Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw

Written by Maren Schmidt on March 01, 2017

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Carpenters and cooks know a certain rule of productivity.

A sharp well-maintained tool makes a job go faster and easier.

Plus, tools that are ready to go are a pleasure to use.

One of facts of life that I understand now, that I didn’t appreciate in my 20‘s, 30, or 40’s, is that our physical body is our most important tool.

As they say, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.  

In terms of overall health there are four basic aspects to consider.

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Social/Emotional
  • Spiritual

When I neglect to maintain these areas my life, I work and work and don't have the results I desire or expect.

As I applied the 7 Habits in my life, I began to see the practicality and necessity of “sharpening the saw”.

It wasn’t extra work. It was the work.

Abraham Lincoln was reported to say, “If I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax.”

Covey recommends planning daily habits to renew, refresh and recreate yourself.

As I used Habit 3: Put First Things First, I understood that these renewal activities may not be urgent, but they are important and deserve to be treated as Quadrant II activities. 

The Physical Aspect

Our bodies need good fuel and exercise, along with a time-out from constant stress.

Spend time learning about what nutrition requirements for optimum health. One of the best books I have read recently about this is Deep Nutrition by Dr. Cate Shanahan.

Our bodies need to be exercised in order to be efficient, flexible and strong. To maintain a basic fitness level requires only about 30 minutes of exercise a day. Endurance, flexibility and strength training need to be part of a daily regimen.

Adequate sleep, about eight hours a night for adults, along with relaxation techniques such a meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, laughing and more, form the third leg in our physical health. 

The Mental Aspect

In terms of our mental health I believe the wisdom of this computer programming saying: Garage in. Garbage out.

Our mental health builds off reading, visualizing, planning and writing while using Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood.

Be aware of what you are listening to and watching on social media and television. Is the consumption of modern media helping you become mentally acute?

Challenge yourself to read a book a month. Then a book every two weeks, and then a book every week. Learn something new everyday.

Use Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind to visualize your goals for sharpening the saw.

Download the planning tool I have for you below to help you use Habit 3: Put First Things First.

Write everyday, even if it is only a few sentences. Writing helps keep a journal of our thoughts, insights, experiences, and promotes mental clarity.

The Social/Emotional Aspect

Applying Habit 5: Seek First To Understand And Then To Be Understood, helps you become more socially and emotionally astute.

As you listen to others first, before commenting or acting, I think you’ll find your social and emotional intelligence growing.

Learn to listen to yourself, and take time to listen everyday, and the benefits you’ll discover will be keen.

Ask everyday:

  • Who am I serving?
  • How can I get to win/win in my relationships?
  • In the long term, in the big picture, what is important to me?

 The Spiritual Aspect

 The spiritual aspect of our overall health includes:

  • Understanding our values
  • Our commitment to those values
  • Studying and thinking about those values

The spiritual aspect of our healthy being is  extremely private and individual. 

What inspires and uplifts you? What activities calm and center you and help you put daily strife of life into perspective?

Connect with those things everyday, whether it is art, music, nature, friends, family, or so many other personal inspirations you may have.

Sharpen the saw.

It’s the habit that puts all the other habits into action.  

As we learn, commit and do these seven habits of highly effective people, we create an upward spiral of success.

Our overall habit becomes one of continual learning, commitment, and service to others, providing us with a life full of meaning and purpose.


 Additional reading: The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, pages 287-307.


Put it into action!

Download Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw Checklist here.


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Tags: leadership, 7 habits of highly effective people, health