Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind

Before deciding on a course of action think about your goals – especially long term. 

Hopefully you want to live a long, productive and meaningful life. You want to balance career and relationships, work and recreation. You don’t want to be “okay”, you want to be the best you can be.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes his philosophy and approach to treatment of mental health problems. He speaks not only as a psychiatrist but as a survivor of years in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. One exercise he recommends is to imagine yourself on your death bed. Who is there with you? From the vantage point of the end of your life look back and ask yourself, “do I have any major regrets?”

 

Most of us have some regrets. If we had it to do over again we would make some different choices. Obviously we can’t change the past but we can change the past that hasn’t happened yet. On your death bed will you be happy with the choices you’re making today?

Stephen Covey admonishes us to be careful what mountain we climb. We don’t want to struggle to the top only to realize we climbed the wrong mountain. There won’t be many people on their death bed saying, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much energy taking care of my physical and mental health.” There won’t be a lot of regrets like, “I wish I hadn’t taken that medication that helped me feel better and live a fuller life.”

To some extent we all have a life script. (Steiner) Somewhere in our intuitive mind we have a basic game plan. In some ways it’s as though we are actors in a play. We have to follow the script.

For healthy individuals the outcome is a happy one with lots of “lieben und arbeiten”, (love and work, Freud) Unfortunately for many it’s more like “I’ll be relatively successful but never really happy.” For a few the outcome is some form of tragedy.

One problem with our script is that we write it in the context of our early life experiences before we are smart enough to know what’s going on. Sometimes our life script is going along fine when some kind of tragedy beyond our control impacts us or a loved one and dramatically alters our script.

Fortunately scripts can be rewritten. Do you need to rewrite yours? How do you know? If you are making a lot of bad choices you are probably going the wrong direction. Change starts with awareness.

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