Achieve Goals by Beginning With the End in Mind

There are some interesting comments in the post The Importance of Being Smart and here I’d like to discuss one of them. It’s a comment by Chew:

I have something to add to being smart. It’s about beginning with the end in mind.

The objective was to acquire 100,000 arrows, which is not the same as making 100,000 arrows. Most of us would have framed the challenge as “making 100,000 arrows” instead of “acquiring 100,000 arrows”.

No amount of smartness can outsmart the need to begin with the end in mind.

I love it. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in such a situation. When I need to achieve a goal, I often frame it as achieving the goal in a certain way. As a result, I exclude other ways to achieve it.

This, I’m afraid, is a common problem. When people need to get a task done, they tend to do it in the most obvious way or the way that most other people do. This is a bad idea because by definition following the crowd means being average.

That’s why it’s important to begin with the end in mind. Instead of taking the most obvious route, take a step back and get a complete picture of the goal. Then ask yourself: what are the possible ways to achieve the goal? Notice that the question is not whether or not there is other way because there are always other ways. The question helps you find new possibilities you might never think of before.

You can take the concept further by questioning the goal itself. Why? Because a goal is just a way to achieve an even bigger goal.

Just take acquiring arrows as an example. Acquiring arrows is a way to achieve the bigger goal of winning the battle. So you should ask yourself: is acquiring arrows necessary to win the battle? What are other ways to win the battle? Thinking that you need to acquire arrows without considering other options means that you don’t begin with the end in mind.

You can still move further because winning the battle is a way to win the war, but you get the idea.

Applying this principle in your life will give you interesting insights. Just look at something that you do and ask yourself the bigger goal you want to achieve through it. By keep questioning you will eventually find the ultimate goal of your life. You should then work backward and find the best way to accomplish your goals at each level.

Here is an example:

  • Q: Why do I need to do this job?
    A: To make money
  • Q: Why do I need to make money?
    A: To be able to buy what I want.
  • Q: Why do I need to buy what I want?
    A: To make me happy.

Let’s stop at this point. You should now work backward by asking this question:

  • What are the possible ways to make me happy?

From your answers you might realize that you don’t need to buy stuff to be happy. Instead, there are other possibilities. Let’s say that the best answer you find is giving. Then the next question is:

  • What are the possible ways for me to give?

This way you begin with the end and move backward to the point where you are now.

Beginning with the end in mind is important. Not only will it help you find more creative ways to achieve your goals, but it will also help you find the right goals in life.

Photo by muha


  1. Smartly put!

    It’s also important to set goals that you can feel positive about. When I talk to someone about losing weight, it feels so negative and defeating. But when I advise them to focus on their relationship with food and appreciating healthy, smart, clean foods – it’s a much different experience. Plus, the end takes care of itself.

    I think this is one of those things that I’ve done naturally. I love finding better, more efficient, interesting ways to do things. When I tried to do things the way other people did it, yikes – I failed so much. But when I made those reframes, great things happened.

    I bet 42% of the people who read this will substitute arrows with Twitter followers.

  2. […] From Life Optimizer: As Stephen Covey once wrote, to achieve your goals you need to start with the end in mind. […]

  3. Jeffrey,

    It’s also important to set goals that you can feel positive about.

    I agree completely. If the goal feels negative then working on it feels like a burden and it’s difficult to stay motivated. Stating it in a positive way is really helpful.

  4. To me the real test of wisdom in a person is the ability to see the end from the beginning, so I think this is great. It is very important to begin with the end in mind.

  5. […] Latumahina presents Achieve Goals by Beginning With the End in Mind posted at Life […]

  6. Good idea.
    I need to get my department to run smoothly… I think I need to really think about this.

    Why do I need to get my department to run smoothly? To get the results that is required.

    Can I get the results in another way? Hmmm…
    If I get my employees to be happy will that create results? Will a smooth working department create happy employees.

    I notice that I have trouble to see the end here… what is the beginning and what is the end.

    1. I do need to get results.
    2. I do need to get happy employees.

    Hmm it can be hard to start with the end…

  7. One of the questions I always ask myself once I’ve decided that there is something I want to do or feel I need to do is ‘am I passionate about doing this thing… and if it really is something I need to do can I GET passionate about doing it’.

    I think I heard Tony Robbins say it once when he said that if you’re not achieving a goal, You don’t have enough positive emotional associations attached to it yet. There’s a lot of truth in that I think.


  8. Yes, that’s a technique that I also use.

    (Or to say it a little different, thinking in – a way – “as-if”
    my goals are already achieved)

    Getting back to comment your post, I indeed also used the ‘End in Mind’-approach, for example when I hardly had any visitors to my Blogspot(s) I wanted to have more visitors, visitors that would bookmark my (Main) Blogspot and would frequently Re-Visit my Blogspot(s).

    So I came up with the idea to make a special button that visitors could use to easily bookmark my (main) Blogspot as their Favorite. Also at my ‘Welcome Message’ I added the word ‘Back’, making it into ‘Welcome (Back)’ to communicate that it is expected that most visitors re-visit my Blogspots.

    So although currently there still is some room for improvement, Nowaday’s there are actually a lot of people
    that enjoy to Re-visit my Blogspots frequently.

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Money Making – Inspiration,

  9. wiwin widi astuti
    wiwin widi astuti

    Hi K.Donald..
    Absolutely agree with your thoughts. Beginning with the end in mind is a good way I think. Taking the simplest way to reach our goals and not taking the complicated ones. Preparing such manner creatively to reach it. But …. It’s not an easy way to get ‘mindset’ like that especially for common indonesian people???

  10. Cody,

    To me the real test of wisdom in a person is the ability to see the end from the beginning.

    Yes, that’s one important characteristic of wise people. Many people just follow the crowd and the conventional wisdom without even knowing what the end is.

    I don’t know your exact situation, but perhaps this question could help: why does the company exist?


    if you’re not achieving a goal, You don’t have enough positive emotional associations attached to it yet.

    I agree. In my opinion, beginning with the end in mind can help you find the “positive emotional associations” since you know exactly why you do something.

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I think getting traffic is not the end. There must be something deeper than that.

    It’s not easy indeed, but I believe we can always change our mindset. We need determination though.

  11. Great article. I used to have it backwards and have struggled with seeing the “end in the beginning.” I would like financial abundance so I can do what I want when I want. Of course, I’ll help out family and charitable organizations and maybe even start a couple of not-for-profits but it comes down to freedom. I have this because I’m free to choose where I live, what to read, what car I driver, etc…

    It’s also a matter of turning a “goal” around from a negative like “wanting to lose weight” to “being healthy and fit to do the things you love to do.”

  12. A goal be SMART at the beginning or at the end?

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