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"Begin with the end in mind."

For fans of Stephen R. Covey, this short, insightful phrase is known as the second habit of highly effective people.

I want to address an issue that often gets overlooked—beginning with the end in mind.

Although you need to pay attention to what you're doing at the moment—learning your trade, developing solid relationships, outlining immediate goals, planning your next steps—you also need to gaze far into the future to what you ultimately hope to achieve.

Would you hop in your car and start driving without having some idea of where you were going? Of course not. And yet, I'm amazed at the number of people who run their lives that way. They spend more time putting together their grocery list than designing their future.

And then they wonder why they never fulfill their dreams.

I'll tell you why. People who live their dreams succeed because they plan accurately, generate new ideas and take action. Individuals who fail to get past the dream stage do none of those things. Dream achievers start with the end in view; the others don't start at all.

Starting with the end in view requires both energy and direction. Neither comes automatically, however. Energy stems from passion, and direction is the result of planning.

In other words, the passion in your life will pull you forward toward your desired destination, and proper planning will keep you on the right path.

Here are three key reasons why it's so critical to start with the end in view:
  1. It gets you started right. You may have heard the phrase, "All's well that ends well." I'd like to offer a variation on that theme: All's well that begins well.

    How do you begin well? By first determining where you want to go. That might sound rather obvious, but it's an integral—albeit sometimes very difficult—part of the process. If you're not sure where you want to go in life, start by identifying your passions and your gifts.

    Next, find someone who has been successful in areas that interest you. Watch how they do life. Listen to them. Absorb all you can from them. Then use what you've learned to pinpoint your destination or goal.

  2. It keeps you going right. When you start with the end in view, you don't waste your energy shooting at unnecessary targets. Because you have a clear picture of where you're going, you can focus more of your energy, time and resources on getting there.

    Watching your desired "end" get closer also can motivate you to keep going—and we all need that type of encouragement as the excitement of starting turns into the sometimes—exhausting business of daily life and work.

  3. It gets you where you need to go. As I've said many times, what gets measured, gets done. Abraham Lincoln said, "I will get ready and perhaps my chance will come." Soren Kierkegaard stated, "Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward."

    Legendary basketball coach John Wooden asserted, "It's too late to prepare when opportunity comes."

    These three leaders understood the value of getting ready for today with an eye fixed firmly on the future. So take it from a great U.S. President, a Danish philosopher and a legendary basketball coach: If you want to increase your chances of success, start with the end in view.
This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's
free monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired
available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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