Posted: September 16th, 2022
Habit 2: “Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Vision.”
After identifying and describing the negative professional attribute you would like to change, identify and describe the positive attribute that it will be replaced with and what it will look like when performed/operationalized.
The “lack of Proactiveness” in the workplace is the negative professional attribute I would like to change. Now identify and describe the positive attribute that it will be replaced with and what it will look like when performed/operationalized.
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Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind TM
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within
— Oliver Wendell Holme
Please find a place to read these next few pages where you can be alone and
uninterrupted. Clear your mind of everything except what you will read and what I will
invite you to do. Don’t worry about your schedule, your business, your family, or your
friends. Just focus with me and really open your mind.
In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and
getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music.
You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared
sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people
As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly
come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these
people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.
As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your
hand. There are to be four speakers. The first one is from your family, immediate and also
extended — children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and
grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is
one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The
third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or
some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.
Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and
your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to
reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of
What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what
achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around
you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?
Before you read further, take a few minutes to jot down your impressions. It will greatly
increase your personal understanding of Habit 2.
What it Means to “Begin with the End in Mind”
If you participated seriously in this visualization experience, you touched for a moment
some of your deep, fundamental values. You established brief contact with that inner
guidance system at the heart of your Circle of Influence
Consider the words of Joseph Addison:
When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read
the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief
of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of
the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly
follow: when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, I consider rival wits placed
side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I
reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of
mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and
some six hundred years ago, I consider that great Day when we shall all of us be
Contemporaries, and make our appearance together.
Although Habit 2 applies to many different circumstances and levels of life, the most
fundamental application of “Begin with the End in Mind” is to begin today with the
image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the
criterion by which everything else is examined. Each part of your life — today’s behavior,
tomorrow’s behavior, next week’s behavior, next month’s behavior — can be examined in
the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you. By keeping that end clearly
in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not
violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your
life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole.
To Begin with the End in Mind means to start with a clear understanding of your
destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where
you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.
It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work
harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against
the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy — very busy — without being very effective.
People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come
at the expense of things they suddenly realize were far more valuable to them. People
from every walk of life — doctors, academicians, actors, politicians, business
professionals, athletes, and plumbers — often struggle to achieve a higher income, more
recognition or a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to
achieve their goal blinded them to the things that really mattered most and now are gone.
How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and,
keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really
matters most. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just
gets us to the wrong place faster. We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we
will also be truly effective only when we Begin with the End in Mind.
If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience,
you will find your definition of success. It may be very different from the definition you
thought you had in mind., achievement, money, or some of the other things we strive for
are not even part of the right wall. When you Begin with the End in Mind, you gain a
different perspective. One man asked another on the death of a mutual friend, “How
much did he leave?” His friend responded, “He left it all.”
All Things Are Created Twice
“Begin with the End in Mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice.
There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things
Take the construction of a home, for example. You create it in every detail before you
ever hammer the first nail into place. You try to get a very clear sense of what kind of
house you want. If you want a family-centered home, you plan a family room where it
would be a natural gathering place. You plan sliding doors and a patio for children to
play outside. You work with ideas. You work with your mind until you get a clear image
of what you want to build. Then you reduce it to blueprint and develop construction
plans. All of this is done before the earth is touched. If not, then in the second creation,
the physical creation, you will have to make expensive changes that may double the cost
of your home.
The carpenter’s rule is “measure twice, cut once.” You have to make sure that the
blueprint, the first creation, is really what you want, that you’ve thought everything
through. Then you put it into bricks and mortar. Each day you go to the construction
shed and pull out the blueprint to get marching orders for the day. You Begin with the
End in Mind.
For another example, look at a business. If you want to have a successful enterprise, you
clearly define what you’re trying to accomplish. You carefully think through the product
or service you want to provide in terms of your market target, then you organize all the
elements — financial, research and development, operations, marketing, personnel,
physical facilities, and so on — to meet that objective. The extent to which you Begin with
the End in Mind often determines whether or not you are able to create a successful
enterprise. Most business failures begin in the first creation, with problems such as under
capitalization, misunderstanding of the market, or lack of a business plan.
The same is true with parenting. If you want to raise responsible, self-disciplined
children, you have to keep that end clearly in mind as you interact with your children on
a daily basis. You can’t behave toward them in ways that undermine their self-discipline
To varying degrees, people use this principle in many different areas of life. Before you
go on a trip, you determine your destination and plan out the best route. Before you plant
a garden, you plan it out in your mind, possibly on paper. You create speeches on paper
before you give them, you envision the landscaping in your yard before you landscape it,
you design the clothes you make before you thread the needle.
To the extent to which we understand the principle of two creations and accept the
responsibility for both, we act within and enlarge the borders of our Circle of Influence.
To the extent to which we do not operate in harmony with this principle and take charge
of the first creation, we diminish it.
By Design or Default
It’s a principle that all things are created twice, but not all first creations are by conscious
design. In our personal lives, if we do not develop our own self-awareness and become
responsible for first creations, we empower other people and circumstances outside our
Circle or Influence to shape much of our lives by default. We reactively live the scripts
handed to us by family, associates, other people’s agendas, the pressures of circumstance
— scripts from our earlier years, from our training, our conditioning.
These scripts come from people, not principles. And they rise out of our deep
vulnerabilities, our deep dependency on others and our need for acceptance and love, for
belonging, for a sense of importance and worth, for a feeling that we matter.
Whether we are aware of it or not, whether we are in control of it or not, there is a first
creation to every part of our lives. We are either the second creation of our own proactive
design, or we are the second creation of other people’s agendas, of circumstances, or of
The unique human capacities of self-awareness, imagination, and conscience enable us to
examine first creations and make it possible for us to take charge of our own first
creation, to write our own script. Put another way, Habit 1 says, “You are the creator.”
Habit 2 is the first creation.
Leadership and Management — The Two Creations
Habit 2 is based on principles of personal leadership, which means that leadership is the
first creation. Leadership is not management. Management is the second creation, which
we’ll discuss in the chapter on Habit 3. But leadership has to come first.
Management is a bottom-line focus: How can I best accomplish certain things?
Leadership deals with the top line: What are the things I want to accomplish? In the
words of both Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, “Management is doing things right;
leadership is doing the right things.” Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of
success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group
of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers,
the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.
The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure
manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies,
and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.
The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells,
But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We’re
As individuals, groups, and businesses, we’re often so busy cutting through the
undergrowth we don’t even realize we’re in the wrong jungle. And the rapidly changing
environment in which we live makes effective leadership more critical than it has ever
been — in every aspect of independent and interdependent life.
We are more in need of a vision or designation and a compass (a set of principles or
directions) and less in need of a road map. We often don’t know what the terrain ahead
will be like or what we will need to go through it; much will depend on our judgment at
the time. But an inner compass will always give us direction.
Effectiveness — often even survival — does not depend solely on how much effort we
expend, but on whether or not the effort we expend is in the right jungle. And the
metamorphosis taking place in most every industry and profession demands leadership
first and management second.
In business, the market is changing so rapidly that many products and services that
successfully met consumer tastes and needs a few years ago are obsolete today. Proactive
powerful leadership must constantly monitor environmental change, particularly
customer buying habits and motives, and provide the force necessary to organize
resources in the right direction.
Such changes as deregulation of the airline industry, skyrocketing costs of health care,
and the great quality and quantity of imported cars impact the environment in significant
ways. If industries do not monitor the environment, including their own work teams, and
exercise the creative leadership to keep headed in the right direction, no amount of
management expertise can keep them from failing.
Efficient management without effective leadership is, as one individual phrased it, “like
straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.” No management success can compensate for
failure in leadership. But leadership is hard because we’re often caught in a management
At the final session of a year-long executive development program in Seattle, the
president of an oil company came up to me and said, “Stephen, when you pointed out the
difference between leadership and management in the second month, I looked at my role
as the president of this company and realized that I had never been into leadership. I was
deep into management, buried by pressing challenges and the details of day-to-day
logistics. So I decided to withdraw from management. I could get other people to do that.
I wanted to really lead my organization.
“It was hard. I went through withdrawal pains because I stopped dealing with a lot of the
pressing, urgent matters that were right in front of me and which gave me a sense of
immediate accomplishment. I didn’t receive much satisfaction as I started wrestling with
the direction issues, the culture-building issues, the deep analysis of problems, the seizing
of new opportunities. Others also went through withdrawal pains from their working
style comfort zones. They missed the easy accessibility I had given them before. They still
wanted me to be available to them, to respond, to help solve their problems on a day-to-
“But I persisted. I was absolutely convinced that I needed to provide leadership. And I
did. Today our whole business is different. We’re more in line with our environment. We
have doubled our revenues and quadrupled our profits. I’m into leadership.”
I’m convinced that too often parents are also trapped in the management paradigm,
thinking of control, efficiency, and rules instead of direction, purpose, and family feeling.
And leadership is even more lacking in our personal lives. We’re into managing with
efficiency, setting and achieving goals before we have even clarified our values.
Rescripting: Becoming Your Own First Creator
As we previously observed, proactivity is based on the unique human endowment of
self-awareness. The two additional unique human endowments that enable us to expand
our proactivity and to exercise personal leadership in our lives are imagination and
Through imagination, we can visualize the uncreated worlds of potential that lie within
us. Through conscience, we can come in contact with universal laws or principles with
our own singular talents and avenues of contribution, and with the personal guidelines
within which we can most effectively develop them. Combined with self-awareness,
these two endowments empower us to write our own script.
