“Begin with the end in mind.” Stephen Covey – Goal Setting
How do we know if we should change our goals?
Setting goals forces us to picture success before it happens. If we are able to create a picture of what success looks like, then we are more likely to achieve it. Seeing the end motivates the beginning of the journey. But it is often the case that journeys take unexpected turns and force us to redirect our plans towards goals different than what we had at the start. The challenge then becomes how to best change our goals along the way and pursue the proper end that reveals itself over time. Living life this way demands less clarity and more patience.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts – founders of Teach Different and twin brothers with over 50 years of teaching experience – along with guests Jenna Daube, education student at Loyola University and Jameson Beckman, journalism student at Boston University, for a compelling conversation about goal-setting, enriched by the Teach Different Method.
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Image source: Flickr | ABRAS
Dan Fouts 00:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here from Teach Different. We’re veteran teachers from the United States bringing educators together from around the world to learn a simple conversation method, which we model on this podcast for you. If you’re a teacher, administrator, or parent who wants to use the power of conversations to build stronger relationships and fight polarization, stay tuned to hear the impact our method can have on your discussions. Then join our Community of Educators at teachdifferent.com for additional resources and to participate in lively conversations among teachers and faculty, free for 30 days.
Welcome everybody to the Teach Different podcast this week. We have a return appearance from Stephen Covey, a motivational speaker and author who has a really interesting quote on goal setting. I’m really excited about our two guests today, because they happen to be my former students from last year at Maine West High School in DesPlaines. They’re now freshmen in college. They have some experience with this method since we did this every Monday last year during COVID. That was the routine and they were definitely stars during that period. It’s great to talk with them today.
To refresh everybody’s memory on the Teach Different conversation method, we’re going to start with a quote and work through the claim as we try to unpack and interpret what it means. Then, Steve’s going to lead us into the counterclaim, a push against what the author of the quote is saying to prompt critical thinking. It’s this tension that unveils interesting insights about life. We’ll end with an essential question, and go on our way. Here is Stephen Covey’s quote on goal setting, “Begin with the end in mind.” “Begin with the end in mind.” Jenna, do you want to start off and then Jameson, you can piggyback?
Jenna Daube 02:21 – Claim
Awesome. Hello there. My name is Jenna. I’m currently a freshman studying at Loyola University Chicago, and I’m double majoring in secondary education and English with the hope of one day becoming a high school English teacher. I’m really excited about that. A fun fact about me is that I really like rock climbing. That’s a new thing I’ve gotten into, and I’m excited to get more into writing as the semester progresses. When I looked at this quote, I started thinking about what it’s really getting at. It’s basically saying that before you start working towards a goal, or an accomplishment, identify what that end goal is. In order to figure out how to start something, you have to have an idea of what your outcome will be. Otherwise, it’s like going on a road trip without knowing where you’re going. You’re not going to get there. If you figure it out later, maybe you’ll get there, but you’ll take a lot more time. That was my initial impression.
Jameson Beckman 03:40
Hi, I’m Jameson Beckman. I’m at Boston University majoring in journalism. I am a musician on the side playing french horn and guitar. I love the road trip analogy. I think that’s so good, especially since I’ve gone back and forth between home twice now. You definitely have to have some idea of what you’re doing and how to get there. Applying this quote to my experience as a college student and my major, I had to figure out what I wanted to do, how I’m going to get there, what classes I have to take, and in what order. I have a way of getting to the places that I want to be even with papers and projects that I have in my classes. Having a plan for what I’m doing makes it so much easier than scrambling to figure out what I’m actually writing about. I think beginning with the end in mind is essential when you have big big plans and big ideas. I think it’s super important to have some ideas of how you’re actually going to get there.
Jenna Daube 05:03
Yeah, absolutely. I actually had a situation come up today as the semester is ending. Things that I haven’t done are creeping up on me. I finally sat down today and made a list of what those things were. Putting it down on paper and seeing it written down made it all a lot less abstract. Instead of this idea of a paper floating in the distance, it’s now concrete and coming into focus. Even though I’m just getting to it now (I should have done it earlier) it’s still clear. I’m now identifying what I need to do to get this outcome. Now, I know where to start working, and how much time it’s going to take. Time management becomes a real big issue. When you’re not specific about what you want to do, then you’re not going to know how to budget your time to actually make that thing happen. Which is why writing a paper the night before tends to be insane, because the timing is way off for what you really needed to get the result you were hoping for.
