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Beginning With the End

Written By: Krista Keil

Concepts taken from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Steve Covey

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK Jr.) was a man on a mission. He understood his calling in life. He utilized his unique gifts and skill-set, first as a Baptist minister, and then to magnify the civil rights movement in the United States. MLK Jr. amplified the voice of the African American community, by advocating for equal rights and nonviolent resistance. He is revered as one of the ‘greats’ in American history, and rightfully so– but how did MLK Jr. go about accomplishing the tasks set before him? He began with a vision- he began with the end in mind.

To accomplish anything great, regardless of how big or small, there must be a vision. A ‘vision’ is the thing that a person, company, or organization, works towards and strives for. A ‘vision,’ for all intents and purposes, is the last thing to be accomplished. Covey’s second habit, in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is about learning to, “Begin With the End in Mind.” Covey explains that you have to understand where you want to end up in order to get there. Knowing your end point helps provide direction and establishes a road map to follow, Covey expands. Having an end goal or “mission” steers us in the right direction: it allows us to lead our lives instead of being led by other things or people. It would be difficult to drive in a new city without a map, why would we consider trying to get through life without one? Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to have a keen sense of his “life map,” and was relentless in the pursuit of it. Depending upon his moral compass and God’s guidance, he was deeply rooted in his identity, his purpose, and steered by his values and principles.

Dr. King could easily have been swept up in media attention, in rumors, and the negativity of people who wanted him to fail. He could have become dismayed by counter protesters and those in politics trying to suppress him- but he didn’t. MLK Jr. remained grounded because he understood his end goal: to eradicate segregation and racism in the United States. To many, this was inconceivable. The radical thing is- MLK didn’t do anything that you and I can’t do, But what he did differently from many of his day, was stand boldly, courageously, and firmly in his principles and convictions, and implement the vision he received through his calling as a minister and civil rights activist. Dr. King’s vision began with a strong foundation carved by his religious conviction, which led to his doctoral studies in systematic theology. His faith, education, and upbringing formed his moral compass and built the backbone for his philosophical understanding of justice, as referenced in his “I Have a Dream” speech, and other writings. MLK Jr. stood unswervingly in the face of hatred. I’m sure there were moments he wanted to give up; in which he feared for the safety of his family; in which he felt the weight he was carrying was too much. And still he stood– because he knew the end mattered– he understood the significance of the end goal. Imagine if MLK Jr. didn’t take a stand, or stick to his convictions. Dr. King is a stalwart example of what it means to ‘begin with the end.’

As we embark upon a new year, and commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it’s a good opportunity to reflect upon how we can apply the passionate conviction he demonstrated, as well as the habit of ‘beginning with the end in mind.’ What is something you’d like to achieve by the end of the year? How will you get there? At YLF, we’re setting personal and professional goals to help us achieve our aspirations by year’s end, and will be teaching students how to apply the habit of ‘beginning with the end.’ If you’re interested in implementing this new habit, a few suggestions are provided below.

  1. Write a personal mission statement.

    1. A personal mission statement lays the foundation for your values and principles. It serves as a guidestar- it reminds us what is deeply important to us. Having a strong bedrock from which to begin helps us contribute in a meaningful way to the vision of our life as a whole, each and every day. It keeps us on track.

  2. Take time for self reflection.

    1. Self-growth isn’t possible without self-reflection. Self-reflection leads to self-awareness, which enables us to examine our core values, habits, and deepest aspirations. Set aside time each week for self-reflection (even if just 15 minutes). Points of reflection could include: areas of strength and weakness, any progress or “baby steps” made, and assessing whether your actions align with your mission statement Jot down your responses to review later.

  3. Be open to change.

    1. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Trying new things and overcoming fears is an important aspect of personal growth. Changing your end goal or how you plan to get there may be needed. Try switching up your daily routine or attempt something you’ve always been afraid to do.

  4. Set attainable goals for yourself.

    1. Goals are a good way to document progress- even if you miss the mark. Setting goals stretches us. Setting small, realistic goals is a great way to take baby steps towards the bigger items you want to accomplish, and changes you want to make. Write down short term and long term goals: weekly, monthly, annually.

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness, and all the other shallow things will not matter." ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


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