Because we already live with many scripts that have been handed to us, the process of
writing our own script is actually more a process of “rescripting,” or Paradigm Shifting —
of changing some of the basic paradigms that we already have. As we recognize the
ineffective scripts, the incorrect or incomplete paradigms within us, we can proactively
begin to rescript ourselves.
I think one of the most inspiring accounts of the rescripting process comes from the
autobiography of Anwar Sadat, past president of Egypt. Sadat had been reared, nurtured,
and deeply scripted in a hatred for Israel. He would make the statement on national
television, “I will never shake the hand of an Israeli as long as they occupy one inch of
Arab soil. Never, never, never!” And huge crowds all around the country would chant,
“Never, never, never!” He marshaled the energy and unified the will
of the whole country in that script.
The script was very independent and nationalistic, and it aroused deep emotions in the
people. But it was also very foolish, and Sadat knew it. It ignored the perilous, highly
interdependent reality of the situation.
So he rescripted himself. It was a process he had learned when he was a young man
imprisoned in Cell 54, a solitary cell in Cairo Central Prison, as a result of his involvement
in a conspiracy plot against King Farouk. He learned to withdraw from his own mind
and look at it to see if the scripts were appropriate and wise. He learned how to vacate his
own mind and, through a deep personal process of meditation, to work with his own
scriptures, his own form of prayer, and rescript himself.
He records that he was almost loath to leave his prison cell because it was there that he
realized that real success is success with self. It’s not in having things, but in having
mastery, having victory over self.
For a period of time during Nasser’s administration Sadat was relegated to a position of
relative insignificance. Everyone felt that his spirit was broken, but it wasn’t. They were
projecting their own home movies onto him. They didn’t understand him. He was biding
And when that time came, when he became president of Egypt and confronted the
political realities, he rescripted himself toward Israel. He visited the Knesset in Jerusalem
and opened up one of the most precedent-breaking peace movements in the history of the
world, a bold initiative that eventually brought about the Camp David Accord.
Sadat was able to use his self-awareness, his imagination, and his conscience to exercise
personal leadership, to change an essential paradigm, to change the way he saw the
situation. He worked in the center of his Circle of Influence. And from that rescripting,
that change in paradigm, flowed changes in behavior and attitude that affected millions
of lives in the wider Circle of Concern.
In developing our own self-awareness many of us discover ineffective scripts, deeply
embedded habits that are totally unworthy of us, totally incongruent with the things we
really value in life. Habit 2 says we don’t have to live with those scripts. We are response-
able to use our imagination and creativity to write new ones that are more effective, more
congruent with our deepest values and with the correct principles that give our values
Suppose, for example, that I am highly over reactive to my children. Suppose that
whenever they begin to do something I feel is inappropriate, I sense an immediate
tensing in the pit of my stomach. feel defensive walls go up; I prepare for battle. My focus
is not on the long-term growth and understanding but on the short-term behavior. I’m
trying to win the battle, not the war.
I pull out my ammunition — my superior size, my position of authority — and I yell or
intimidate or I threaten or punish. And I win. I stand there, victorious, in the middle of
the debris of a shattered relationship while my children are outwardly submissive and
inwardly rebellious, suppressing feelings that will come out later in uglier ways.
Now if I were sitting at that funeral we visualized earlier, and one of my children was
about to speak, I would want his life to represent the victory of teaching, training, and
disciplining with love over a period of years rather than the battle scars of quick-fix
skirmishes. I would want his heart and mind to be filled with the pleasant memories of
deep, meaningful times together. I would want him to remember me as a loving father
who shared the fun and the pain of growing up. I would want him to remember the times
he came to me with his problems and concerns. I would want to have listened and loved
and helped. I would want him to know I wasn’t perfect, but that I had tried with
everything I had. And that, perhaps more than anybody in the world, I loved him.
The reason I would want those things is because, deep down, I value my children. I love
them, I want to help them. I value my role as their father. But I don’t always see those
values. I get caught up in the “thick of thin things.” What matters most gets buried under
layers of pressing problems, immediate concerns, and outward behaviors. I become
reactive. And the way I interact with my children every day often bears little resemblance
to the way I deeply feel about them.
Because I am self-aware, because I have imagination and conscience, I can examine my
deepest values. I can realize that the script I’m living is not in harmony with those values,
that my life is not the product of my own proactive design, but the result of the first
creation I have deferred to circumstances and other people. And I can change. I can live
out of my imagination instead of my memory. I can tie myself to my limitless potential
instead of my limiting past. I can become my own first creator.
To Begin with the End in Mind means to approach my role as a parent, as well as my
other roles in life, with my values and directions clear. It means to be responsible for my
own first creation, to descript myself so that the paradigms from which my behavior and
attitude flow are congruent with my deepest values and in harmony with correct
It also means to begin each day with those values firmly in mind. Then as the
vicissitudes, as the challenges come, I can make my decisions based on those values. I can
act with integrity. I don’t have to react to the emotion, the circumstance. I can be truly
proactive, value driven, because my values are clear.
A Personal Mission Statement
The most effective way I know to Begin with the End in Mind is to develop a personal
mission statement or philosophy or creed. It focuses on what you want to be (character)
and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which
being and doing are based
Because each individual is unique, a personal mission statement will reflect that
uniqueness, both in content and form. My friend, Rolfe Kerr, has expressed his personal
creed in this way:
Succeed at home first.
Seek and merit divine help.
Never compromise with honesty.
Remember the people involved.
Hear both sides before judging.
Obtain counsel of others.
Defend those who are absent.
Be sincere yet decisive.
Develop one new proficiency a year.
Plan tomorrow’s work today.
Hustle while you wait.
Maintain a positive attitude.
Keep a sense of humor.
Be orderly in person and in work.
Do not fear mistakes — fear only the absence of creative, constructive, and corrective
responses to those mistakes.
Facilitate the success of subordinates.
Listen twice as much as you speak.
Concentrate all abilities and efforts on the task at hand, not worrying about the next job
A woman seeking to balance family and work values has expressed her sense of personal
I will seek to balance career and family as best I can since both are important to me.
My home will be a place where I and my family, friends, and guests find joy, comfort,
peace, and happiness. Still I will seek to create a clean and orderly environment, yet
livable and comfortable. I will exercise wisdom in what we choose to eat, read, see, and
do at home. I especially want to teach my children to love, to learn, and to laugh — and to
work and develop their unique talents.
I value the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of our democratic society. I will be a
concerned and informed citizen, involved in the political process to ensure my voice is
heard and my vote is counted.
I will be a self-starting individual who exercises initiative in accomplishing my life’s
goals. I will act on situations and opportunities, rather than to be acted upon.
I will always try to keep myself free from addictive and destructive habits. I will develop
habits that free me from old labels and limits and expand my capabilities and choices.
My money will be my servant, not my master. I will seek financial independence over
time. My wants will be subject to my needs and my means. Except for long-term home
and car loans, I will seek to keep myself free from consumer debt. I will spend less than I
earn and regularly save or invest part of my income.
Moreover, I will use what money and talents I have to make life more enjoyable for
others through service and charitable giving.
You could call a personal mission statement a personal constitution. Like the United
States Constitution, it’s fundamentally changeless. In over 200 years, there have been only
26 amendments, 10 of which were in the original Bill of Rights.
The United States Constitution is the standard by which every law in the country is
evaluated. It is the document the president agrees to defend and support when he takes
the Oath of Allegiance. It is the criterion by which people are admitted into citizenship. It
is the foundation and the center that enables people to ride through such major traumas
as the Civil War, Vietnam, or Watergate. It is the written standard, the key criterion by
which everything else is evaluated and directed.
The Constitution has endured and serves its vital function today because it is based on
correct principles, on the self-evident truths contained in the Declaration of
Independence. These principles empower the Constitution with a timeless strength, even
in the midst of social ambiguity and change. “Our peculiar security,” said Thomas
Jefferson, “is in the possession of a written Constitution.”
A personal mission statement based on correct principles becomes the same kind of
standard for an individual. It becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making
major, life-directing decisions, the basis for making daily decisions in the midst of the
circumstances and emotions that affect our lives. It empowers individuals with the same
timeless strength in the midst of change.
People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the
ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you
With a mission statement, we can flow with changes. We don’t need prejudgments or
prejudices. We don’t need to figure out everything else in life, to stereotype and
categorize everything and everybody in order to accommodate reality
Our personal environment is also changing at an ever-increasing pace. Such rapid change
burns out a large number of people who feel they can hardly handle it, can hardly cope
with life. They become reactive and essentially give up, hoping that the things that
happen to them will be good.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In the Nazi death camps where Viktor Frankl learned
the principle of proactivity, he also learned the importance of purpose, of meaning in life.
The essence of “logotherapy,” the philosophy he later developed and taught, is that many
so-called mental and emotional illnesses are really symptoms of an underlying sense of
meaninglessness or emptiness. Logotherapy eliminates that emptiness by helping the
individual to detect his unique meaning, his mission in life.
