If you don’t know where you’re going, any map will do.
One of my heroes died this week.
I was a fan of Stephen R. Covey long before his Seven Habits books made him a household name. When I was a freshman at Brigham Young University his organizational behavior classes were so popular it was nearly impossible to get in. Everyone was talking about how eloquently he taught obvious but previously unstated truths.
I carried one of his earliest books, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, with me to Brazil. It strongly influenced my determination as a young man to lead a purposeful and spiritual life.
When his Seven Habits of Highly Successful People went multi-platinum in 1989, I felt he finally achieved the world-wide impact he deserved. I thought his ideas were powerful enough to change the world.
Habits One and Two of his Seven Habits were “Be proactive” and “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words, the first step is to recognize that you are not powerless; you can decide your course in life. Choose your own destination.
Second, as you move ahead, the direction of your journey and your attitude and comportment along the way should be consistent with the final outcome you desire. Build your life-map based on your chosen destination.
Covey’s principles call to mind Lewis Carroll’s famous conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.“I don't much care where — ” said Alice.“Then it doesn't matter which way you go,” said the Cat.“ — so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.“Oh, you're sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
For Alice, whose only purpose was to get SOMEWHERE, it didn’t matter what turn she took nor what map she used. If you don’t know where you’re going, any map will do.
While it is good to be moving, it is better to be moving with energy and purpose toward a clearly defined destination. This principle applies to matters as small as making a salad for today’s lunch or as large as defining a legacy.
If the end you have in mind is to leave a certain quality of legacy, you must begin by taking steps to tell and preserve your story and by living your life in harmony with that desired legacy. Covey taught that it is not possible to “talk your way out of a problem you have behaved yourself into.”
Living a life consistent with the way you wish to be remembered is the ultimate definition of integrity and the perfect recipe for a meaningful and remarkable legacy. To leave a large legacy, you must live large. To leave a smart legacy, you must live intelligently. To leave a loving legacy, you must live a life of caring and compassion. Wealth counselor Valery Satterwhite says, “The life you lead is the legacy you leave.”
This clever little poem by Benjamin Franklin seems to sum it all up.
If you would not be forgotten,As soon as you are dead and rotten,Either write things worth reading,Or do things worth the writing.
My hero Stephen R. Covey did both. He wrote things worth reading and he did things worth writing about. He will not soon be forgotten.