Begin with the End in Mind

Begin with the end in mind is the second of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people.
While the first habit, seek first to understand then to be understood, can be considered in the context of  James 1:19-20 what is the Christian context for the second habit?
While I have found all the habits set out by Covey to be helpful is there more to the second habit?
We picture the end product then proceed to take the steps to produce it e.g. a new home begins with ideas, then a plan and then construction. Does the same apply to a person’s life?
Covey uses the illustration of attending one’s own funeral where there are four speakers, one from your family, another a friend, a third speaker is from your workplace or profession and the final speaker is from your church or community organisation. He then poses the question, What would you like each of them to say about you and your life?
While there is merit in the exercise I find I am limited in my capacity, my knowledge, skills, and experience to complete it. In fact I am a work in progress, as Covey states, however I am not self-directed but Christ directed. It is God who sees the future and He is shaping me after the character of His son, Jesus. My task is to submit myself, to be obedient, in faith to God’s shaping. As the Apostle Paul states in 2 Timothy 1:12, Because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
Covey in discussing the second habit proposes adopting a principle-centred life, where our lives are built on correct principles. Again his proposal has merit however, it misses the mark. The foundation for a Christian isn’t principles it is Christ.
God has the end in mind and we can be confident in him to shape us and prepare us for life eternal when we put our trust in Jesus. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father but by me. (John 14:6)


Fred Hollows 2

Fred Hollows in his updated biography with Peter Corris in response to a question from Caroline Jones, an ABC radio presenter, recalled a moment in his life when he’d been brought up short, to take stock and consider his priorities.

He was in Chihuahua, Mexico, suffering from a torn muscle in his leg. He didn’t know what it was – the slightly comic gait he had to adopt, the wholly exotic location with all the remains of Mayan civilisation decaying around him, or the occasional stabs of pain, but he had a sudden insight into the nature of things as far as Fred Hollows was concerned.

The enlightenment was two-pronged.

Firstly, he realised that it didn’t matter if he didn’t publish anymore scientific papers as he had already made a respectable contribution to ophthalmology and he didn’t need to feel threatened from that direction.

Secondly, he perceived with great clarity that it was against his nature, and ultimately negative, for him to participate closely in academic and administrative politics. The upshot was that he decided not to attend meetings that he judged likely to be unproductive.

Ironically, while he never sought a high profile except to benefit the work he’d been doing, he found after putting this policy into place he became a much more well-known figure than before.

Fred‘s dream is now continued through the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation an international development organisation that focuses on blindness prevention and Australian indigenous health.

This account is a wonderful example of taking stock, considering our priorities and then acting responsibly in regard to the effective use of our time in our chosen vocation.


Jessica, an Australian TV mini-series, is based on the novel, with the same name, written by Bryce Courtney.
Jessica Bergman, played by Leeanna Watsman, had been committed to a mental asylum by her mother.
Wandering the grounds of the asylum with her barrister, Mr Runche, played by Sam Neill, who is down and out and often inebriated, Jessica explores the possibility of regaining custody of her young son. Coming to the realisation that it will be next to impossible given her circumstances she turns to Runche and looking at him she apologises, “I’ve wasted your time.” Runche replies, “You can’t waste my time. It belongs to me and if I choose to use it on your behalf I will do so.”
Runche’s pithy reply expresses the essence of the effective use of time that is available to us. Time is a gift, assume responsibility for it and use it wisely.

Powerful Mentoring Tools

Mentoring Tool #3

The time management matrix developed by Stephen Covey is another powerful mentoring tool.

Essentially time management is a misnomer, the real issue is managing oneself. Time cannot be managed, each of us is given one day at a time to live. We decide how we are going to use each day.

The matrix as shown provides a valuable focus for a mentoring discussion particularly around the QUALITY quadrant. The matrix can be sketched on a piece of paper or on a paper serviette around coffee.
Organising around the QUALITY quadrant involves four decisive actions:

1. Identifying your key roles
2. Selecting two or three important goals related to each of these roles
3. Scheduling time in the week ahead to achieve the goals
4. Adapting daily

A fifth decisive action is delegation. Effective delegation is a high-leverage action. It opens up growth opportunities for people and the organisation.

Adapted from Stephen R Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989, The Business Library, Melbourne