sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Begin a Challenge with the End in Mind

By Linda Ward March 17, 2023 Lifestyle

Franklin Covey wrote this as the second of his 7 habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the End in Mind, which means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”

I call this having an outcome picture. A picture in your mind that depicts the end result or outcome.

You Do This Already!

Do you realize that most of us think with the end in mind? Remember when you began and completed a recent project? It could have been reorganizing your kitchen cupboards, finishing a quilt, or cleaning the house.

Chances are that thoughts about the end result motivated you to get going on it. We do this without consciously recognizing it. I’m proposing, as Mr. Covey has, to try using this technique consciously with work, home projects, or with your own mental health.

That doesn’t mean we always reach the picture we had in mind when starting the project. We all can relate to that, right? It’s easy to get distracted and off course, forgetting the outcome we were headed for. Keep reading to find out what to do, when you get off course to the goal.

What If…

Let’s imagine that you started your day with an outcome picture of certain events you knew were to take place as the day unfolds. Do this BEFORE you begin your projects. See if you feel added motivation to complete projects.

  • “I have a clean kitchen with all the dishes put away.” Now in your mind’s eye, picture your kitchen when it’s in order.
  • “I reject any negative thoughts about myself and easily switch to the positive all day long.” See yourself catching those negative internal comments or thoughts that hold you back in your day then changing them to positive ones. See your whole being brighten up and feel more confident.
  • “I’m tackling the messy closet today and won’t quit until it’s organized.” Get a picture in your mind of the closet straightened out and clean. See yourself using the closet with ease now without struggling to find anything!
  • “Today, I’ll take 5 minutes every two hours of my workday to stop and breathe, letting myself relax a bit.” Now you picture yourself taking those breaks, and as a result you see yourself calmer and happier at the end of the day.

How Others Have Made This Work

Every architect or builder has the end blueprint in mind as they begin the build. As one architect says, “We can see the end result and the hundreds of tiny steps between an initial design sketch on a napkin to the final paint touch up on your finished project.”

Every quilter buys the pattern, the fabric and puts the hours into the project looking at the picture of the beautiful quilt it will become.

When you start a 1000-piece puzzle, you keep looking at that beautiful picture on the box, as you seek out the right pieces.

I heard an analogy once of starting out on a trip without a plan to get to a new destination. If you didn’t study a map, or use your GPS to guide you, but got in the car and started turning on different roads, would you ever reach the destination? In this context, the end result picture is the map.

Accomplishing Something a Bit Crazy

When I was 40 years old, I decided I would ski a Cross Country Ski marathon. What a wild idea. I’m not the most athletic type. Nevertheless, I wanted to do some kind of marathon in my lifetime yet wasn’t sure it would be possible for me as I kept celebrating birthdays!

I purchased the right ski gear, trained in cold snowy conditions, and stayed in the best shape possible. My goal was having my own sense of accomplishment of doing a marathon and the medal they would give me at the end of the race.

The day came, and I skied the best I could, but was stopped at the halfway mark because my time was too slow. That was a disappointment, and thoughts about giving up on the goal were swirling around in my head for several months.

I kept at it though, trying again the next year, armed with a better understanding of the challenge ahead of me. I trained when no one else was out skiing and I’d rather be warm in my home. Sometimes the snow and cold wind would whip around making me wonder what the heck I was doing!

I skied 32 miles on marathon day, and they put a ribbon with a beautiful medal over my neck when I crossed the finish line. That was my motivation, and I accomplished it! I sure didn’t win any records for speed, but I had the medal around my neck, exactly like in the outcome picture in my mind all those snowy training hours.

What’s Your Goal?

What’s your challenge today, or any day? It could be starting a small exercise routine, knocking out sugar from your diet, or cleaning out an overstuffed closet in your home. What outcome picture can you clearly form of your challenge?

Try this. Sit in a quiet space, close your eyes, and see if you can get a clear picture of what it looks like when the challenge has been met. Sight, sounds, tastes, feelings… use all that applies to make the picture real.

Start Small and Attainable

I’ve found with young kids, rather than telling them to clean their room, you divide the room into four equal sections, and ask them to clean one section at a time, one day at a time.

Try that on yourself. When you have a big overwhelming area to unclutter, do one small part of it. See yourself in an exercise routine, one time a week to begin with.

Is Stopping an Option?

The idea here is to start, keep the outcome in mind, and keep at it. What if you don’t make it, get distracted, or just lose interest? Franklin Covey has his answer in the quote above, “continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make it happen.”