Once you have that sense of mission, you have the essence of your own proactivity. You
have the vision and the values which direct your life. You have the basic direction from
which you set your long- and short-term goals. You have the power of a written
constitution based on correct principles, against which every decision concerning the
most effective use of your time, your talents, and your energies can be effectively
At the Center
In order to write a personal mission statement, we must begin at the very center of our
Circle of Influence, that center comprised of our most basic Our paradigms, the lens
through which we see the world.
It is here that we deal with our vision and our values. It is here that we use our
endowment of self-awareness to examine our maps and, if we value correct principles, to
make certain that our maps accurately describe the territory, that our paradigms are
based on principles and reality. It is here that we use our endowment of conscience as a
compass to help us detect our own unique talents and areas of contribution. It is here that
we use our endowment of imagination to mentally create the end we desire, giving
direction and purpose to our beginnings and providing the substance of a written
It is also here that our focused efforts achieve the greatest results. As we work within the
very center of our Circle of Influence, we expand it. This is highest-leverage PC work,
significantly impacting the effectiveness of every aspect of our lives.
Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom,
and power. Security represents your sense of worth, your identity, your emotional
anchorage, your self-esteem, your basic personal strength or lack of it.
Guidance means your source of direction in life. Encompassed by your map, your
internal frame of reference that interprets for you what is happening out there, are
standards or principles or implicit criteria that govern moment-by-moment decision-
making and doing.
Wisdom is your perspective on life, your sense of balance, your understanding of how
the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other. It embraces judgment,
discernment, comprehension. It is a gestalt or oneness, an integrated wholeness.
Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something.
It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It also includes the capacity to
overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.
These four factors — security, guidance, wisdom, and power — are interdependent.
Security and clear guidance bring true wisdom, and wisdom becomes the spark or
catalyst to release and direct power. When these four factors are present together,
harmonized and enlivened by each other, they create the great force of a noble
personality, a balanced character, a beautifully integrated individual.
These life-support factors also undergird every other dimension of life. And none of them
is an all-or-nothing matter. The degree to which you have developed each one could be
charted somewhere on a continuum, much like the Maturity Continuum described
earlier. At the bottom end, the four factors are weak. You are basically dependent on
circumstances or other people, things over which you have no direct control. At the top
end you are in control. You have independent strength and the foundation for rich,
Your security lies somewhere on the continuum between extreme insecurity on one end,
wherein your life is buffeted by all the fickle forces that play upon it, and a deep sense of
high intrinsic worth and personal security on the other end. Your guidance ranges on the
continuum from dependence on the social mirror or other unstable, fluctuating sources to
strong inner direction. Your wisdom falls somewhere between a totally inaccurate map
where everything is distorted and nothing seems to fit, and a complete and accurate map
of life wherein all the parts and principles are properly related to each other. Your power
lies somewhere between immobilization or being a puppet pulled by someone else’s
strings to high proactivity, the power to act according to your own values instead of
being acted upon by other people and circumstances.
The location of these factors on the continuum, the resulting degree of their integration,
harmony, and balance, and their positive impact on every aspect of your life is a function
of your center, the basic paradigms at your very core.
Each of us has a center, though we usually don’t recognize it as such. Neither do we
recognize the all-encompassing effects of that center on every aspect of our lives.
Let’s briefly examine several centers or core paradigms people typically have for a better
understanding of how they affect these four fundamental dimensions and, ultimately, the
sum of life that flows from them.
Spouse Centeredness. Marriage can be the most intimate, the most satisfying, the most
enduring, growth-producing of human relationships. It might seem natural and proper to
be centered on one’s husband or wife.
But experience and observation tell a different story. Over the years, I have been involved
in working with many troubled marriages, and I have observed a certain thread weaving
itself through almost every spouse-centered relationship I have encountered. That thread
is strong emotional dependence.
If our sense of emotional worth comes primarily from our marriage, then we become
highly dependent upon that relationship. We become vulnerable to the moods and
feelings, the behavior and treatment of our spouse, or to any external event that may
impinge on the relationship — a new child, in-laws, economic setbacks, social successes,
and so forth.
When responsibilities increase and stresses come in the marriage, we tend to revert to the
scripts we were given as we were growing up. But so does our spouse. And those scripts
are usually different. Different ways of handling financial, child-discipline, or in-law
issues come to the surface. When these deep-seated tendencies combine with the
emotional dependency in the marriage, the spouse-centered relationship reveals all its
When we are dependent on the person with whom we are in conflict, both need and
conflict are compounded. Love-hate overreactions, fight-or-flight tendencies, withdrawal,
aggressiveness, bitterness, resentment, and cold competition are some of the usual
results. When these occur, we tend to fall even further back on background tendencies
and habits in an effort to justify and defend our own behavior and we attack our
Inevitably, anytime we are too vulnerable we feel the need to protect ourselves from
further wounds. So we resort to sarcasm, cutting humor, criticism — anything that will
keep from exposing the tenderness within. Each partner tends to wait on the initiative of
the other for love, only to be disappointed but also confirmed as to the rightness of the
There is only phantom security in such a relationship when all appears to be going well.
Guidance is based on the emotion of the moment. Wisdom and power are lost in the
counterdependent negative interactions.
Family Centeredness. Another common center is the family. This, too, may seem to be
natural and proper. As an area of focus and deep investment, it provides great
opportunities for deep relationships, for loving, for sharing, for much that makes life
worthwhile. But as a center, it ironically destroys the very elements necessary to family
People who are family-centered get their sense of security or personal worth from the
family tradition and culture or the family reputation. Thus, they become vulnerable to
any changes in that tradition or culture and to any influences that would affect that
Family-centered parents do not have the emotional freedom, the power, to raise their
children with their ultimate welfare truly in mind. If they derive their own security from
the family, their need to be popular with their children may override the importance of a
long-term investment in their children’s growth and development. Or they may be
focused on the proper and correct behavior of the moment. Any behavior that they
consider improper threatens their security. They become upset, guided by the emotions
of the moment, spontaneously reacting to the immediate concern rather than the long-
term growth and development of the child. They may overreact and punish out of bad
temper. They tend to love their children conditionally, making them emotionally
dependent or counterdependent and rebellious.
Money Centeredness. Another logical and extremely common center to people’s lives is
making money. Economic security is basic to one’s opportunity to do much in any other
dimension. In a hierarchy or continuum of needs, physical survival and financial security
comes first. Other needs are not even activated until that basic need is satisfied, at least
Most of us face economic worries. Many forces in the wider culture can and do act upon
our economic situation, causing or threatening such disruption that we often experience
concern and worry that may not always rise to the conscious surface.
Sometimes there are apparently noble reasons given for making money, such as the
desire to take care of one’s family. And these things are important. But to focus on
money-making as a center will bring about its own undoing.
Consider again the four life-support factors — security, guidance, wisdom, and power.
Suppose I derive much of my security from my employment or from my income or net
worth. Since many factors affect these economic foundations, I become anxious and
uneasy, protective and defensive, about anything that may affect them. When my sense
of personal worth comes from my net worth, I am vulnerable to anything that will affect
that net worth. But work and money, per se, provide no wisdom, no guidance, and only a
limited degree of power and security. All it takes to show the limitations of a money
center is a crisis in my life or in the life of a loved one.
Money-centered people often put aside family or other priorities, assuming everyone will
understand that economic demands come first. I know one father who was leaving with
his children for a promised trip to the circus when a phone call came for him to come to
work instead. He declined. When his wife suggested that perhaps he should have gone to
work, he responded, “The work will come again, but childhood won’t.” For the rest of
their lives his children remembered this little act of priority setting, not only as an object
lesson in their minds but as an expression of love in their hearts.
Work Centeredness. Work-centered people may become “workaholics,” driving
themselves to produce at the sacrifice of health, relationships, and other important areas
of their lives. Their fundamental identity comes from their work — “I’m a doctor,” “I’m a
writer,” “I’m an actor.”
Because their identity and sense of self-worth are wrapped up in their work, their
security is vulnerable to anything that happens to prevent them from continuing in it.
Their guidance is a function of the demands of the work. Their wisdom and power come
in the limited areas of their work, rendering them ineffective in other areas of life.
Possession Centeredness. A driving force of many people is possessions — not only
tangible, material possessions such as fashionable clothes, homes, cars, boats, and
jewelry, but also the intangible possessions of fame, glory, or social prominence. Most of
us are aware, through our own experience, how singularly flawed such a center is, simply
because it can vanish rapidly and it is influenced by so many forces.
If my sense of security lies in my reputation or in the things I have, my life will be in a
constant state of threat and jeopardy that these possessions may be lost or stolen or
devalued. If I’m in the presence of someone of greater net worth or fame or status, I feel
inferior. If I’m in the presence of someone of lesser net worth or fame or status, I feel
superior. My sense of self-worth constantly fluctuates. I don’t have any sense of
constancy or anchorage or persistent selfhood. I am constantly trying to protect and
insure my assets, properties, securities, position, or reputation. We have all heard stories
of people committing suicide after losing their fortunes in a significant stock decline or
their fame in a political reversal.
Pleasure Centeredness. Another common center, closely allied with possessions, is that
of fun and pleasure. We live in a world where instant gratification is available and
encouraged. Television and movies are major influences in increasing people’s
expectations. They graphically portray what other people have and can do in living the
life of ease and “fun.”
