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“Sharpen the Saw” – make time to renew your whole self

You know how we want to give attention to parts of our lives which we know are important, but we’re just too busy with everyday tasks to get down to it?


There’s a great story that Stephen Covey recounts in his classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” about a woodcutter who is straining at sawing down a tree. When asked why he doesn’t take a break to sharpen that saw, he replies “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw…I’m too busy sawing!”


“Sharpen the saw” is Covey’s 7th Habit – it means consciously, regularly and consistently renewing ourselves in all 4 aspects of our lives:

  • physical/financial
  • intellectual
  • emotional, and
  • spiritual/our purpose.

As Covey says, “this is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute.”


When we sharpen our saw, we get to be happier, feel less stuck, more creative, resilient and effective in our lives. The importance of bringing our best selves to our lives has never been more important than now in this fast-paced world of disruption, possibility and uncertainty.


Most of us find it easier to focus on the first two aspects of our lives – our physical/financial and intellectual dimensions. These are what we do every day.


For most of us, there are daily structures that automatically get us there – we go to work (physical/intellectual) and get paid our salary (financial), and we learn on the job (intellectual). We might go further – do gym or yoga classes in our week (physical), have a financial plan (financial), and take courses that broaden our knowledge and skills (intellectual).  


This is great, but this can sometimes end up being the “I’m too busy” part of our lives. Unless we invest is the other aspects of ourselves, the saw is still only partially sharpened here.


Interestingly, there are fewer mainstream structures for investment and renewal in who we are – that is, our emotional well-being and our spiritual selves including the need for purpose and meaning in our lives. We need to consciously bring awareness and action to invest in ourselves here.


The funny thing is that when we do make time to deeply connect with who we are at our core, we ignite more energy for creativity, resilience, clarity, love and fulfillment, and we are more productive, not less. Our saw of Life is beautifully honed and vibrant!


So how do we make self-renewal of our whole selves a powerful life habit?


Here’s a request for you – create your personal self-renewal Vision board:

  • Divide a sheet of paper (real or virtual) into 4.
  • Write your name on it. Really own this.
  • Write the 4 headings for each section of the paper, respectively : Physical/Financial; Intellectual; Emotional; Spiritual/Purpose.
  • Under each section:
  • Write at least one thing you want to achieve (or want more of) in the next 3 months. Keep this real – what is it that you truly want? Writing down what you truly want to achieve in your 4 dimensions is a powerful process of self-clarification about what is most important to you, and this is probably the most important part of this exercise. Take your time with this. Get coaching if you are searching here.
  • Write your first step towards each of your goals, and the date on which you will start – when you will take your first step.
  • Add a space or column for a tick when you’ve done each item.
  • You can add colour and visuals such as drawings, pictures, motivational words to keep you inspired to stay in action.
  • Keep your personal Vision board where you can easily see it, as confidential or public as you like. You might want to see it by your desk,  whenever you open your planner, make it your mobile phone wallpaper – you know where the best place for you is.
  • Tick as you accomplish your goals in each section. Celebrate when you’ve accomplished your 4 sections! Well done!!
  • And if you don’t complete what you set out to do, that’s a great opportunity to notice what you’ve learned from that. Just notice with curiosity and without making yourself wrong – it’s more important that you gain self-clarity here than that you beat yourself up. Then keep going!
  • And repeat this process for the next 3 months. Before you know it, you’ll be in the habit of clarifying what you want for yourself in the 4 dimensions of your self, and being in action purposefully and consistently.

Will you take this on? You are the expert in your own life and you get to say yes, or to say no, or to modify what you will do with this request. Let me know how you go.