When’s the last time you stopped to think about what you really want? Not what you need, but what you really want to achieve with your life.
Unfortunately, many people never seriously ask themselves this question. As a result, they never end up accomplishing their dreams. We don’t want that to happen to you too so today, we’re going to shed some light on this topic and discuss how to begin with the end in mind. In this article, you’ll learn what this philosophy is and why it’s so important.
We’ll also teach you a simple, five-step process you can use to begin with the end in mind today.
What it Means to Begin With the End In Mind
According to Dr. Stephen R. Covey, all things are created twice — first in the mind, and then in the real world. Physical creations follow mental ones, just like homes are built according to blueprints. To make your deepest desires a reality, you first need to see and understand what those desires are. So, in short, to begin with the end in mind is to visualize your life, career, or a specific project the way that you want it to end up being before you actually begin pursuing it. When you make this conscious effort, you take much greater control over your life and circumstances.
There are, in our opinion, three main reasons why this “begin with the end in mind” philosophy is so important. They are clarity, efficiency, and purpose. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
When you understand where you want to end up, you’ll gain tremendous clarity in many areas of your life. For example, if you realize that your greatest career goal is to become an entrepreneur and own your own business, the steps to achieving this end become clear.
First, you have to come up with a viable business idea. Then you need to create your product, get customers, hire employees, find investors, etc.
Obviously, the steps you take will be unique to your vision, but the general aspects of owning a business remain. When you begin with the end in mind, you’ll also gain clarity as to what NOT to do and pursue. If your goal is to live in a beach house in Hawaii, you might decline a job offer from a company in Boston.
Then again you might not if the job pays well and will provide you with the funds to purchase your beach house sooner. Either way, you’ll know what your next move should be because you know where you’re trying to get to.
When you begin with the end in mind you gain clarity, which will naturally help you become more efficient. You’ll be able to plan and strategize for the best route to your goals. Let’s say that you want to become a project manager at your company within the next two years. That’s your goal. You can now plan out the most efficient way to achieve it. Instead of chasing erroneous objectives, you’ll focus on just the steps you need to take to become a project manager.
Finally, when you begin with the end in mind, you gain purpose.
You’ll be chasing goals that are actually meaningful to you, building a career you can be proud of, and living the kind of life you want.
Many people find that they lack fulfillment because they’re chasing other people’s goals without realizing it. Not everybody wants to be a rich and famous millionaire, or be the CEO of a company, or have a vacation home in Miami — at least not enough to put in the work required. Many people would rather live a quiet life with the people they love.
There’s nothing wrong with that! The key is focusing on what you really want and working to achieve it. That’s how you gain purpose and fulfillment.
How to Begin With the End In Mind
So far we’ve covered the “what” and “why” in regard to beginning with the end in mind. Now, let’s tackle the “how”. There are five steps:
1. Dream Big (Or Small)
First, you need to decide where you really want to go. This can be done on a grand scale for your entire life, or on a much smaller level for any project you’re currently working on. Either way, identify what it is you hope to achieve. Up for a little reader participation? The following is an exercise we first learned about from Ryan Carson, founder and CEO of Treehouse.
It’s a great way to understand what you want to accomplish. Note: this exercise allows you to clearly examine your entire life and what you want to achieve during it. But it can easily be adapted for small, everyday goals as well.
A Visualization Exercise
Imagine yourself in your home. It’s the morning time, you’ve just woken up, and you’re preparing to go to an event later in the day.
You’re not exactly sure what the event is, but you know it’s important. Now, imagine yourself getting ready for this event, the clothes you’ll wear, the way you’ll style your hair.
Once you’re ready, picture yourself leaving your house for the venue. What’s the weather like outside, what are the neighbors doing, how’s traffic?
You follow your GPS’ instructions and after a few minutes, you arrive at a building. As you walk through the front doors and into a lobby area, you’re greeted by your loved ones. All the people in this world that mean the most to you. They’re all smiling. Finally, you walk through another set of doors and into a giant auditorium. You find more of your loved ones here, your family, friends, business associates. Your favorite teacher from high school or your hairdresser perhaps. Every person who’s ever mattered and played a role in your life is there.
Imagine what this place looks like and how you might feel. Then it hits you; you’re at your own funeral and every person in the auditorium is there to celebrate and reflect upon your life. What would they say? More importantly, what would you want them to say?
This may seem like a long, drawn-out example, but it’s an important exercise. You’ll immediately realize what and who really matters to you. You can then use this information to your advantage.
2. Be Honest
Next, you need to assess your current situation. Where are you right now in regard to where you’re trying to go? If you weren’t clear on your goals before completing the first step, you may find that you need to make serious adjustments to get yourself on the right path. That’s okay!
It’s better that you found out now than next week, month, or year. Now you can make the necessary changes and start chasing your true objectives sooner.
It’s really important that you’re brutally honest with yourself during this step. The more clearly you see your current situation, the better prepared you’ll be to remove yourself from it and chase your dreams.
3. Design a Path
When you know exactly where you stand and have a clear vision of where you want to end up, you’re ready to start designing a path between the two. The objective is to draw as straight of a line between you and your goals as possible. We recommend working backward from what you hope to achieve.