But while the glitter of pleasure-centered lifestyles is graphically portrayed, the natural
result of such lifestyles — the impact on the inner person, on productivity, on
relationships — is seldom accurately seen.
Innocent pleasures in moderation can provide relaxation for the body and mind and can
foster family and other relationships. But pleasure, per se, offers no deep, lasting
satisfaction or sense of fulfillment. The pleasure-centered person, too soon bored with
each succeeding level of “fun,” constantly cries for more and more. So the next new
pleasure has to be bigger and better, more exciting, with a bigger “high.” A person in this
state becomes almost entirely narcissistic, interpreting all of life in terms of the pleasure it
provides to the self here and now.
Too many vacations that last too long, too many movies, too much TV, too much video
game playing — too much undisciplined leisure time in which a person continually takes
the course of least resistance — gradually wastes a life. It ensures that a person’s capacities
stay dormant, that talents remain undeveloped, that the mind and spirit become lethargic
and that the heart is unfulfilled. Where is the security, the guidance, the wisdom, and the
power? At the low end of the continuum, in the pleasure of a fleeting moment.
Malcom Muggeridge writes “A Twentieth-Century Testimony”:
When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most
forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems
now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all of its various guises; being known
and being praised; ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or
traveling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan, explaining and
experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer.
In retrospect, all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called,
“licking the earth.”
Friend/Enemy Centeredness. Young people are particularly, though certainly not
exclusively, susceptible to becoming friend-centered. Acceptance and belonging to a peer
group can become almost supremely important. The distorted and ever-changing social
mirror becomes the source for the four life-support factors, creating a high degree of
dependence on the fluctuating moods, feelings, attitudes, and behavior of others.
Friend centeredness can also focus exclusively on one person, taking on some of the
dimensions of marriage. The emotional dependence on one individual, the escalating
need/conflict spiral, and the resulting negative interactions can grow out of friend
And what about putting an enemy at the center of one’s life? Most people would never
think of it, and probably no one would ever do it consciously. Nevertheless, enemy
centering is very common, particularly when there is frequent interaction between people
who are in real conflict. When someone feels he has been unjustly dealt with by an
emotionally or socially significant person, it is very easy for him to become preoccupied
with the injustice and make the other person the center of his life. Rather than proactively
leading his own life, the enemy-centered person is counterdependently reacting to the
behavior and attitudes of a perceived enemy.
One friend of mine who taught at a university became very distraught because of the
weaknesses of a particular administrator with whom he had a negative relationship. He
allowed himself to think until eventually it became an obsession. It so preoccupied him
that it affected the quality of his relationships with his family, his church, and his
working associates. He finally came to the conclusion that he had to leave the university
and accept a teaching appointment somewhere else.
“Wouldn’t you really prefer to teach at this university, if the man were not here?” I asked
“Yes, I would,” he responded. “But as long as he is here, then my staying is too disruptive
to everything in life. I have to go.
“Why have you made this administrator the center of your life?” I asked him.
He was shocked by the question. He denied it. But I pointed out to him that he was
allowing one individual and his weaknesses to distort his entire map of life, to undermine
his faith and the quality of his relationships with his loved ones.
He finally admitted that this individual had had such an impact on him, but he denied
that he himself had made all these choices. He attributed the responsibility for the
unhappy situation to the administrator. He, himself, he declared, was not responsible.
As we talked, little by little, he came to realize that he was indeed responsible, but that
because he did not handle this responsibility well, he was being irresponsible.
Many divorced people fall into a similar pattern. They are still consumed with anger and
bitterness and self-justification regarding an ex-spouse. In a negative sense,
psychologically they are still married — they each need the weaknesses of the former
partner to justify their accusations.
Many “older” children go through life either secretly or openly hating their parents. They
blame them for past abuses, neglect, or favoritism and they center their adult life on that
hatred, living out the reactive, justifying script that accompanies it.
The individual who is friend- or enemy-centered has no intrinsic security. Feelings of
self-worth are volatile, a function of the emotional state or behavior of other people.
Guidance comes from the person’s perception of how others will respond, and wisdom is
limited by the social lens or by an enemy-centered paranoia. The individual has no
power. Other people are pulling the strings.
Church Centeredness. I believe that almost anyone who is seriously involved in any
church will recognize that churchgoing is not synonymous with personal spirituality.
There are some people who get so busy in church worship and projects that they become
insensitive to the pressing human needs that surround them, contradicting the very
precepts they profess to believe deeply. There are others who attend church less
frequently or not at all but whose attitudes and behavior reflect a more genuine centering
in the principles of the basic Judeo-Christian ethic.
Having participated throughout my life in organized church and community service
groups, I have found that attending church does not necessarily mean living the
principles taught in those meetings. You can be active in a church but inactive in its
In the church-centered life, image or appearance can become a person’s dominant
consideration, leading to hypocrisy that undermines personal security and intrinsic
worth. Guidance comes from a social conscience, and the church-centered person tends to
label others artificially in terms of “active,” “inactive,” “liberal,” “orthodox,” or
Because the church is a formal organization made up of policies, programs, practices, and
people, it cannot by itself give a person any deep, permanent security or sense of intrinsic
worth. Living the principles taught by the church can do this, but the organization alone
Nor can the church give a person a constant sense of guidance. Church-centered people
often tend to live in compartments, acting and thinking and feeling in certain ways on the
Sabbath and in totally different ways on weekdays. Such a lack of wholeness or unity or
integrity is a further threat to security, creating the need for increased labeling and self-
Seeing the church as an end rather than as a means to an end undermines a person’s
wisdom and sense of balance. Although the church claims to teach people about the
source of power, it does not claim to be that power itself. It claims to be one vehicle
through which divine power can be channeled into man’s nature.
Self-Centeredness. Perhaps the most common center today is the self. The most obvious
form is selfishness, which violates the values of most people. But if we look closely at
many of the popular approaches to growth and self-fulfillment, we often find self-
centering at their core.
There is little security, guidance, wisdom, or power in the limited center of self. Like the
Dead Sea in Palestine, it accepts but never gives. It becomes stagnant.
On the other hand, paying attention to the development of self in the greater perspective
of improving one’s ability to serve, to produce, to contribute in meaningful ways, gives
context for dramatic increase in the four life-support factors
These are some of the more common centers from which people approach life. It is often
much easier to recognize the center in someone else’s life than to see it in your own. You
probably know someone who puts making money ahead of everything else. You
probably know someone whose energy is devoted to justifying his or her position in an
ongoing negative relationship. If you look, you can sometimes see beyond behavior into
the center that creates it.
Identifying Your Center
But where do you stand? What is at the center of your own life? Sometimes that isn’t easy
to see Perhaps the best way to identify your own center is to look closely at your life-
support factors. If you can identify with one or more of the descriptions below, you can
trace it back to the center from which it flows, a center which may be limiting your
If you are Spouse Centered…
Your feelings of security are based on the way your spouse treats you.
You are highly vulnerable to the moods and feelings of your spouse.
There is deep disappointment resulting in withdrawal or conflict when your spouse
disagrees with you or does not meet your expectations.
Anything that may impinge on the relationship is perceived as a threat.
Your direction comes from your own needs and wants and from those of your spouse.
Your decision-making criterion is limited to what you think is best for your marriage or
your mate, or to the preferences and opinions of your spouse.
Your decision-making criterion is limited to what you think is best for your marriage or
your mate, or to the preferences and opinions of your spouse.
Your life perspective surrounds things which may positively or negatively influence your
spouse or your relationship.
Your power to act is limited by weaknesses in your spouse and in yourself.
* * *
If you are Family Centered…
Your security is founded on family acceptance and fulfilling family expectations.
Your sense of personal security is as volatile as the family.
Your feelings of self-worth are based on the family reputation.
Family scripting is your source of correct attitudes and behaviors.
Your decision-making criterion is what is good for the family, or what family members
You interpret all of life in terms of your family, creating a partial understanding and
Your actions are limited by family models traditions.
* * *
If you are Money Centered…
Your personal worth is determined by your net worth.
You are vulnerable to anything that threatens your economic security.
Profit is your decision-making criterion.
Moneymaking is the lens through which life is seen and understood, creating imbalanced
You are restricted to what you can accomplish with your money and your limited vision.
* * *
If you are Work Centered…
You tend to define yourself by your occupational role.
You are only comfortable when you are working.
You make your decisions based on the needs and expectations of your work.
You tend to be limited to your work role.
Your actions are limited by work role models, organizational constraints, occupational
opportunities, your boss’s perceptions, and your possible inability at some point in your
life to do that particular work.
* * *
If you are Possession Centered…
Your security is based on your reputation, your social status, or the tangible things you
possess. You tend to compare what you have to what others have.
You make your decisions based on what will protect, increase, or better display your
You see the world in terms of comparative economic and social relationships.
You function within the limits of what you can buy or the social prominence you can
* * *
If you are Pleasure Centered…
You feel secure only when you’re on a pleasure “high.
Your security is short-lived, anesthetizing, and dependent on your environment.
You make your decisions based on what will give you the most pleasure.
You see the world in terms of what’s in it for you.
Your power is almost negligible.
* * *
If you are Friend Centered…
Your security is a function of the social mirror.
You are highly dependent on the opinion of others.
Your decision-making criterion is “What will they think?
You are easily embarrassed.