Jameson Beckman 06:24
Right. It’s so much of a guessing game when you don’t have an idea of where you’re trying to get to, and the steps that you need to take to get there. On Sunday mornings my mom would sit down with a pad of paper and a pen to write down her schedule for the day and everything that she was going to get done. That was kind of her workday. The way she started it was by conceptualizing and actually having a physical record of where she was going to be at what times and the things that she was going to get done. I think regimenting yourself with a set plan is essential for being productive. Without that you are just throwing darts at a clock with where you’re going to be and when you’re going to do the things that you need to do.
Jenna Daube 07:25
I was thinking of examples besides papers and stuff, because this quote can be applied to a lot of other subject areas, like music or athletics. When I go to the climbing gym without a specific objective, then I end up not really focusing on any one thing, and my time is a lot less effective. I might start that climb, then another one, and if it gets hard, I’ll just jump down and not do that one. But, if I go in with a plan in mind, it’s a lot easier to say that by this time I’ll get this thing done. You leave feeling accomplished and effective because you haven’t wasted a bunch of time being unsure of what you’re doing, and how you’re going to do it.
Jameson Beckman 08:27
So, I actually went rock climbing for the first time during my school’s fit week. I didn’t belay or anything because you had to pay money to get taught. When I started, I was just kind of doing it. I went in and I put my hands on the wall, felt around and figured out, in the moment, what I was doing. During the second half, I stepped back to look at the wall and the colors of each of the different pegs. I mapped out where my hands were going to be on the pegs and then where to put my legs to get somewhere. I think that connects to scheduling and managing your time. If you have your hand at this time and your leg at this time, then it’s much more clear how you’re going to get to that top post. It definitely makes it more satisfying, like you were saying Jenna. It’s so much more rewarding to have those goals even if they’re tiny goals like picking up your laundry and putting it into the bin every morning. Having that kind of schedule and having those goals in mind while you’re going about your day makes your day so much more rewarding, satisfying and motivating. If I have a three hour block of time, and don’t have a set plan of when I’m getting stuff done, then I’m just going to sit there on my laptop or play on my phone scrolling through Instagram. It’s so important to map it out.
Steve Fouts 10:22
The thing that occurred to me was the GPS. How do you use GPS? What’s the first thing you do? You have to enter where you’re going. The GPS gives you different routes and the time each route will take. Some people might say that you don’t want to have a goal in mind all the time, because it ruins your creativity and imagination and takes the fun out of life. But that’s not always the case, right? You can be very creative as to how you accomplish the goal you have set. I think it’s a mistake to think that having a goal in mind takes the thrill and fun out of life. What it does is help you to not sit around, Jameson, and play on your phone being unproductive. Are you guys suggesting that social media has made this harder?
Jenna Daube 11:55
Oh my gosh, yes.
Dan Fouts 11:59
It sounds like you guys are starting to focus on goals and meeting those goals. Are you finding that social media, as you look back and maybe reflect on high school, was an impediment to doing this?
Jenna Daube 12:17
I would say yes and no. My classes have been easier, even though the content is more in depth, because they’re focused on something I’m excited about. It’s easier to not want my phone out, because I’m not bored. In past situations, classes have been less strenuous, so it was easier to be distracted by my phone. Nevertheless, the phone is still very hard to overcome. I set time limits on my phone sometimes to limit my Instagram or Snapchat activity. It’s kind of funny, because most of the time it’ll show me that I have 15 minutes, but then I just click out of it. A smart me in the past thought that I’d better limit myself, but the me now says no.
Steve Fouts 13:25
You have the freedom.
Jenna Daube 13:27
It is helpful. One of the things I’ll do is say I’ll watch an episode of Friends, and then I’m going to go back to studying. Because Friends is set in an episode form, during those twenty minutes, I can just chill and laugh. After I did this when studying for an exam week, I’d try to watch only five minutes worth of an episode of Friends, and then study for twenty minutes of studying. When I was studying, I was impatient to watch the rest of the episode thinking about what Joey was going to do next. After that, I was excited to get to the next part of the episode, because I stopped myself hard at five minutes, even if it was coming to the punchline of an awesome joke. I would say, you’re going to study now, and finish watching later.
