Last week, we began discussing Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Beginning with step one—“Be Proactive”—we began breaking down the seven habits into seven separate posts in hopes that you will take the time to consider the idea and let the message sink in.

Here is this week’s habit:  Begin with the End in Mind

Those who are highly effective at their jobs and in life are able to mentally envision their goals. This allows them to construct a blueprint of sorts, to map out the steps involved toward attaining a goal.

Here’s an example:

I want to design skyscrapers. Thinking backwards, to design skyscrapers, I know that I must become an architect. To be an architect, I must study and obtain a degree in architecture. Knowing this, I can now seek out colleges and universities with architecture programs. Then once I learn the application process and required prerequisites of enrollment into the program, I can officially proceed on my way towards designing skyscrapers.

The non-successful person cannot see all of these steps. They might think “I don’t have a college degree, therefore I am limited” and stop right there.

Many individuals imagined themselves in a dream career. The dream may have changed a few times, but what remains is the concept of one perfect career. The problem is that the majority of that group will not take the necessary steps to make it to their desired end result. They either choose not to put in the work, they aren’t proactive enough, or they simply cannot see the end or how to get there.

The problem is that when you can’t visualize the end, your path is not set in stone. This means it can be defined by others. How many highly successful people do you know that allowed others to set their path? You will be hard-pressed to find any.

When you own your own path, you ensure every step you take is on the right path. Or, you ensure you can effectively switch to the correct path.

Take painting a floor for example.

The effective individual maps out a plan of where to start, and this begins with the end in mind. They will be able to visualize finishing at the entryway. Planning backwards, they will start painting in the far corner and work their way towards the door. However, the individual who cannot see the end may end up painting themselves into a corner.

Likewise, if they let others pick their path, the same can happen.

To incorporate the habit of beginning with the end in mind into your lifestyle, you must first make the choice to own your own path. Dig deep, find yourself, and define who it is you want to be or what it is you want to do. Think about the end result first and visualize your path toward this goal. Create a mental blueprint. Start small and try the process out. Begin with a task, then move on to a project, then to a full day’s worth of work, then a week, a month and so on.

Now write a personal mission statement for yourself.

Companies write mission statements which announce the goals of the company and the purpose of its existence. Ask yourself what your goals and purpose are, and then write them down. This can be as small as “buy a new car” or as large as “start my own business.” Once you see the entire floor plan, it’ll be easier to decide where to start.

So is it with the end in mind that you plan your work so you can exit the room? Or will you allow yourself to be painted into a corner by not thinking ahead to the end you desire?

The choice is yours—it’s your path.