You see the world through a social lens.
Your actions are as fickle as opinion.
You are limited by your social comfort zone.
* * *
If you are Enemy Centered…
Your security is volatile, based on the movements of your enemy.
You are always wondering what he is up to.
You seek self-justification and validation from the like-minded.
You are counter-dependently guided by your enemy’s actions.
You make your decisions based on what will thwart your enemy.
Your judgment is narrow and distorted.
You are defensive, over-reactive, and often paranoid.
The little power you do have comes from anger, envy, resentment, and vengeance —
negative energy that shrivels and destroys, leaving energy for littlle else.
* * *
If you are Church Centered…
Your security is based on church activity and on the esteem in which you are held by
those in authority or influence in the church.
You find identity and security in religious labels and comparisons.
You are guided by how others will evaluate your actions in the context of church
teachings and expectations.
You see the world in terms of “believers” and “non-believers,” “belongers” and “non-
Perceived power comes from your church position or role.
* * *
If you are Self-Centered…
Your security is constantly changing and shifting.
Your judgment criteria are: “If it feels good…” “What I want.” “What I need.” “What’s in it
You view the world by how decisions, events, or circumstances will affect you.
Your ability to act is limited to your own resources, without the benefits of
More often than not, a person’s center is some combination of these and/or other centers.
Most people are very much a function of a variety of influences that play upon their lives.
Depending on external or internal conditions, one particular center may be activated until
the underlying needs are satisfied. Then another center becomes the compelling force.
As a person fluctuates from one center to another, the resulting relativism is like roller
coasting through life. One moment you’re high, the next moment you’re low, making
efforts to compensate for one weakness by borrowing strength from another weakness.
There is no consistent sense of direction, no persistent wisdom, no steady power supply
or sense of personal, intrinsic worth and identity.
The ideal, of course, is to create one clear center from which you consistently derive a
high degree of security, guidance, wisdom, and power, empowering your proactivity and
giving congruency and harmony to every part of your life.
A Principle Center
By centering our lives on correct principles, we create a solid foundation for development
of the four life-support factors
Our security comes from knowing that, unlike other centers based on people or things
which are subject to frequent and immediate change, correct principles do not change.
We can depend on them Principles don’t react to anything. They won’t divorce us or run
away with our best friend. They aren’t out to get us. They can’t pave our way with
shortcuts and quick fixes. They don’t depend on the behavior of others, the environment,
or the current fad for their validity. Principles don’t die.
They aren’t here one day and gone the next. They can’t be destroyed by fire, earthquake,
or theft. Principles are deep, fundamental truths, classic truths, generic common
denominators. They are tightly interwoven threads running with exactness, consistency,
beauty, and strength through the fabric of life.
Even in the midst of people or circumstances that seem to ignore the principles, we can be
secure in the knowledge that principles are bigger than people or circumstances, and that
thousands of years of history have seen them triumph, time and time again. Even more
important, we can be secure in the knowledge that we can validate them in our own lives,
by our own experience.
Admittedly, we’re not omniscient. Our knowledge and understanding of correct
principles is limited by our own lack of awareness of our true nature and the world
around us and by the flood of trendy philosophies and theories that are not in harmony
with correct principles. These ideas will have their season of acceptance, but, like many
before them, they won’t endure because they’re built on false foundations.
We are limited, but we can push back the borders of our limitations. An understanding of
the principle of our own growth enables us to search out correct principles with the
confidence that the more we learn, the more clearly we can focus the lens through which
we see the world. The principles don’t change; our understanding of them does.
The wisdom and guidance that accompany Principle-Centered Living come from correct
maps, from the way things really are, have been, and will be. Correct maps enable us to
clearly see where we want to go and how to get there. We can make our decisions using
the correct data that will make their implementation possible and meaningful.
The personal power that comes from Principle-Centered Living is the power of a self-
aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviors, and
actions of others or by many of the circumstances and environmental influences that limit
The only real limitation of power is the natural consequences of the principles
themselves. We are free to choose our actions, based on our knowledge of correct
principles, but we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions. Remember, “If
you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other.
Principles always have natural consequences attached to them. There are positive
consequences when we live in harmony with the principles. There are negative
consequences when we ignore them. But because these principles apply to everyone,
whether or not they are aware, this limitation is universal. And the more we know of
correct principles, the greater is our personal freedom to act wisely.
By centering our lives on timeless, unchanging principles, we create a fundamental
paradigm of effective living. It is the center that puts all other centers in perspective.
If you are Principle Centered…
Your security is based on correct principles that do not change, regardless of external
conditions or circumstances.
You know that true principles can repeatedly be validated in your own life, through your
As a measurement of self-improvement, correct principles function with exactness,
consistency, beauty and strength.
Correct principles help you understand your own development, endowing you with the
confidence to learn more, thereby increasing your knowledge and understanding.
Your source of security provides you with an immovable, unchanging, unfailing core
enabling you to see change as an exciting adventure and opportunity to make significant
You are guided by a compass which enables you to see where you want to go and how
you will get there.
You use accurate data which makes your decisions both implementable and meaningful.
You stand apart from life’s situations, and circumstances and look at the balanced whole.
Your decisions and actions reflect both short and long-term considerations and
In every situation, you consciously, proactively determine the best alternative, basing
decisions on conscience educated by principles.
Your judgment encompasses a broad spectrum of long-term consequences and reflects a
wise balance and quiet assurance.
You see things differently and thus you think and act differently from the largely reactive
You view the world through a fundamental paradigm for effective, provident living.
You see the world in terms of what you can do for the world and its people.
You adopt a proactive lifestyle, seeking to serve and build others.
You interpret all of life’s experiences in terms of opportunities for learning and
Your power is limited only by your understanding and observance of natural law and
correct principles and by the natural consequences of the principles themselves.
You become a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, largely unrestricted by
the attitudes, behaviors, or actions of others.
Your ability to act reaches far beyond your own resources and encourages highly
developed levels of interdependency.
Your decisions and actions are not driven by your current financial or circumstantial
You experience an interdependent freedom.
Remember that your paradigm is the source from which your attitudes and behaviors
flow. A paradigm is like a pair of glasses; it affects the way you see everything in your
life. If you look at things through the paradigm of correct principles, what you see in life
is dramatically different from what you see through any other centered paradigm.
I have included in the Appendix section of this book a detailed chart which shows how
each center we’ve discussed might possibly affect the way you see everything else. But
for a quick understanding of the difference your center makes, let’s look at just one
example of a specific problem as seen through the different paradigms. As you read, try
to put on each pair of glasses. Try to feel the response that flows from the different
Suppose tonight you have invited your wife to go to a concert. You have the tickets; she’s
excited about going. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon.
All of a sudden, your boss calls you into his office and says he needs your help through
the evening to get ready for an important meeting at 9 A.M. tomorrow.
If you’re looking through spouse-centered or family-centered glasses, your main concern
will be your wife. You may tell the boss you can’t stay and you take her to the concert in
an effort to please her. You may feel you have to stay to protect your job, but you’ll do so
grudgingly, anxious about her response, trying to justify your decision and protect
yourself from her disappointment or anger.
If you’re looking through a money-centered lens, your main thought will be of the
overtime you’ll get or the influence working late will have on a potential raise. You may
call your wife and simply tell her you have to stay, assuming she’ll understand that
economic demands come first.
If you’re work-centered, you may be thinking of the opportunity. You can learn more
about the job. You can make some points with the boss and further your career. You may
give yourself a pat on the back for putting hours well beyond what is required, evidence
of what a hard worker you are. Your wife should be proud of you!
If you’re possession-centered, you might be thinking of the things the overtime income
could buy. Or you might consider what an asset to your reputation at the office it would
be if you stayed. Everyone would hear tomorrow how noble, how sacrificing and
dedicated you are.
If you’re pleasure-centered, you’ll probably can the work and go to the concert, even if
your wife would be happy for you to work late. You deserve a night out!
If you’re friend-centered, your decision would be influenced by whether or not you had
invited friends to attend the concert with you. Or whether your friends at work were
going to stay late, too.
If you’re enemy-centered, you may stay late because you know it will give you a big edge
over that person in the office who thinks he’s the company’s greatest asset. While he’s off
having fun, you’ll be working and slaving, doing his work and yours, sacrificing your
personal pleasure for the good of the company he can so blithely ignore.
If you’re church-centered, you might be influenced by plans other church members have
to attend the concert, by whether or not any church members work at your office, or by
the nature of the concert — Handel’s Messiah might rate higher in priority than a rock
concert. Your decision might also be affected by what you think a “good church member”
would do and by whether you view the extra work as “service” or “seeking after material
If you’re self-centered, you’ll be focused on what will do you the most good. Would it be
better for you to go out for the evening? Or would it be better for you to make a few
points with the boss? How the different options affect you will be your main concern.
As we consider various ways of looking at a single event, is it any wonder that we have
“young lady/old lady” perception problems in our interactions with each other? Can you
see how fundamentally our centers affect us? Right down to our motivations, our daily
decisions, our actions (or, in too many cases, our reactions), our interpretations of events?
That’s why understanding your own center is so important. And if that center does not
empower you as a proactive person, it becomes fundamental to your effectiveness to
make the necessary Paradigm Shifts to create a center that will.
