Begin With The End In Mind. This is an instruction we often hear in relation to success, achievement or manifesting what we want in life. I first encountered it in Stephen Covey’s book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. When I decided to talk on this topic, that was my first thought. After all, this is an excellent thing to consider in achieving your goals. But then I wondered how much relevance it has to everyday life. So I decided to concentrate on the aspect that interests me the most – human relationships. I’m going to show you how you can apply this piece of wisdom yourself, too. After all, we all have relationships, whether they are with a partner, parent or child, a relative, friend or a person who serves us in a shop. We are all in relationship with others.
In thinking about how ‘Begin with the End in Mind’ applies to relationships, I naturally started with my closest relationship – the one with my husband. And that raised another question. Is it actually possible to ‘Begin with the End in Mind’ in a relationship that is already fourteen years old? I decided to give it a try anyway, and think of it as a fresh start.
What is the end I have in mind for my marriage? There is a quote which gave me a flavour of what I would like to have : “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to slide in sideways, totally worn out, screaming ‘Woohoo, what a ride!” So not for us the twin armchairs in front of the TV – no, I want to get to my seventies and eighties still being excited to be married, and still having adventures.
This was great, and I now had my end in mind. But there is another part – and that is the word ‘Begin’. Now begin seems to me to be a doing word, so there has to be some kind of action. What could it be? How could I create this flavour? Then I had an idea. My husband has for a long time had a dream of walking the Appalachian Trail. This is a long-distance footpath which begins in the south-east of the USA, follows the mountain range and ends in Maine shortly before the Canadian border. (You can find out more about it here.) Now I was never very good at Geography, but I realized that this is what is known as A Very Long Way. In fact, it is over 2,000 miles of walking with some high mountains on the trail. What it means in practice is that, even splitting the walk in two, at some point I am facing 3-4 months at a time without my husband. Now that really doesn’t tie in with my ‘end in mind’.
So I told him – “I want to go too!” Not to do the walk, but to drive a support vehicle. I will be exploring the Laundromats and Diners of small-town America, while he explores the wilderness. And we will share the adventure. It doesn’t really matter that the trip is around ten years in the future, when our children are old enough to do without us, because the excitement has started already.
How does this idea of ‘Begin with the End in Mind’ work for other relationships? With my children, being aware of the relationship I want to have with them as adults means I relate to them more with mutual respect than with heavy discipline. In business networking, the end I want is for people to know, like and trust me. So I make an effort to speak with and get to know them – and I do my best to behave in a likeable and trustworthy way.
But it isn’t always easy to ‘Begin with the End in Mind’ in our relationships, so what are the difficulties that can sometimes get in the way?
- Firstly there are the negative messages we are constantly being fed, with headlines screaming at us from the newspapers and glossy magazines, constantly telling us about everything that can go wrong. There is also the daily diet of disaster, distrust and despair that is the world of soap opera – which so many are addicted to.
- Then there are our own experiences. If we have had a difficult relationship breakdown, been let down or even betrayed by someone, this can make it hard for us to trust in the success of another relationship.
- Lastly there is the issue of role models. To truly ‘Begin with the End in Mind’ we must be able to clearly picture that end. And as relationships increasingly break down, this is becoming more difficult in society. There are men becoming fathers, for instance, who have to make up for themselves what it means to be a good Dad. A very good friend of mine has a teenaged daughter. She is a lovely human being, but she has never known her mother to be in a settled, happy, long-term relationship. Where then is her role model to create that for herself in the future? Well maybe, just maybe, she can get it from what she sees in others – perhaps even me and my husband. Now, there’s a thought
So I invite you, in your interactions with others from now on, to Begin with the End you want in Mind. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed by any negative messages. Then you can provide a role model, so that others can also Begin with the End in Mind.