My advice it to start over. Is the outcome picture still one that you truly want? If not, time to change it. Has that picture morphed into something more realistic or more challenging? Dust off the picture, change it to what it needs to be now, then flex your imagination muscles to make it happen.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have examples where the outcome picture, or starting with the end in mind, helped you accomplish a large goal? Have you dropped a goal that you know you need to pick up again? Will you give this a try to accomplish something big or small in your day, week, or year?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The first step is the hardest.Procastanation is a thief of time.
Little and often on a regukar basis gets the job done whatever you attempt.
But once its done the satisfaction is empowering.

Linda Ward

Lisa, I like your statement, procrastination is a thief of time! Just start and see if next steps are easier!

shaggy maggie

I’m puzzled and intrigued. I’ve been strength training 3X a week because I read my bones need it, and I enjoy it. But I have no goal or end picture…just a vague sense
of taking care of myself, and meeting my weekly goals. I have no endgame.
How can I apply this endgame idea?

Linda Ward

Hello Shaggy Maggie,
Could it be that you are already applying the principle of beginning a challenge with the end in mind? When you do strength training, you are doing it to help your bones. Imagining strong and healthy bones is the end picture, and it looks like you meet that goal by the steps you take every week to train.
It’s ok that you have “no endgame.” I’m assuming you mean, no overall big goal to accomplish at this point in your life. Apply this principle to smaller things in your life, like clearing out clutter in every closet, or achieving a goal of walking 4-5 times a week. In these smaller examples, the end picture is a closet where you can see everything and all the sizes fit you. The end picture of walking everyday is seeing yourself enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and what that does to your mood on those days you walk.

shaggy maggie

Thank you!


Great article! In 2008, I had planned to restore my parents’ wedding album for their 60th anniversary, then realized I had to do much more work so adjusted the scope and timeline of the project. For the event, I had nice photocopies of the original pictures just stuck into a simple album and it was a big hit on the day.

I was able to get the names of people from group photos by talking with my parents as we went page by page. I put handwritten notes behind each photo that needed people to be identified.

I wanted to fix the original photos, repair torn ones, and remount all of
them on archival paper, and place the new pages into an album using the original covers. I started with gusto but the project stalled-for 15 years!

I had purchased supplies, had started organizing the photos and putting them in order by numbers printed on the backs. They told a nice story of a beautiful day, but they were stored in boxes, too fragile to properly enjoy.

The other day I took everything out and got to work. All of the photos have been repaired and they are in protective archival sleeves and remounted on nice paper. The pages are in a very nice album with the original covers.

This may seem pathetic, but I’m probably the only family member who wanted to do this(done at my own expense and that’s fine). Even my parents didn’t care that much…but it’s done, and it feels good!

There is a list with the album with notes about the people in each one. But my next step is to write the captions or print them out and place them where they belong.

Wish Dad was still alive to see it, he would have appreciated it. I don’t fault myself for not finishing it sooner, but it’s such a nice feeling to have done it!

Linda Ward

Dear Carol,
Restoring photos and organizing is a massive project. Kudos to you that you started and persevered to following through to finish. I did the same with photos of my two boys, making them their own album. It took so much determination to finish that project, but when I did I was so happy to hand those albums to them for their own keepsakes. To keep going, you had to see the end result in your mind every time you sat down to work on it!


EXCELLENT article. I recently had a major water problem in the basement that necessitated having a water containment system installed. It required moving all shelving units which occupied all 4 walls and contained 50 years of accumulation to the middle of the basement, along with the other contents of the basement – a lifetime of treasures. It was overwhelming, however I approached it with the thinking that I could do 15 min each day. Some days stretched into longer periods of time, but the 15 min approach got me started. A month later when the basement contractor arrived, I was ready. When it was time to reinstall the shelving and items, I had completely gone through a lifetime of stored items and my basement was completely clean and organized.


I like your method, Cathy. Your deadline provided good motivation. If projects are too open-ended, sometimes I put them off too long. But you did all that hard work in manageable bites. Hope to do the same!

Linda Ward

You found an important key to overcome big looming projects, that’s breaking it down into smaller increments! Congratulations on a clean an organized space in your home!

The Author

Linda Ward is a Writer and Life Coach living in Minnesota. She specializes in helping mature women find everyday happiness and a satisfying life. She zeroes in on life after divorce, retirement transitions, and finding courage no matter what the circumstances. Her inspiring new eBook is called, Crazy Simple Steps to Feeling Happier. Linda’s Professional background is Social Work and Counseling.

You Might Also Like