As a principle-centered person, you try to stand apart from the emotion of the situation
and from other factors that would act on you, and evaluate the option. Looking at the
balanced whole — the work needs, the family needs, other needs that may be involved
and the possible implications of the various alternative decisions — you’ll try to come up
with the best solution, taking all factors into consideration.
Whether you go to the concert or stay and work is really a small part of an effective
decision. You might make the same choice with a number of other centers. But there are
several important differences when you are coming from a principle-centered paradigm.
First, you are not being acted upon by other people or circumstances. You are proactively
choosing what you determine to be the best alternative. You make your decisions
consciously and knowledgeably.
Second, you know your decision is most effective because it is based on principles with
predictable long-term results.
Third, what you choose to do contributes to your ultimate values in life. Staying at work
to get the edge on someone at the office is an entirely different evening in your life from
staying because you value your boss’s effectiveness and you genuinely want to contribute
to the company’s welfare. The experiences you have as you carry out your decisions take
on quality and meaning in the context of your life as a whole.
Fourth, you can communicate to your wife and your boss within strong networks you’ve
created in your interdependent relationships. Because you are independent, you can be
effectively interdependent. You might decide to delegate what is delegable and come in
early the next morning to do the rest.
And finally, you’ll feel comfortable about your decision. Whatever you choose to do, you
can focus on it and enjoy it.
As a principle-centered person, you see things differently. And because you see things
differently, you think differently, you act differently. Because you have a high degree of
security, guidance, wisdom, and power that flows from a solid, unchanging core, you
have the foundation of a highly proactive and highly effective life.
Writing and Using a A Personal Mission Statement
As we go deeply within ourselves, as we understand and realign our basic paradigms to
bring them in harmony with correct principles, we create both an effective, empowering
center and a clear lens through which we can see the world. We can then focus that lens
on how we, as unique individuals, relate to that world
Frankl says we detect rather than invent our missions in life. I like that choice of words. I
think each of us has an internal monitor or sense, a conscience, that gives us an awareness
of our own uniqueness and the singular contributions that we can make. In Frankl’s
words, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life. Therein he cannot be
replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific
opportunity to implement it.
In seeking to give verbal expression to that uniqueness, we are again reminded of the
fundamental importance of proactivity and of working within our Circle of Influence. To
seek some abstract meaning to our lives out in our Circle of Concern is to abdicate our
proactive responsibility, to place our own first creation in the hands of circumstance and
Our meaning comes from within. Again, in the words of Frankl, “Ultimately, man should
not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is
asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by
answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
Personal responsibility, or proactivity, is fundamental to the first creation. Returning to
the computer metaphor, Habit 1 says “You are the programmer.” Habit 2, then, says,
“Write the program.” Until you accept the idea that you are responsible, that you are the
programmer, you won’t really invest in writing the program.
As proactive people , we can begin to give expression to what we want to be and to do in
our lives. We can write a personal mission statement, a personal constitution.
A mission statement is not something you write overnight. It takes deep introspection,
careful analysis, thoughtful expression, and often many rewrites to produce it in final
form. It may take you several weeks or even months before you feel really comfortable
with it, before you feel it is a complete and concise expression of your innermost values
and directions. Even then, you will want to review it regularly and make minor changes
as the years bring additional insights or changing circumstances.
But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid
expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure
everything else in your life.
I recently finished reviewing my own mission statement, which I do fairly regularly.
Sitting on the edge of a beach, alone, at the end of a bicycle ride, I took out my organizer
and hammered it out. It took several hours, but I felt a sense of clarity, a sense of
organization and commitment, a sense of exhilaration and freedom.
I find the process is as important as the product. Writing or reviewing a mission
statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply,
carefully, and to align your behavior with your beliefs. As you do, other people begin to
sense that you’re not being driven by everything that happens to you. You have a sense of
mission about what you’re trying to do and you are excited about it.
Using Your Whole Brain
Our self-awareness empowers us to examine our own thoughts. This is particularly
helpful in creating a personal mission statement because the two unique human
endowments that enable us to practice Habit 2 — imagination and conscience — are
primarily functions of the right side of the brain. Understanding how to tap into that
right brain capacity greatly increases our first-creation ability.
A great deal of research has been conducted for decades on what has come to be called
brain dominance theory. The findings basically indicated that each hemisphere of the
brain — left and right — tends to specialize in and preside over different functions, process
different kinds of information, and deal with different kinds of problems.
Essentially, the left hemisphere is the more logical/verbal one and the right hemisphere
the more intuitive, creative one. The left deals with words, the right with pictures; the left
with parts and specifics, the right with wholes and the relationship between the parts.
The left deals with analysis, which means to break apart; the right with synthesis, which
means to put together. The left deals with sequential thinking; the right with
simultaneous and holistic thinking. The left is time bound; the right is time free.
Although people use both sides of the brain, one side or the other generally tends to be
dominant in each individual. Of course, the ideal would be to cultivate and develop the
ability to have good crossover between both sides of the brain so that a person could first
sense what the situation called for and then use the appropriate tool to deal with it. But
people tend to stay in the “comfort zone” of their dominant hemisphere and process every
situation according to either a right- or left-brain preference.
In the words of Abraham Maslow, “He that is good with a hammer tends to think
everything is a nail.” This is another factor that affects the “young lady/old lady”
perception difference. Right-brain and left-brain people tend to look at things in different
We live in a primarily left-brain-dominant world, where words and measurement and
logic are enthroned, and the more creative, intuitive, sensing, artistic aspect of our nature
is often subordinated. Many of us find it more difficult to tap into our right-brain
Admittedly this description is oversimplified and new studies will undoubtedly throw
more light on brain functioning. But the point here is that we are capable of performing
many different kinds of thought processes and we barely tap our potential. As we
become aware of its different capacities, we can consciously use our minds to meet
specific needs in more effective ways.
Two Ways to Tap the Right Brain
If we use the brain dominance theory as a model, it becomes evident that the quality of
our first creation is significantly impacted by our ability to use our creative right brain.
The more we are able to draw upon our right-brain capacity, the more fully we will be
able to visualize, to synthesize, to transcend time and present circumstances, to project a
holistic picture of what we want to do and to be in life.
Sometimes we are knocked out of our left-brain environment and thought patterns and
into the right brain by an unplanned experience. The death of a loved one, a severe
illness, a financial setback, or extreme adversity can cause us to stand back, look at our
lives, and ask ourselves some hard questions:
“What’s really important? Why am I doing what I’m doing?
But if you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create
perspective-expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.
There are a number of ways to do this. Through the powers of your imagination, you can
visualize your own funeral, as we did at the beginning of this chapter. Write your own
eulogy. Actually write it out. Be specific.
You can visualize your twenty-fifth and then your fiftieth wedding anniversary. Have
your spouse visualize this with you. Try to capture the essence of the family relationship
you want to have created through your day-by-day investment over a period of that
You can visualize your retirement from your present occupation. What contributions,
what achievements will you want to have made in your field? What plans will you have
after retirement? Will you enter a second career?
Expand your mind. Visualize in rich detail. Involve as many emotions and feelings as
possible. Involve as many of the senses as you can.
I have done similar visualization exercises with some of my university classes. “Assume
you only have this one semester to live,” I tell my students, “and that during this semester
you are to stay in school as a good student. Visualize how you would spend your
Things are suddenly placed in a different perspective. Values quickly surface that before
weren’t even recognized. I have also asked students to live with that expanded
perspective for a week and keep a diary of their experiences.
The results are very revealing. They start writing to parents to tell them how much they
love and appreciate them. They reconcile with a brother, a sister, a friend where the
relationship has deteriorated.
The dominant, central theme of their activities, the underlying principle, is love. The
futility of bad-mouthing, bad thinking, put-downs, and accusation becomes very evident
when they think in terms of having only a short time to live. Principles and values
become more evident to everybody.
There are a number of techniques using your imagination that can put you in touch with
your values. But the net effect of every one I have ever used is the same. When people
seriously undertake to identify what really matters most to them in their lives, what they
really want to be and to do, they become very reverent. They start to think in larger terms
than today and tomorrow.
Visualization and Affirmation
Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It doesn’t begin and end with the writing
of a personal mission statement. It is, rather, the ongoing process of keeping your vision
and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important
things. And in that effort, your powerful right-brain capacity can be a great help to you
on a daily basis as you work to integrate your personal mission statement into your life.
It’s another application of “Begin with the End in Mind.”
Let’s go back to an example we mentioned before. Suppose I am a parent who really
deeply loves my children. Suppose I identify that as one of my fundamental values in my
personal mission statement. But suppose, on a daily basis, I have trouble overreacting.
I can use my right-brain power of visualization to write an “affirmation” that will help me
become more congruent with my deeper values in my daily life.
A good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it’s personal, it’s positive, it’s present tense,
it’s visual, and it’s emotional. So I might write something like this: “It is deeply satisfying
(emotional) that I (personal) respond (present tense) with wisdom, love, firmness, and
self-control (positive) when my children misbehave.”
Then I can visualize it. I can spend a few minutes each day and totally relax my mind and
body can think about situations in which my children might misbehave. I can visualize
them in rich detail. I can feel the texture of the chair I might be sitting on, the floor under
my feet, the sweater I’m wearing. I can see the dress my daughter has on, the expression
on her face. The more clearly and vividly I can imagine the detail, the more deeply I will
experience it, the less I will see it as a spectator.
