burial casketImagine for a moment that you could eavesdrop at your funeral. What would you want others to say about you? What would you want others to have seen in your life? What achievements would you want them to remember? What difference would you have made in their lives? The answers to these questions touch on some of our deep fundamental values and reveal our personal definition of success.

The second habit contained in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is to begin today with that image in mind. Examine each part of my life in the context of what matters most. Start with a clear understanding of my destination. If I know where I’m going and where I am now, then I am in position to take steps in the right direction (stay tuned for next week’s habit).

All things are created twice. Once when I have a mental image of what I want to accomplish, then second when I do it. But effectiveness in life depends on whether our effort is expended in the right direction. (Otherwise, as one phrased it, we’re straightening deck chairs on the Titanic. Or we’ve climbed the ladder only to find it was leaning against the wrong building.) Therefore, I need both a vision of my destination and a compass (set of principles or directions).

In order to begin with the end in mind, I must develop a personal mission statement. This statement focuses on what I want to be (character) and do (contributions and achievements) as well as the principles/values upon which that being and doing are based. Once I have a mission statement, I am able to flow with the changes life throws my way because I have created a solid foundation.

My personal mission statement (still a work-in-progress) centers around excellence in three main areas — faith, family, and fiction. Faith encompasses my vertical and horizontal relationships based on loving God and loving others. Family includes the more practical qualities of domestic tranquility, a healthy lifestyle, and wise financial management. Fiction is the alliterative word that represents being a professional writer in my day job, blog, novels, and marketing efforts.

What about you? What would you want others to say at your funeral? What key elements would be in your personal mission statement? Do you know where you are headed in life?

Tools For the Journey – Habit #2 – Begin With the End in Mind
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