Attend Your Own Funeral
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 there.
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 working associate?
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 this lesson.
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 this lesson 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. Perhaps fame, 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 a 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 undercapitalization, misunderstanding of the market, or lack of a business plan.
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.
The Start Of Creation
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.