Begin With The End in Mind
March 3, 2016
No matter what it is, ending well matters.
Whether a much needed vacation, retirement from a meaningful career, ending a relationship, navigating a courageous conversation, saying goodbye to a parent, or the last line in your manuscript, ending well there starts right here. By now we have hopefully learned that absolute control over anything is…well..a joke. However, mindful consideration of a desired outcome can help us better order our steps from here to there. But while we can work mightily to achieve a goal, make things go our way, craft a specific outcome, influence another person, or take all the right steps, there will always be an element of “it’s a crap shoot”. If we focus solely on exactly how we would like things to turn out, we’ve missed the deeper issue. What matters even more than how it turns out, is who we are in that moment. The essence of beginning with the end in mind can be summed up in one question: When the end of whatever “it” is comes, who do we want to be?
Examples of endings are everywhere. Some that end well, and others not so much. Whether you are an NFL fan or not, this years Super Bowl is a prime example. The Carolina Panthers, led by their talented, brash young quarterback Cam Newton, were the hands-down favorite. Expected by everyone, including themselves, to win. They didn’t. By a long shot. An hour after the game, Cam Newton stepped in front of the microphone as the leader of his team, to fulfill his media obligation. Hoodie pulled low over his face, he sat in a chair, eyes down, gave short sullen answers until getting up and walking out mid-interview. Did he want to win? Of course! Why else would he play the game? Had he given thought to who he wanted to be, win or lose? Apparently not. Compare that to last years Super Bowl when the Seattle Seahawks, led by their talented, humble young quarterback Russell Wilson, experienced an even more devastating loss. Expected by many, including themselves to win, they didn’t. Within seconds of winning the game, with that ill-fated, still debated call…. they lost. An hour later Russell Wilson stepped in front of the microphone as the leader of his team, to fulfill his media obligation. Suit and tie, he stood, faced the camera, expressed appreciation for his teammates, took responsibility for the loss, and praised the winning team. Did he want to win? Yes! Why else would he play the game? Had he given thought to who he wanted to be win or lose? Apparently so.
One of the greatest lessons in ending well came for me personally when my mom passed away. Her name was Ashby, and the word that best describes who she was and how she walked through the world is ‘grace’. There was nothing Asbhy loved more than what she liked to call a “good visit”. Whenever you showed up on her doorstep, announced or not, whatever the task at hand was set aside and replaced with a cup of tea, served in her best china. She was short on advice and long on understanding. She loved by listening. The last week of her life we brought her back from the hospital to the home she loved and tucked her into the bed she still shared with my dad. Every day was filled with her grace, along with a constant stream of friends and family who came by for one more good visit. They would sit on her bed and talk to her, sing to her, laugh and cry with her. No longer able to speak, she did what she did best. She loved by listening. After she was gone, I realized that I had been given the opportunity to stand at the end of her life, and look back on my own. From that vantage point I understood that ending her life with grace wasn’t the result of some grand decision, but rather is an accumulation of choices.
As I reflect on this topic I am reminded of something Mr. Carson, the butler of Downton Abbey said. “The business of life is the accumulation of memories. In the end, that’s all we have.” The way in which we end things is either the accumulation of a memory or a regret. To gather more memories, begin with the end in mind.
What endings are on your radar screen? When the end of whatever “it” is comes, who do you want to be? What would ending well in those situations mean? Now is when ending well starts. Here is where it begins. This present moment is what you have to work with.