Then I can see her do something very specific which normally makes my heart pound
and my temper start to flare. But instead of seeing my normal response, I can see myself
handle the situation with all the love, the power, the self-control I have captured in my
affirmation. I can write the program, write the script, in harmony with my values, with
my personal mission statement.
And if I do this, day after day my behavior will change. Instead of living out of the scripts
given to me by my own parents or by society or by genetics or my environment, I will be
living out of the script I have written from my own self-selected value system.
I have helped and encouraged my son, Sean, to use this affirmation process extensively
throughout his football career. We started when he played quarterback in high school,
and eventually, I taught him how to do it on his own.
We would try to get him in a very relaxed state of mind through deep breathing and
progressive muscle relaxation technique so that he became very quiet inside. Then I
would help him visualize himself right in the heat of the toughest situations imaginable.
He would imagine a big blitz coming at him fast. He had to read the blitz and respond.
He would imagine giving audibles at the line after reading defenses. He would imagine
quick reads with his first receiver, his second receiver, his third receiver. He would
imagine options that he normally wouldn’t do.
At one point in his football career, he told me he was constantly getting uptight. As we
talked, I realized that he was visualizing uptightness. So we worked on visualizing
relaxation in the middle of the big pressure circumstance. We discovered that the nature
of the visualization is very important. If you visualize the wrong thing, you’ll produce the
Dr. Charles Garfield has done extensive research on peak performers, both in athletics
and in business. He became fascinated with peak performance in his work with the
NASA program, watching the astronauts rehearse everything on earth again and again in
a simulated environment before they went to space. Although he had a doctorate in
mathematics, he decided to go back and get another Ph.D. in the field of psychology and
study the characteristics of peak performers.
One of the main things his research showed was that almost all of the world-class athletes
and other peak performers are visualizers. They see it; they feel it; they experience it
before they actually do it. They Begin with the End in Mind.
You can do it in every area of your life. Before a performance, a sales presentation, a
difficult confrontation, or the daily challenge of meeting a goal, see it clearly, vividly,
relentlessly, over and over again. Create an internal “comfort zone.” Then, when you get
into the situation, it isn’t foreign. It doesn’t scare you.
Your creative, visual right brain is one of your most important assets, both in creating
your personal mission statement and in integrating it into your life.
There is an entire body of literature and audio and video tapes that deals with this
process of visualization and affirmation. Some of the more recent developments in this
field include such things as subliminal programming, neurolinguistic programming, and
new forms of relaxation and self-talk processes. These all involve explanation,
elaboration, and different packaging of the fundamental principles of the first creation.
My review of the success literature brought me in contact with hundreds of books on this
subject. Although some made extravagant claims and relied on anecdotal rather than
scientific evidence, I think that most of the material is fundamentally sound. The majority
of it appears to have originally come out of the study of the Bible by many individuals.
In effective personal leadership, visualization and affirmation techniques emerge
naturally out of a foundation of well thought through purposes and principles that
become the center of a person’s life. They are extremely powerful in rescripting and
reprogramming, into writing deeply committed-to purposes and principles into one’s
heart and mind. I believe that central to all enduring religions in society are the same
principles and practices clothed in different language — meditation, prayer, covenants,
ordinances, scripture study, empathy, compassion, and many different forms of the use
of both conscience and imagination.
But if these techniques become part of the personality ethic and are severed from a base
of character and principles, they can be misused and abused in serving other centers,
primarily the self center.
Affirmation and visualization are forms of programming, and we must be certain that we
do not submit ourselves to any programming that is not in harmony with our basic center
or that comes from sources centered on money-making, self interest, or anything other
than correct principles.
The imagination can be used to achieve the fleeting success that comes when a person is
focused on material gain or on “what’s in it for me.” But I believe the higher use of
imagination is in harmony with the use of conscience to transcend self and create a life of
contribution based on unique purpose and on the principles that govern interdependent
Identifying Roles and Goals
Of course, the logical/verbal left brain becomes important also as you attempt to capture
your right-brain images, feelings, and pictures in the words of a written mission statement.
Just as breathing exercises help integrate body and mind, writing is a kind of psycho-
neural muscular activity which helps bridge and integrate the conscious and subconscious
minds. Writing distills, crystallizes, and clarifies thought and helps break the whole into
We each have a number of different roles in our lives — different areas or capacities in
which we have responsibility. I may, for example, have a role as an individual, a
husband, a father, a teacher, a church member, and a businessman. And each of these
roles is important.
One of the major problems that arises when people work to become more effective in life
is that they don’t think broadly enough. They lose the sense of proportion, the balance,
the natural ecology necessary to effective living. They may get consumed by work and
neglect personal health. In the name of professional success, they may neglect the most
precious relationships in their lives.
You may find that your mission statement will be much more balanced, much easier to
work with, if you break it down into the specific role areas of your life and the goals you
want to accomplish in each area. Look at your professional role. You might be a
salesperson, or a manager, or a product developer. What are you about in that area?
What are the values that should guide you? Think of your personal roles — husband,
wife, father, mother, neighbor, friend. What are you about in those roles? What’s
important to you? Think of community roles — the political area, public service, volunteer
One executive has used the idea of roles and goals to create the following mission
My mission is to live with integrity and to make a difference in the lives of others.
To fulfill this mission:
I have charity: I seek out and love the one — each one — regardless of his situation.
I sacrifice: I devote my time, talents, and resources to my mission.
I inspire: I teach by example that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father and that
every Goliath can be overcome.
I am impactful: What I do makes a difference in the lives of others.
These roles take priority in achieving my mission:
Husband — my partner is the most important person in my life. Together we contribute
the fruits of harmony, industry, charity, and thrift.
Father — I help my children experience progressively greater joy in their lives.
Son/Brother — I am frequently “there” for support and love.
Christian — God can count on me to keep my covenants and to serve his other children.
Neighbor — The love of Christ is visible through my actions toward others.
Change Agent — I am a catalyst for developing high performance in large organizations.
Scholar — I learn important new things every day.
Writing your mission in terms of the important roles in your life gives you balance and
harmony. It keeps each role clearly before you. You can review your roles frequently to
make sure that you don’t get totally absorbed by one role to the exclusion of others that
are equally or even more important in your life.
After you identify your various roles, then you can think about the Long Term Goals are
plans you make that support the principles described in your Mission Statement. These
goals should represent areas you want to focus on in the near future. Typically, Long
Term Goals take longer than a week to complete, but are most specific than the lifetime
goals of your Mission Statement.long-term goals you want to accomplish in each of those
roles. We’re into the right brain again, using imagination, creativity, conscience, and
inspiration. If these goals are the extension of a mission statement based on correct
principles, they will be vitally different from the goals people normally set. They will be
in harmony with correct principles, with natural laws, which gives you greater power to
achieve them. They are not someone else’s goals you have absorbed. They are your goals.
They reflect your deepest values, your unique talent, your sense of mission. And they
grow out of your chosen roles in life.
An effective goal focuses primarily on results rather than activity. It identifies where you
want to be, and, in the process, helps you determine where you are. It gives you
important information on how to get there, and it tells you when you have arrived. It
unifies your efforts and energy. It gives meaning and purpose to all you do. And it can
finally translate itself into daily activities so that you are proactive, you are in charge of
your life, you are making happen each day the things that will enable you to fulfill your
personal mission statement.
Roles and goals give structure and organized direction to your personal mission. If you
don’t yet have a personal mission statement, it’s a good place to begin. Just identifying the
various areas of your life and the two or three important results you feel you should
accomplish in each area to move ahead gives you an overall perspective of your life and a
sense of direction.
As we move into Habit 3, we’ll go into greater depth in the area of short-term goals. The
important application at this point is to identify roles and long-term goals as they relate
to your personal mission statement. These roles and long-term goals will provide the
foundation for effective goal setting and achieving when we get to the Habit 3 day-to-day
management of life and time.
Family Mission Statements
Because Habit 2 is based on principle, it has broad application. In addition to individuals,
families, service groups, and organizations of all kinds become significantly more
effective as they Begin with the End in Mind.
Many families are managed on the basis of crises, moods, quick fixes, and instant
gratification — not on sound principles. Symptoms surface whenever stress and pressure
mount: people become cynical, critical, or silent or they start yelling and overreacting.
Children who observe these kinds of behavior grow up thinking the only way to solve
problems is flight or fight.
The core of any family is what is changeless, what is always going to be there — shared
vision and values. By writing a family mission statement, you give expression to its true
This mission statement becomes its constitution, the standard, the criterion for evaluation
and decision making. It gives continuity and unity to the family as well as direction.
When individual values are harmonized with those of the family, members work
together for common purposes that are deeply felt.
Again, the process is as important as the product. The very process of writing and
refining a mission statement becomes a key way to improve the family. Working together
to create a mission statement builds the PC capacity to live it.
By getting input from every family member, drafting a statement, getting feedback,
revising it, and using wording from different family members, you get the family talking,
communicating, on things that really matter deeply. The best mission statements are the
result of family members coming together in a spirit of mutual respect, expressing their
different views, and working together to create something greater than any one
individual could do alone. Periodic review to expand perspective, shift emphasis or
direction, amend or give new meaning to time-worn phrases can keep the family united
in common values and purposes.
