No, I haven’t forgotten that I started a series of posts on Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We’re on to Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. I mentioned in the introductory post of this series that I think this is the hardest of the 7 Habits to pull off correctly. I actually think the difficulties associated with this habit are what cause many people to throw in the towel on the whole 7 Habits model. Further, I think that Covey does not (perhaps can not) provide enough assistance and guidance on this habit in the book.
Leaders and Managers
In an early section of this chapter Covey uses an idea that is reminiscent of Hugh Nibley’s classic BYU commencement speech titled Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift. Covey nicely summarizes the concept by saying:
Management is bottom line focus: How can I best accomplish certain things? Leadership deals with the top line: What are the things I want to accomplish? In the words of both of both Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. (101)
He follows up with his analogy of a very efficient team of managers and workers hacking their way through a dense jungle using machetes. He says “The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the situation, and yells, ‘Wrong jungle!’” I think Covey is right on with this stuff.
But where is The End?
But determining where the end is becomes the weakness of this habit and chapter. The principle makes perfect sense on all sorts of levels. It is useful to know what one wants accomplish in an hour before that hour starts. That leads to a more effective hour. But of course the acts of the hour ought to help accomplish the goal for the entire day. And the activities of the day out to accomplish the goals one has set for the week. This pattern continues ad infinitum – monthly goals, yearly, decade, and even lifetime goals. In fact the first vignette in this chapter of the book has us envisioning our own funeral and imagining the things we want to be remembered for and as by our families, friends, work associates, etc. But of course in Mormonism mortal death is not the end for us so we must push “the end” back much further than that with the real goal presumably being exaltation and Oneness with Christ and the Godhead.
So in a sense Covey’s Habit 2 insists that we all become metaphysicians, theologians, philosphers and perhaps even personal prophets (within our stewardships). Isn’t understanding the ultimate “end” really the type of question that every philosopher and theologian has struggled with throughout history? And this is just Habit 2 of 7… After we figure out “The End” and how to get there Habit 3 tells us how to be more efficient in the whole process. I only mention this because I have become a hobbyist metaphysician, theologian, and philosopher largely based on this line of reasoning. That is, I figure life is pretty short so I want to understand and map life the universe and everything as well as I can as I try to accomplish exactly what it is I ought to accomplish while here. This issue seems too important to leave to chance to me.
But even if we ignore the inherent downstream difficulties associated with the process of determining and comprehending the ultimate “end” we are after this process of beginning with the end in mind is still difficult. Covey recommends that we create “Mission Statements” as sort of personal constitutions or operating plans for our lives. You remember Mission Statements, right? They were hugely trendy in the 90s. So how many of you actually are closely adhering to that personal, family, or company mission statement you helped create circa 1994? (If it is more that 1% I’ll be surprised…) The problem with whole idea of mission statements is that none of us knows what our lives will look like in 2016. As a result the only things we can conceivably include in a mission statement that would work over time are so generic that it renders the document rather pointless. Do I really need a formal mission statement to decide to love my family, be kind, follow the spirit, etc.?
The Thang with the End in Mind
So that leaves us with a nebulous “end” goal after this life of exaltation. I say nebulous because the details of our post mortal existence are really still about as fuzzy to us as the details of our premortal existence. We don’t even have a clear church-wide definition of what exaltation really means. Some think it means joining the one and only Godhead in perfect unity; others think it means becoming Gods like our heavenly Father and creating future inhabited planets; others think that one must become a savior like Jesus on a future planet; and there are scores of other ideas. And it is these types of things that I like to talk about with y’all here. Why? Not because I want to idly waste my time on intellectual and philosophical blathering. It is because I want to better understand what exaltation means so I can better and more efficiently work toward it. If we can map out and somehow bridge “the end” (exaltation) here and now we really can better get to Habit 3: Put First Things First. And if I have been hacking away in the wrong jungle with regard to any theological assumptions I want to climb the highest tree and survey the landscape and resolve that issue now rather than later.
Personal revealtion is crucial too of course, but when it come to personal revelation it is a well known fact that it is much easier to get yes or no answers from God than deeply detailed instructions. That is why we study things out in our mind first and then we ask him.
I suspect that better understanding exaltation is a goal of most of the participants here too. Those of you who I know have faith in Jesus Christ, have spent your lives repenting and trying to be like him and trying to know him personally. That is encouraging to me. I think that dialogues like those we have here help us all understand that end of exaltation better. And that will help us begin with the end in mind. It seems to me that what we are really doing is here is trying to help each other come unto Christ and be perfected in him.
I mention this because some people have griped recently about what we are doing here at the Thang. I think if the goal of coming to Christ and being perfected in him bugs these Mormons they should take that up with Him. He doesn’t seem displeased with our mission.
[Associated radio.blog song: The English Beat - The End of the Party]