Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw

Habit 7 is the habit that surrounds the other habits and makes them possible. It involves making sure that you, the greatest asset of all, are being well looked after and enhanced as much as possible.

It begins with a story of a man who has been sawing down a tree for hours. When asked why he doesn’t take a break and sharpen his saw he replies ‘I don’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m too busy sawing!’

Habit 7 is taking the time to sharpen the saw. It basically means ensuring that you have a well-balanced life in four specific areas – Physical, Spiritual, Mental and Social / economical. Each area needs growth and development to change your life for the better.

The Physical dimension involves caring for your physical body – making sure you eat the right foods, drink enough water, do enough exercise, and get enough relaxation and sleep. Exercise is a Quadrant 2 element and because it’s not urgent you don’t always regularly participant, but really you know you should! All of these factors can affect how well you can perform.

The Spiritual dimension helps to provide leadership in your life. It is taking the time to get in touch with your core values, something that really mustn’t be neglected. People do this differently, whether it’s through prayers, meditations, music etc. When we take the time to draw on the leadership centre of our lives, it spreads over everything else and renews us and refreshes us – especially if we regularly recommit to it. The spiritual dimension links very closely to Habit 2 – Beginning with the end in mind. It is important to have a person mission statement which we can use throughout our lives, alongside these spiritual values.

The Mental dimension comes through mainly reading, writing, learning and teaching new things. Once you leave school/college/university, it’s so easy to stop with all of these activities and not challenge yourself to progress any further. Continuing education, such as the CPD we provide, is vital mental renewal. Without participating with any of these activities your mind can become narrow, unimaginative and very reactive.

The Social / Emotional dimension involves making social and meaningful relationships with others, whether it’s with a family member, work colleague, neighbour etc. It links very closely with Habits 4, 5 and 6. Firstly by thinking Win/Win you can agree to communicate with each other until you find the most beneficial situation for both parties involved. Then you can seek to understand and be understood – listen empathically and understand what they are saying before you give your point of view in the best way that they will understand. Finally synergise – work together to come up with a third alternative which is better than what you both could have imagined.

Sharpening the saw is about keeping you fresh and revitalised so that you can practice the other 6 habits. Without a well-balanced renewal, you can overdo everything and become tired and weak and extremely ineffective. This is also true in organisations.

In an organisation the physical dimension is expressed in economic terms and making money, the mental dimension deals with recognition and development, the social / emotional dimension relates to human relations and how people are treated and the spiritual dimension involves finding meaning through purpose and organisational integrity. If you focus too much time on certain dimensions and not others it can have a negative impact on an organisation so finding the right balance is key.

Overall Habit 7 is about taking the time to balance and renew your four dimensions to help to create a sustainable, long term, effective lifestyle.

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