The Character Movement

What Steven Covey can teach us about character.

“Begin with the end in mind.”– Steven Covey

My 19-year old niece, Victoria, adopted from Russia at age 7, loves to watch the show CSI. She wants to work in criminal justice someday. She is currently in the law enforcement track at Normandale College and hopes that one day she will wear the uniform of a law enforcement agent.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, describes people like Victoria who set a goal and do the necessary things to get there. His Habit Twobegin with the end in mind – describes the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see. If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you want to be and what you want, then you let other people and circumstances shape your life by default.
This idea – begin with the end in mind – can be applied to our current situation as we shelter in place during the pandemic. It forces us to take a different perspective.

Many of us have spent time yearning for what life was like before the pandemic. Many of us are spending time now during the pandemic to troubleshoot in the current reality. Beginning with the end in mind challenges us to imagine who we want to be after the pandemic is over and to take steps now to ensure we get there.

If I begin with the end in mind in my personal life and imagine the person I want to be after the pandemic, I see a more grounded, reflective, physically active man who is closer and more connected to his family, friends, and neighbors than ever before.

I realize this giant pause button on life has given me opportunities to become a better person. I am fortunate to be able to have nightly dinners with my wife and daughter which have allowed me to listen more and get to know them better. Occasional late afternoon runs after many years of not exercising has made me feel stronger, more energized, healthier. No longer dashing to the office, I’ve been able to start my mornings at home with some quiet reflection time which grounds me. I’ve connected with neighbors I’ve never seen before. I’ve had Zoom calls with high school friends I haven’t talked to in 30+ years. I am aware of and am grateful for these privileges.

If I begin with the end in mind in my professional life and imagine Youth Frontiers in a best case scenario after the pandemic, I see an expanded organization with a more diversified product line – with a far greater impact – to offer schools and the community. By broadening our work beyond the large-group retreats for students we’ve been putting on for 30 years, we can avoid the mistake that Blockbuster made by remaining only a video rental company until it was too late.

Our present challenge gives our YF team the opportunity to decide who we want to be and build toward that. If we do nothing, decisions will be made for us. We have great people at the YF table who are courageously and imaginatively broadening our menu and building new ways to deliver the important message of character.

This week’s challenge: Begin with the end in mind. Imagine yourself months or years from now – the COVID-19 virus has been contained; SIP is a distant memory; schools and businesses are functioning again, albeit differently. How have you become a better person through this experience? What can you practice this week to get you there?

How we respond during this time will define us as individuals, a community, and a nation.

Let us choose to be people of character.

Joe Cavanaugh
Founder & CEO
Youth Frontiers

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