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.

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?

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