After all, we’re trying to begin with the end in mind, remember?
So first picture your endpoint. Now imagine the point right before it. Keep doing this until you’ve reached your current situation. Let’s use a personal goal like learning to play the piano as an example. You’ve decided that you want to become a piano player and be able to play Fur Elise by Beethoven on the ivories. (If the name of this composition isn’t familiar to you, look it up. You’ve heard it before.)
Working backward from this goal, you realize that you must learn a number of simpler pieces before you’ll be ready to play Fur Elise. In order to learn these simpler pieces, you must practice. But how will you know what to practice (and if you’re practicing proper technique) without a teacher?
Your teacher will require you to have your own piano or keyboard, which you don’t currently have. To save up enough money to by one, you commit to taking extra shifts at the diner where you work.
A path to your goal of learning to play piano might look something like this then:
- Take extra shifts at the diner to save up money for a piano.
- Buy a piano and hire a piano teacher.
- Practice the songs she assigns you, starting with easy pieces such as Ode to Joy.
- Keep practicing and begin to learn more intermediate pieces like Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
- Finally, ask your teacher to teach you Fur Elise by Beethoven.
- Practice the piece until you’ve mastered it.
- Tell all your friends that you know how to play the piano.
See how that works?
4. Put Pen to Paper
After completing steps one, two, and three, it’s time to put pen to paper and craft your mission statement.
A mission statement is just a sentence or two that defines your purpose, why that purpose matters to you, and how you plan to pursue it. Again, this could be a personal mission statement for your life, a corporate statement for your company, or a project statement for the task you’re currently working on.
And the best part is, you’ve already done most of the hard work for this step!
You’ve already defined your purpose. It’s what you’re trying to achieve. The goal you’ve set for yourself.
You’ve also already identified why that goal is important to you. Both of these things were accomplished in the “Dream Big (Or Small)” step. You’ve even determined how you plan to achieve your goal. That’s what we covered in step three when you designed your path. Now all you need to do is assimilate this information into a concise mission statement. Here are a few examples from people you’re undoubtedly familiar with. Feel free to use them as templates for your own mission statement.
- “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” — Oprah Winfrey
- “To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.” — Amanda Steinberg, founder of DailyWorth
- “To create content that educates, informs and inspires.” — Public Broadcasting System (PBS)
5. Fully Commit
The last step is commitment. You can identify both your goals and your current status in achieving them.
Then you can concoct the greatest plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be in the least time possible. You can even take time to craft an amazing mission statement that sums up your entire purpose and plan in one or two concise sentences. But you’ll only get where you want to go if you fully commit and work hard — even when it seems hopeless or you don’t feel like it. This is where the rubber really meets the road. We’ll be honest, it will probably get difficult from time to time. But if you stick with it, you’ll find joy, purpose, and fulfillment.
And you’ll be able to look back afterward and be proud of your accomplishments. When the going gets especially tough, remember your “why” — the reason you wanted to accomplish this goal in the first place. It will give you perspective and motivate you to keep moving forward no matter what stands in your way. You may also want to find an accountability partner to help you beat procrastination and keep you on track.
The “End In Mind” Philosophy Illustrated
Before we wrap up this article up, we want to give you an example of what all five of these steps look like in a real-life scenario.
Anna is a freelance web designer from Seattle, WA. She’s been in business for three years and makes a solid living doing what she loves. But she also feels like something’s missing. She’s just read this very blog post and decides that she needs to evaluate her life and career and begin with the end in mind.
After completing the visualization exercise mentioned earlier, Anna discovers that, while she loves her job, she misses the camaraderie of working with other humans on a regular basis. She decides that she doesn’t want to remain a solo freelancer forever.
Eventually, she wants to own and operate her own web design studio. But taking a look at her current situation, Anna realizes that she has a lot of work to do before she can accomplish this goal. First off, she’s not making nearly enough money to rent office space, hire employees, etc.
She also decides she needs to learn more about business and leadership before she’s qualified to be an entrepreneur. Ann is far from daunted, though, and immediately gets to work planning a path to her dreams. She needs to get more clients, the kind that will be willing to pay higher fees.
She also decides to frequent local designer meetups and conferences in order to meet designers to hire. Lastly, she signs up for night classes at the local college to learn business and leadership principles. With these first three steps completed, Anna goes to work on her mission statement. She ends up with: “To start and run a boutique web design agency that’s well-respected, operates with integrity, and provides a comfortable living for each of the talented designers I’ll employ.”
Finally, Anna commits to her dream by asking her best friend from college to be her accountability partner.
When you begin with the end in mind, you set yourself up for success. There’s no better way to identify what you actually want, why it’s important to you, and how to get it. To implement this philosophy in your life, simply follow the five steps outlined in this article:
- Dream Big (Or Small): What do you really want to achieve?
- Be Honest: Where are you now in regard to your goals?
- Design a Path: What’s the most direct route from where you are to where you want to be?
- Put Pen to Paper: Craft a mission statement that encompasses your goals, why they’re important to you, and how you’ll accomplish them.
- Fully Commit: Decide right now that you’ll do what it takes to make your dreams a reality.
Begin with the end in mind and you’ll find much more joy, purpose, and fulfillment in whatever you do. Good luck!