Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness: Habit 2 - Begin with the End in Mind

This is the second article in the series: The 7 Habits of Mental Health Recovery - based on the late Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. See "The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness" for the introduction to this series, as well as "Habit 1".

Habit 2 is Begin with the End in Mind. It is the habit of vision. As with Habit 1, before I go into how it relates to mental health, let me give you a little background on Habit 2 from the late Stephen R. Covey. 


According to Covey, "to begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you're going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction." He adds that Habit 2 is the habit of leadership - of deliberately forging a direction rather than just mindlessly wandering along.

Covey said that "all things are created twice" first in the head, then in reality. First, we have a vision of what we want and then the vision becomes that which we act upon to attain the desired outcome.

He taught that we create our destination either deliberately, or by default. We choose our own vision and act accordingly to achieve it, or we let life happen to us even if we don't like where it's heading. Either way, we have created the outcome.


One exercise Covey suggests for beginning with the end in mind is to envision your 80th birthday. All of the important people from the various roles in your life are there: your family, friends, colleagues, associates in the community, etc. What do you want each of them to say about you? This is a starting point for your vision in each of your roles.


After deep, thoughtful visioning of how we want our lives to be, how we want to be, and of determining our core values, we condense it into a map - an overarching theme that will guide our actions and goals. This road map is called a personal mission statement. 


When one is suffering from mental illness, however, creating a mission and vision for oneself may seem one of the most impossible of tasks - but one that could mean the difference between life and death.  When I was at the end of my rope, my vision of the future was very limited and very dark. I saw no possibility, and my choices and chances seemed to grow more limited by the day. Finally, I reached a point were the only vision I had was that of an end to the pain of living.

Somewhere deep inside, however, a molecular-sized part of me did still cling to a faint vision that life could be different, and it was through this tiny vision that I was finally able to let go and ask for help. (Also where Habit 1 played a role.) Even though I had no hope, I had to let go of what little control I had left, and trust that even though I was in a dark, dark place with seemingly no way out, others (i.e., mental health care professionals) had a map to wellness and could help get me back on the road to a much better destination.

As I said before, to a mentally ill person, this may seem an impossible task - coming up with a vision for yourself, let alone crafting a written mission statement. But in the tiny act of letting go and trusting that there is a positive vision out there somewhere - even if we can't see it yet - we begin to act on that vision and create a better world for ourselves. 

With the help of mental health professionals, you will begin to create that vision. It will start as a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), which details the daily steps you need to take to cope with your illness and climb out of the abyss. For now, this becomes your map, your vision, your mission. Then, as you begin to recover and reach for higher ground, you can delve into the personal work of creating your 80th birthday vision of your life, and eventually craft a personal mission statement which can become your guide to long-term mental health.


If you cannot see any possibilities for your future, and death seems the only way out, please contact your health care provider, mental health professional, hospital, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at or 1.800.273.8255.

If you want to see a sample of a WRAP, email me at

For guidance on crafting a mission statement, see for a Mission Statement Builder  and other resources.

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