This habit is closely related to the concept that everything is created twice: first in our thoughts, and then in the outside world. In many cases, the first creation is implicit or done by default. It can be a product of thoughts, beliefs and world views of other people. The habit of beginning with the end in mind brings to our attention the right and responsibility to shape the first creation ourselves.
To demonstrate the perspective of having the end in mind, the book suggests an exercise of actually imagining the end of your life, your own funeral, and thinking about what you would like your friends, you family members, your co-workers and your community members say about you – about your character, about your contributions, about your accomplishments. Such exercise helps to discover, to bring to the surface your deeper values, which you might have not realized before or have been ignoring. Keeping in mind these values will help you to make better decisions in life, especially in the long term planning.
Another perspective on this theme can be gained by contemplating the question, how would you spend your time if you knew with certainty that you have only 12 months to live? Six months? Three months? One month? One week? Just 24 hours? Progressively making the time resource more and more scarce, you force yourself to drop the excuses that kept you away from the things that actually matter to you. You can choose to either do or at least attempt something important that you have been continuously postponing, or realize that you can let go of something that you don’t care that much but that has been occupying substantial part of your time, thoughts and energy.
Here lies the main difference between being effective and being efficient. Efficiency is doing the things right, effectiveness is doing the right things, and the habit of always knowing your desired destination ensures that you know which things are right. Another metaphor which is often used is that efficiency means climbing the success ladder faster, and effectiveness is making sure that this ladder is leaning against the right wall.
A technique which is recommended for proactive work on the first creation is affirmations and visualization. Affirmations are well-crafted statements that capture the essence of what it is that you want. A good affirmation is positive, personal, stated in present tense, reinforced by feelings or emotions, and is visual. Visualizing the desired outcomes in detail helps to “test-drive” the first creation, adapt it and modify it until you are certain that that is something you want. From the other side, it also creates a cognitive tension in your (subconscious) mind, pointing at the areas that need to change to get to that vision.
At the level of your whole life, the description of your vision takes the form of a personal mission. It might be helpful to describe the desired results in different categories, or in terms of the roles that you have in the different areas of life.
This chapter also develops on the topic of paradigms from the perspective of the vision. What is it that we place in the center of our lives, what is it that influences how we make decisions? A few common examples of what often becomes such a center are family, friends, money, work, pleasure or self. But all these things are volatile, and focusing exclusively on one of them in some way limits wisdom, security, guidance and power available to us for moving through our lives. The suggested better alternative is to center life around principles, because principles are always available to us, they are unchangeable, they are universal and eternal, applicable to any situation in any context.