Steve Fouts 14:11
That’s mind control. Let’s push against this quote. It sounds like both of you are, dare I say, goal oriented people. Maybe that’s a comparative thing. Sometimes you are, and sometimes you aren’t. Let’s take the quote, “Begin with the end in mind.” Jameson, you mentioned that motivation is something that is also enhanced when you have the end in mind. What is the best counterclaim against this for people who don’t have a clear sense of goals and believe that there’s another way of being. Maybe you can find your journey in another way. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth. I would love a good counterclaim against this quote.
Jameson Beckman 15:13 – Counterclaim
It’s in the journey, not the destination. I’m big into soccer, and when I’m in the middle of a game focused on the end score, obviously I’m focusing on winning, the enjoyment isn’t on the score, but getting to the end of the game and succeeding. I’m reading a big thick book right now called Ducks, Newburyport. The entire 1000 pages is one sentence. It’s written from the frame of mind of an Ohio woman who’s at home, and it’s every single thought she has broken up into commas and little segments of thought. There isn’t a goal, or any sort of story or plot. It’s just every single thought this woman has written out onto a page, but it’s engaging. It’s interesting because there’s so much to enjoy about the things that she thinks about, and her train of thought. There’s a lot of word association, and random references to things that have happened in her life. I’m not waiting for anything to happen. There’s nothing that she’s alluding to that’s going to happen, but it’s really interesting seeing all the things that go on in her day to day.
Jenna Daube 17:08
That’s really cool to think about the act of being instead of goal setting. Goal setting is like a leapfrog, it’s always there. When you get there, it’s like, what now? Graduation is the goal I have. I’m not thinking far beyond that. If we’re just being in the moment, there is a certain beauty to that, because it’s just where you are. You’re not trying to do other stuff. I like painting occasionally, and sometimes I will just grab colors in the moment. I have no plan in mind. I started admiring how the paint went down, how the colors balanced out, and how this brush stroke came out. I admire that space much more. Jameson, you were talking about that book. You can just admire how her thoughts flow, rather than jumping to different positions, I guess you could say. It’s relaxing, because you don’t have to think about what’s coming next. You can think about what’s right in front of you, and why that is kind of precious, because it’s right there for you.
Dan Fouts 19:00
I really liked that, Jenna. You mentioned painting. Art is like that. I have to bring in Aristotle right now. You guys know how much I love philosophy. Aristotle distinguished between poesis actions and praxis actions. Poesis actions are actions that are done for the end in mind. Praxis actions are done for the sake of themselves, not for an end goal. I think that’s what you were referring to Jenna, when you’re not doing things for a result, but because they’re good in and of themselves. There’s beauty in that. Think of dancing. I’m not a dancer, but when I see entertainers dancing, it’s not like they start dancing and think about the end. It’s the experience that is valued. We have another conversation in the library that’s from, I believe, a Buddhist. He says, the greatest effort is not concerned with the results. Which is this counterclaim, I think, in many ways. So, I totally connected with you on that.
Jameson Beckman 20:28
And I’ll bring in another philosophy reference, if you don’t mind, Mr. Fouts. Nietzsche had this idea of the infinite resignation. It’s a thought experiment. Suddenly, a demon appears in front of you, and he tells you, this is your life. You’re going to repeat this exact life over and over and over again for the rest of time. The idea is that if you live life, barring afterlife, or some sort of utopia that you’re working for, or any other external validations, and just focus on living the exact same life over and over again, how do you value it? How do you find beauty and appreciation in just the bare essentials of what and who you are? Nietzsche decides upon this idea of an aesthetic appreciation, where you turn every single thing that happens to you into some sort of appreciation in and of itself from the speck of dust to the loss of family members. You can have life goals, but ultimately, it’s the journey and what you make of it that really matters. That’s what makes life in and of itself worth living and being a part of.
Steve Fouts 22:10
Wow, that’s really cool. That’s a really interesting perspective. It’s a process, not the outcome. I was thinking even more simply. I have had experiences where I just wanted to try something because it felt good. It felt like the right thing to do. I didn’t have a goal in mind, but I was motivated to act. I spent time and energy trying something. I’m sure I regretted some experiences, but I was also happy about others. The point was that I didn’t know what I wanted, or who I could become, or what would make me happy until I just did something. I never had a goal in mind. I wasn’t that smart. Maybe this is just the way I prefer to learn. I don’t know if that makes sense. It’s just a different approach.
