Want to start 2014 off on the right foot? Commit to sharpening the saw in your daily life…

File a saw

For those in the blogosphere who are familiar with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the term ‘sharpen the saw’ should need no introduction. But for those who are unfamiliar with Covey’s work, or who have never delved into the 7th Habit – the habit of continual renewal, this post may be worthy of reading.

The 7th habit is the last habit, but according to Covey, it’s possibly the most important of them all. If done right, Habit 7 develops proactive muscle. Because this habit lies in Quadrant II, the quadrant of things that are important, but not urgent, it takes a lot of proactivity to do.  It is also the very definition of production capability, or PC as Covey refers to it, in his P/PC Balance theory.  Covey loves to use Aesop’s Fable of the goose that laid the golden egg to illustrate the importance of investing in production capability, but also adds more realistic examples such as being too busy driving to stop and fill up for gas and sawing to exhaustion instead of taking a break to sharpen the saw.

Indeed, without production capability, everything eventually breaks down. Without exercise, nutrition, and rest, our bodies will eventually become flabby, our energy will wane, and sickness will encroach on our health. Without taking time to reflect on our values, on a higher being, on the big picture, the tender voice of conscience slowly fades, leaving us to revert to immorality and being lived instead of living. Without making time to read, write, study, and plan, our mental faculties become slow and dull. And finally, without working on our relationships with ourselves and others, we become selfish and isolated, leading to a lonely life.

The 7th Habit is personal PC – the habit that preserves and enhances the greatest asset you have, as Covey would say – and that is ‘you’. It’s the habit that surrounds the other 6 Habits…

7 habits

If you think of Habits 1 – 6 as gears, Habit 7 would be the oiling system that keeps the gears lubricated and in good working condition.

Take time now, as we open 2014, and write down some things you can do for ‘you’ in the 4 dimensions of life – spiritual, mental, physical, and social / emotional. Start working on daily exercise, daily reading, or rebuilding a broken relationship. Make weekly planning a Sunday ritual. Invest in yourself – the greatest investment you can make.

Practice Habit 7 in a balanced way. Balance is so key to successful practice of this habit. It is very easy, for example, to hop on board the daily exercise train and immerse one’s schedule in the physical dimension to the exclusion of all else. Take baby steps in each dimension but make sure you are doing a little in all four dimensions. And give yourself a break if you fall behind.

Here’s to a sharp saw in 2014!