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As a new year approaches, begin with the end in mind

When the age of the Vikings came to a close, they must have sensed it. Probably, they gathered together one evening, slapped each other on the back and said, ‘Hey, good job.’

—Jack Handey, “Deep Thoughts” from “Saturday Night Live” (circa early ‘90s)

It might not be the end of an epoch or an age, but we’re nearly at the end of another year. It’s that time of both reflection on what happened, and what didn’t, and also a look ahead with all the hope and promise of a new year. I’ve never been one for resolutions, as I’ve read and heard the best time to buy exercise equipment is in February when self-imposed efforts start to fade. Maybe a better time to start resolutions would be March 1 instead. It’s cheaper.

I have a dog-eared copy of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey that came out just a bit before Jack Handey was sharing his own “Deep Thoughts.” It’s probably one of nearly 10 copies of that book I’ve purchased over the years, lent out, and then purchased again. (Now that I just checked, I misspoke. I should have said: “I used to have a copy.” Apparently, I’ve lent out yet another one.) The second habit Covey mentions ties both the epilogue of one year with the prelude of a new one: “Begin with the end in mind.” That has always held nuanced meanings for me. Covey mentions it’s more important to live for testimony, not titles. What do you want said at your funeral? That has a way of putting things in perspective. I’ve already taken a stab at my eulogy — and, spoiler alert, it mentions zombies. You might give that a try sometime … it’s sobering and thought-provoking.

The other meaning that habit has for me is the importance of having a plan. A consultant I heard speak once said: “Organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they’re getting.” I think people are, too. If you don’t like the results you’re getting personally and professionally, I’d suggest you need a new approach.

No, it may not be the end of an age, but Jack Handey offers even more insight: “If the Vikings were around today, they would probably be amazed at how much glow-in-the-dark stuff we have, and how we take it so much for granted.” As 2023 is within our reach, I hope you can stop and smell the roses, appreciate all the glow-in-the-dark stuff, but, most importantly, begin the year with the end in mind.

Here’s to a hopeful and generous New Year.

Brian Fogle is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

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