I read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People years ago and was impacted by his philosophy of “beginning with the end in mind.” If you know where you are going (the end), then you can start navigating that direction now. Without a clear vision of your destination, you’ll miss the mark; it won’t “just happen.” We build our lives, and we develop our priorities now based on where we want to end up.
Covey suggests an exercise for figuring out where you want to end up: imagine you are at your own funeral (doesn’t that sound fun?). What do you want people to say about you? How do you want to be eulogized?
Earlier this year, I attended the funeral of an old friend, someone that I went to high school with and whose life had intersected with mine in many ways since then. Attending the funeral of a peer—someone your own age—creates an unfamiliar dynamic. It brings “the end” closer. It is a reminder of how short life is, of how little time we have to make the difference we intend to make, to build a eulogy so “they” will have something nice to say one day…
I had a long drive home after the funeral, which for me, was excellent “thinking time.” I thought about the nice things that were said about my friend—what an excellent work ethic he had, his winning sense of humor, how much he loved his family, his commitment to Christ, etc. An oft-repeated statement was regarding his smile. The guy had a million-dollar smile! It was a trademark. No matter how casually you knew him, you noticed that smile. It could light up a room. As I was driving, my thoughts inadvertently drifted to what “they” will say about me one day (this is a definite effect of attending any funeral).
There’s nothing trademark-ish about me, nothing seriously unique… I don’t have a smile like that (honestly, very few people do). I continued further down that path. I do live with the end in mind. In fact, I have a list of most-important-things (MITs) that I focus on daily for that very reason—the end—but most people don’t even know about. The things that I am consciously trying to do every day are things that are important, but they are not things that others can attest to. They’re mostly done in private.
I wrestled with all this for a moment. I know it’s comical, me getting in a tizzy over what people will say about me when I die. Even as I am writing, I chuckle as I record my thoughts for you. Capturing a string of thoughts in writing can make any of us look crazy, so please bear with me as I bring this line of thought to its conclusion—and to the purpose of this article. No one will know!? No one will have nice things to say about the real me. Then I remembered the iceberg icon that I was introduced to some time ago. It is estimated that only 10% of the actual iceberg shows (see the picture). The other 90% is hidden (and given that the hidden 90% is what sunk the Titanic, we could say the hidden part is where the ‘power’ is).
Like an iceberg, there should be so much mass, so much depth to who we are that only 10% of “the real me” is seen by ‘my public.’ Obviously, others will experience the effect of the hidden 90%, but what people see is literally, ‘the tip of the iceberg.’
This icon and the corresponding concepts make me think of the scripture in Psalm 51:6 where David wrote, “Surely you [God] desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (aka, ‘the secret place’).
Now back to my deep-thinking session on the drive home from that funeral. I realized that while Steven Covey was on to something in regards to starting with the end in mind, “the end” that he proposes (our funerals) was a little short of the actual finish to life’s race. Quite honestly, what does it matter what people will say about us at our funerals? We won’t be around to hear it! But as soon as we cross the threshold from mortality to immortality, that is where we want to be commended! That is where I most definitely want to hear “Well done!”
The cool thing about the real end point—which is really not ‘the end’ at all!—is that God does know about the hidden 90%. He does know about the deeds and thoughts and actions done in secret (the good and the bad!), so all the important things—all the time-consuming, character-building, truth-loving, mass-building, secret-place meditations, activities, thoughts, tears, responses, adjustments, prayers—all those things are known and will be acknowledged! Everything we do to increase the mass of our 90% so that the visible 10% is truly high-quality stuff will no doubt garner a “Well done!” And that’s what I’m living for!
How about you? Which do you focus on the most, the 90% or the 10%? Do you have a system in place to keep you centered on the 90%? If so, please do share. Leave a comment!
Photo compliments of Wikipedia