Editorial: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize | AIChE

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Editorial: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize



This is an expanded version of the Editorial that appeared in the print version of Chemical Engineering Progress, May 2016.

Many leaders and managers consider Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, required reading. Three articles in this issue evoke Covey’s Habit 2: begin with the end in mind.

Covey says that in everything you do, you should start with a clear destination in mind and visualize it — “see it clearly, vividly, relentlessly, over and over again.” That way, you can make sure the steps you are taking move you in the right direction. It’s easy, Covey says, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall and that every step you take just gets you to the wrong place faster.

To begin with the end in mind means to start each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and to be proactive to make it happen. It means keeping your eyes on the prize; staying focused on your goal to keep your momentum going; remembering what you want and why so you can continue to move toward it step-by-step. The Greatest Inspirational Quotes website offers practical tips to help you keep your eyes on the prize. My favorites are:

Use your electronic devices. Set your desktop background with a picture that represents your goal. The backgrounds on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone are photos of the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona, AZ — reminders of my goal to get into top physical shape so I can hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and back up!).

Print and post your goals. Print your goals and post them where you’re likely to see them frequently, such as on the fridge or in your cubicle. A photo of the Grand Canyon and a postcard of Phantom Ranch, an oasis at the bottom of the canyon, hang on my cubicle walls as additional inspiration.

Commit to twice a day. Read your goals twice a day — once in the morning and again before you go to sleep.

Of course, reaching your goals takes more than just beginning with the end in mind and keeping your eyes on the prize. Mara Johnson, a contributor to the GenTwenty website, points out, “While it’s good to look ahead, it’s also important to realize that sometimes the bigger picture is actually a collage of little pictures. Similarly, short-term goals can be great building blocks for long-term goals. If you are looking to achieve something big, you may want to start small.”

Short-term goals provide a checklist of the steps you need to take to reach your ultimate goal. Accomplishing a short-term goal is a small victory, another step closer to your destination, and the feeling of ongoing achievement can keep you motivated to continue moving forward. Reaching a short-term goal gives you an opportunity to reflect and modify your plan if necessary, which will keep you from veering off course. And, short-term goals make long-term goals more realistic. Johnson likens a long-term goal to an unfinished jigsaw puzzle and short-term goals to the puzzle pieces. “As you slowly put the fragments of the puzzle together, the image you’re creating becomes clearer,” she says.

So, how does Covey’s Habit 2 play into this issue? In the Back to Basics article, “Preparing for a Successful Energy Assessment” (pp. 44–49), Thomas Theising quotes this habit and stresses the importance of always keeping the goal of the assessment in mind. In this month’s Young Professionals Point of View column, “Persuade Your Boss to Send You to an AIChE Conference” (p. 29), Giselle Schlegel advises envisioning a clear outcome or goal before asking to attend a conference. “Write an email or report that details what you expect to learn there and what you will bring back to your company, department, or team to make them stronger,” she urges. And in Leadership Q&A, “Keep the Long-Term in Mind” (pp. 32–33), LyondellBasell CEO Bhavesh (Bob) Patel points out, “Sometimes simply cutting costs in the short term can compromise long-term potential or opportunities.”



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