The mission statement becomes the framework for thinking, for governing the family.
When the problems and crises come, the constitution is there to remind family members
of the things that matter most and to provide direction for problem solving and decision
making based on correct principles.
In our home, we put our mission statement up on a wall in the family room so that we
can look at it and monitor ourselves daily. When we read the phrases about the sounds of
love in our home, order, responsible independence, cooperation, helpfulness, meeting
needs, developing talents, showing interest in each other’s talents, and giving service to
others it gives us some criteria to know how we’re doing in the things that matter most to
us as a family.
When we plan our family goals and activities, we say, “In light of these principles, what
are the goals we’re going to work on? What are our action plans to accomplish our goals
and actualize these values?”
We review the statement frequently and rework goals and jobs twice a year, in September
and June — the beginning of school and the end of school — to reflect the situation as it is,
to improve it, to strengthen it. It renews us, it recommits us to what we believe in, what
we stand for.
Organizational Mission Statements
Mission statements are also vital to successful organizations. One of the most important
thrusts of my work with organizations is to assist them in developing effective mission
statements. And to be effective, that statement has to come from within the bowels of the
organization. Everyone should participate in a meaningful way — not just the top strategy
planners, but everyone. Once again, the involvement process is as important as the
written product and is the key to its use.
I am always intrigued whenever I go to IBM and watch the training process there. Time
and time again, I see the leadership of the organization come into a group and say that
IBM stands for three things: the dignity of the individual, excellence, and service.
These things represent the belief system of IBM. Everything else will change, but these
three things will not change. Almost like osmosis, this belief system has spread
throughout the entire organization, providing a tremendous base of shared values and
personal security for everyone who works there.
Once I was training a group of people for IBM in New York. It was small group, about 20
people, and one of them became ill. He called his wife in California, who expressed
concern because his illness required a special treatment. The IBM people responsible for
the training session arranged to have him taken to an excellent hospital with medical
specialists in the disease. But they could sense that his wife was uncertain and really
wanted him home where their personal physician could handle the problem.
So they decided to get him home. Concerned about the time involved in driving him to
the airport and waiting for a commercial plane, they brought in a helicopter, flew him to
the airport, and hired a special plane just to take this man to California.
I don’t know what costs that involved; my guess would be many thousands of dollars.
But IBM believes in the dignity of the individual. That’s what the company stands for. To
those present, that experience represented its belief system and was no surprise. I was
At another time, I was scheduled to train 175 shopping center managers at a particular
hotel. I was amazed at the level of service there. It wasn’t a cosmetic thing. It was evident
at all levels, spontaneously, without supervision.
I arrived quite late, checked in, and asked if room service were available. The man at the
desk said, “No, Mr. Covey, but if you’re interested, I could go back and get a sandwich or
a salad or whatever you’d like that we have in the kitchen.” His attitude was one of total
concern about my comfort and welfare. “Would you like to see your convention room?”
he continued. “Do you have everything you need? What can I do for you? I’m here to
There was no supervisor there checking up. This man was sincere.
The next day I was in the middle of a presentation when I discovered that I didn’t have
all the colored markers I needed. So I went out into the hall during the brief break and
found a bellboy running to another convention. “I’ve got a problem,” I said. “I’m here
training a group of managers and I only have a short break. I need some more colored
He whipped around and almost came to attention. He glanced at my name tag and said,
“Mr. Covey, I will solve your problem.”
He didn’t say, “I don’t know where to go” or “well, go and check the front desk.” He just
took care of it. And he made me feel like it was his privilege to do so.
Later, I was in the side lobby, looking at some of the art objects. Someone from the hotel
came up to me and said, “Mr. Covey, would you like to see a book that describes the art
objects in this hotel?” How anticipatory! How service-oriented!
I next observed one of the employees high up on a ladder cleaning windows in the lobby.
From his vantage point he saw a woman having a little difficulty in the garden with a
walker. She hadn’t really fallen, and she was with other people. But he climbed down that
ladder, went outside, helped the woman into the lobby and saw that she was properly
taken care of. Then he went back and finished cleaning the windows.
I wanted to find out how this organization had created a culture where people bought so
deeply into the value of customer service. I interviewed housekeepers, waitresses,
bellboys in that hotel and found that this attitude had impregnated the minds, hearts, and
attitudes of every employee there.
I went through the back door into the kitchen, where I saw the central value:
“Uncompromising personalized service.” I finally went to the manager and said, “My
business is helping organizations develop a powerful team character, a team culture. I am
amazed at what you have here.”
“Do you want to know the real key?” he inquired. He pulled out the mission statement for
the hotel chain.
After reading it, I acknowledged, “That’s an impressive statement. But I know many
companies that have impressive mission statements.”
“Do you want to see the one for this hotel?” he asked.
“Do you mean you developed one just for this hotel?”
“Different from the one for the hotel chain?”
“Yes. It’s in harmony with that statement, but this one pertains to our situation, our
environment, our time.” He handed me another paper.
“Who developed this mission statement?” I asked.
“Everybody,” he replied.
“Everybody? Really, everybody?”
“Yes. Do you want to see the mission statement written by the people who greeted you
He pulled out a mission statement that they, themselves, had written that was
interwoven with all the other mission statements. Everyone, at every level, was involved.
The mission statement for that hotel was the hub of a great wheel. It spawned the
thoughtful, more specialized mission statements of particular groups of employees. It
was used as the criterion for every decision that was made. It clarified what those people
stood for — how they related to the customer, how they related to each other. It affected
the style of the managers and the leaders. It affected the compensation system. It affected
the kind of people they recruited and how they trained and developed them. Every
aspect of that organization, essentially, was a function of that hub, that mission statement.
I later visited another hotel in the same chain, and the first thing I did when I checked in
was to ask to see their mission statement, which they promptly gave me. At this hotel, I
came to understand the motto “Uncompromising personalized service” a little more.
For a three-day period, I watched every conceivable situation where service was called
for. I always found that service was delivered in a very impressive, excellent way. But it
was always also very personalized. For instance, in the swimming area I asked the
attendant where the drinking fountain was. He walked me to it.
But the thing that impressed me the very most was to see an employee, on his own, admit
a mistake to his boss. We ordered room service, and were told when it would be
delivered to the room. On the way to our room, the room service person spilled the hot
chocolate, and it took a few extra minutes to go back and change the linen on the tray and
replace the drink. So the room service was about fifteen minutes late, which was really
not that important to us.
Nevertheless, the next morning the room service manager phoned us to apologize and
invited us to have either the buffet breakfast or a room service breakfast, compliments of
the hotel, to in some way compensate for the inconvenience.
What does it say about the culture of an organization when an employee admits his own
mistake, unknown to anyone else, to the manager so that customer or guest is better
taken care of!
As I told the manager of the first hotel I visited, I know a lot of companies with
impressive mission statements. But there is a real difference, all the difference in the
world, in the effectiveness of a mission statement created by everyone involved in the
organization and one written by a few top executives behind a mahogany wall.
One of the fundamental problems in organizations, including families, is that people are
not committed to the determinations of other people for their lives. They simply don’t
buy into them.
Many times as I work with organizations, I find people whose goals are totally different
from the goals of the enterprise. I commonly find reward systems completely out of
alignment with stated value systems.
When I begin work with companies that have already developed some kind of mission
statement, I ask them, “How many of the people here know that you have a mission
statement? How many of you know what it contains? How many were involved in
creating it? How many really buy into it and use it as your frame of reference in making
Without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it,
underline it. No involvement, no commitment.
Now, in the early stages — when a person is new to an organization or when a child in the
family is young — you can pretty well give them a goal and they’ll buy it, particularly if
the relationship, orientation, and training are good.
But when people become more mature and their own lives take on a separate meaning,
they want involvement, significant involvement. And if they don’t have that
involvement, they don’t buy it. Then you have a significant motivational problem which
cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created it.
That’s why creating an organizational mission statement takes time, patience,
involvement, skill, and empathy. Again, it’s not a quick fix. It takes time and sincerity,
correct principles, and the courage and integrity to align systems, structure, and
management style to the shared vision and values. But it’s based on correct principles and
An organizational mission statement — one that truly reflects the deep shared vision and
values of everyone within that organization — creates a great unity and tremendous
commitment. It creates in people’s hearts and minds a frame of reference, a set of criteria
or guidelines, by which they will govern themselves. They don’t need someone else
directing, controlling, criticizing, or taking cheap shots. They have bought into the
changeless core of what the organization is about.
1. Take the time to record the impressions you had in the funeral visualization at the
beginning of this chapter. You may want to use the chart below to organize your
2. Take a few moments and write down your roles as you now see them. Are you
satisfied with that mirror image of your life.
3. Set up time to completely separate yourself from daily activities and to begin work on
your personal mission statement.
4. Go through the chart in Appendix A showing different centers and circle all those you
can identify with. Do they form a pattern for the behavior in your life? Are you
comfortable with the implications of your analysis.
5. Start a collection of notes, quotes, and ideas you may want to use as resource material
in writing your .personal mission statement.
6. Identify a project you will be facing in the near future and apply the principles of
mental creation. Write down the results you desire and what steps will lead to those
7. Share the principles of Habit 2 with your family or work group and suggest that
together you begin the process of developing a family or group mission statement.
Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.