Hidden Truth about “Begin with End in Mind”

It’s another one of Covey-isms, but as widely accepted as the concept is, I am afraid many of us simply don’t get it.

To create an outcome, you need to create it twice: first in your mind, and then in the physical world.

Many of us are troubleshooters, problem solvers.  We get caught up in solving problems here and now, and forget why we’re solving these problems.  Let’s examine some of them:

  • Military and police: to create a world where they are not needed.
  • Medicine and healing practices: To empower a person so that they don’t need their help.
  • Teachers and educators: To help students learn on their own, and to outgrow them.
  • Consultants, mechanics, any jobs that fix things: To ensure their customers don’t need to call them.
  • Parents: To equip your children so that they don’t need parents.  And to live better than you have.

Are you starting to see a theme here?

The goal of problem-solvers is to diminish the need for them.  The goal of educators/nurturers is the same, with the added ambition of making their pupils to outgrow, to go beyond them.

If you are not performing these functions without these ends in mind, you ought to just stop.  Because what you’re creating is a dependency.  You’re perpetuating the need for your service.  You are not helping.  You are stifling growth, by ensuring that the world around you is dependent on your function.  In other words, you are contributing to the continued existence of the problems.

Ambitious?  Idealistic?  Impossible?  Well, sure.  But that doesn’t mean you should forget the reason why you do what you do.  Don’t worry about your job security — there will always be challenging problems to solve.

Because we grow by solving problems.  And there is no limit to growing.  But we ought to be growing onto bigger and more challenging problems, instead of getting stuck fixing same problems over and over.

Let us move on.


  1. Hi Ari – very nice post. I’m also a fan of Covey.

    That’s so true regarding the ultimate goal of problem solvers. To use a commonplace phrase, “don’t give the fish, but teach them how to fish.” I thought that the “Begin with the end in mind” was generally for solving problems? I didn’t get that Covey was trying to take it further by encouraging us to help others help themselves, but that would have been a great thing if he did.

    Indeed that SHOULD be the ultimate goal of problem solvers!

    1. Covey was talking from the perspective of personal effectiveness, I believe. But I think a lot of what he lays down in the first 3 habits — the area he calls “personal victory” — lays foundation for our personal growth.

      Well, this post was about more than our personal growth, actually, but his concept applies. I’m a big-picture oriented person, so I just thought about “why is military necessary?” or “why is self-improvement a major industry?” So the fundamental concept is his, but the application was mine.

      When you make a living solving problems, you think you’re helping — but in reality, you’re being helped by your clients/customers because they’re giving you opportunities to help. 😉 And a lot of industries misunderstand this, and take advantage of the existence of problems. One consultant I worked with in the past told me “my job is to work myself out of this job.” I knew that this was a service provider with his aim in the right place — and of course he got my enthusiastic endorsement.

      Thanks again for the comment!


Comments are closed.