

Here’s a computer analogy: Habit 1 said you’re the programmer. You have the ability to choose how you’ll react to the things that happen to you. Habit 2 says you have the ability to write out your “program.” In other words, you have the ability to choose how you’ll guide your life.

What will guide you in this life until you accept responsibility that you’re a programmer? You can write the program and choose what’s important. Whatever guides you (faith, family, relationships, money, power) will guide your life and decisions.

If your friend is always volunteering for overtime, it’s probably because he’s money-centered—which isn’t completely evil. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing money, but it’s what you do with money that’s important.

A family-centered individual is always bringing pictures of their kids to work and bragging about their children and their accomplishments. That’s what guides their decision to go into work.

Maberry, my partner on this project, interviewed Betty Soskin, 94, the oldest park ranger in America. A few years into her career (which she didn’t even began until she was 86), the National Parks Service shut down due to government problems. Soskin spoke out against the shutdown, despite being a government employee. She said, “Look, I don’t have time to waste. I’ve got important work to do. Don’t get in my way. I’ve got to get this done.”

Soskin discovered she had to work with the end in mind. Sure, it would be easier for her to assume she didn’t have much time left because she was 94—but none of us really has much time left. We’ve got to work with the same urgency no matter our age.

Soskin also adopted the proactive mindset. She could’ve spent her remaining years complaining about the government at senior centers. Instead, she works every day with the end in mind. She’s clear about what she’s working toward, and it makes those around her want to get stuff done, too.

Family First

Many individuals with young families choose to make their family their highest priority, believing quality and quantity of time spent with their kids helps them raise 30-year-olds who’ll have an impact on the world. After all, you want your kids to become functional, happy, out-of-the-house adults, right?

Many times, we let the here-and-now guide our decisions. A few years ago, I was starting my online business and spent so many hours trying to build websites and fulfill customer requests. It was my hobby that was making me money.

I remember distinctly having an argument with my wife. We’d been married 3 years, and I argued that I should be able to have time in the evenings as soon as I got home to work on my business. She was upset with me because she believed I needed to be with my family.

I was so obsessed with achieving business success because I wasn’t allowing my principles of family and faith to guide me. I was blinded by my obsession to pursue money so we could pay off my college debt, and I’d let that obsession get in the way of spending time with my baby girls.

Ultimately, I got my way: 2 or 3 days a week, I’d come home and work on my business. I’d just eat dinner with my family and then spend time working . I told my wife, “This is just for a season. Don’t worry, it’s only for a little bit.”

Then, one day, it was 10 pm. I was working and clearly remember thinking: What if I had cancer and I only had a month to live? Would I be happy with the way I’ves conducted myself? Would I be satisfied with how I’ve ignored my children and my wife? That really broke me.

Paradigm Shift

A paradigm shift is what these 7 habits are all about. They get you to think differently, take responsibility for your actions, and give you the power to choose so you can change your principles or identify them.

You must decide what principles are in your life. How satisfied are you with them? Where do you want your priorities to be? Do you need to be working less or more? Do you need to be making more money to pay off your bills faster? Do you need to spend more time with your family?

Take the time today to think about the decisions you’re making about the really important stuff: finances, family, and close friends. Where are your priorities? This process doesn’t happen overnight, but if you spend a little time each day considering and aligning your priorities, you’ll bring about your own paradigm shift.

A simple exercise can help you determine if your priorities are in the right place: Look at your calendar, then look at your checkbook, and see if those 2 things line up with your priorities. Where you spend your time and money is what you truly value.

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