The following post is part of a series highlighting Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and how it can apply to students in medical school. The series will stretch out over seven weeks, giving each habit the spotlight for one individual post.
Habit #2: Begin With The End In Mind
“It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busyness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”
Covey’s second habit is all about having a clear vision of what it is that you want to achieve. You hear it all the time growing up: what do you want to do with your life? Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the intricacies of life that we lose sight of the purpose behind whatever it is we’re doing. For many people, the hardest part of this is determining what exactly they want pursue as a career in the first place – it’s impossible to begin with the end in mind if you do not know what you want the end to be. For medical students, however, the end is graduating medical school, before pursuing your dreams as a doctor. And when you have that destination engrained in the back of your mind, it makes the journey of medical school much less daunting.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” Granted, he may have been referring to sports at the time, but it’s more than applicable to all areas of life. Beginning with the end in mind correlates directly with the meaning behind Wooden’s words here. We all strive to achieve subtle victories throughout life, but if those victories are getting us closer to something that we don’t actually want, are they in fact victories in the first place? Meaning, don’t seek victories simply for the joy of winning, but rather seek the victories that will get you to your preferred destination. For example, rushing to get your paper done so can go out for a few drinks with friends might seem like a victory at the time, but that will get you nowhere in regards to reaching the destination you initially set out for.
The bottom line is at some point you have to ask yourself, “What do I want to be?” It may seem cliché, but those five words form one of the most powerful questions you’ll ever face. When you look in the mirror, what qualities and characteristics do you see? What do you want to see? More importantly, on a finite level, are you making the decisions today that are aligned with your end goals and aspirations you have set?
You know what you’re getting into when you begin med school (at least you think you do). You know the hours will be long and strenuous – and they will swallow you up if you go in with a shortsighted approach. You have to be in it for the long haul, and you cannot lose sight of your goal. In short, you have to begin with the end in mind.