Dan Fouts 23:31
Yeah, that definitely makes sense. Sometimes you just jump into something and you don’t have an end in mind. You just want to get started with something. You might figure out what the goal is halfway in, but you have to begin it before understanding what the goal is. That makes sense.
We like to encourage teachers to bring these conversations into the class with their own students. This could be one that elementary, middle, or high school students could find success in. It would be interesting to see the examples they bring up of when they started something without a goal in mind, or started with a goal in mind, and what’s the difference. Their responses will probably be different depending on their ages.
Jenna Daube 24:29
I know if you asked my younger brother what he was thinking about when he was playing with Legos, he’d probably be very insightful. Why do you play with Legos? I don’t know because it’s fun. He doesn’t play with them because he’s excited to build the Lego Death Star or a car. A lot of the time he’ll disappear for hours and then he comes up with this machine that if you turn this one part of the Lego, it’ll drop a marshmallow from a tank. Those kinds of creative moments come out when he doesn’t have a plan in mind. He’s rifling through these various pieces and an ideas is sparked. But, he had to rifle through the pieces before the idea came to mind.
Steve Fouts 25:39
Yeah, he didn’t know what he was going to build. He just did what came to him. I’m so impressed by people who blend these strategies. They may decide that this weekend they are going to enjoy themselves. The purpose of the weekend is to enjoy themselves and to reduce anxiety for next week. There’s a goal they set to get rid of their anxiety, but they didn’t get overly prescriptive with the way that they were going to accomplish that. They said, I’m going to carve out time when I’m not worried about anything. I’m always impressed when people can understand both these approaches.
Dan Fouts 26:36
Jenna, when you were sharing that example, I thought that maybe this is an age dependent thing. Maybe the older we get, the more we value the idea of picturing what the world looks like when we’re done with our goals, and that motivates us to move forward. Maybe when we’re younger, we’re more tolerant of living in the moment and discovering things. It would be weird for a five year old to sit down and say, I’m going to play with these toys and here’s my goal. We just want them to play. Maybe it’s a maturity thing. Steve, like you were saying, it’s a balance. Maybe the older we get, we lose that kid in us. Maybe we need to have more of the child in us and be more exploratory without caring about the end.
Steve Fouts 27:36
Nietzche would agree, right Jameson? The creativity of the child was one of his stages.
Dan Fouts 27:48 – Essential Question
Well, great. This was really good. I think we gave good thought to the claim and also to the counterclaim. I’m walking away a little confused, but in a good way, wondering what’s the right way to look at this quote. How should you look at it at different stages of your life? There are different perspectives. We like to end with an essential question to keep people thinking about this conversation. One that you can ask at the end of this conversation is, how do we know if we should change our goals? If we’re in the middle of something, and we start with a goal, how do we know when or if we should change it? That’s a tough question to think about throughout our lives. Do you guys have any closing remarks? Any advice that you want to share before we leave for high schoolers entering college?
Jameson Beckman 29:02
Roommates snore. I’d highly recommend some earplugs. I think that’s essential.
Steve Fouts 29:08
Don’t go to college in and around a pandemic.
Jenna Daube 29:13
That’s a good one.
Dan Fouts 29:17
You guys were wonderful students and are wonderful people. You did such an awesome job last year. Listening to you tonight, it’s really clear that you have your proverbial good head on your shoulders and you’re making the most of your college experience. Jameson, you’re going to be fantastic at journalism. Jenna, you’re going to be a great teacher. We hope you use this method at some point with your own students. We’re in good hands as a society with you two at the helm. Have a great evening, and thank you so much for joining us.
Jameson Beckman 29:58
Thank you for having me.
Steve Fouts 30:00
Thank you, both of you.
Dan Fouts 30:02
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas, and have a sense of confidence that you too can master the art and science of conversations to make a lasting impact. We at Teach Different are dedicated to supporting you along that journey. Please visit teachdifferent.com to join our Community of Educators for additional resources and engaging discussion among fellow teachers and administrators, free for 30 days. We’ll see you there and next time on the Teach Different Podcast, take care!