Habit 7 is the Habit of Renewal, hence the epithet ‘Sharpen the Saw’. It is a metaphor for ensuring you’re sharp enough to keep working, rather then getting and staying blunt through poor and excessive focus on the P of th P/PC Balance discussed in week 1. How do we sharpen ourselves then?
Most importantly, we need to do so in all four human dimensions.
Physical. You achieve and maintain a healthy weight so that you aren’t dulled by excess. You eat wisely. You exercise to help the body act optimally and for as long as needed (endurance, strength and flexibility). You get enough sleep and try not to poison the body – the only tool through which you channel everything about you.
Mental. You read in your field, and more broadly where possible, so as to improve your intellectual capacity to apply different ideas, and to be creative. You make sure that you aren’t made redundant during what Covey later called the ‘professional half-life’ of about two years, that period being the point at which, untrained, your competence halves.
Social-Emotional. You maintain and improve relationships, both with others and yourself. Your self-esteem is important, provided it doesn’t grow into a huge ego. This is arguably the easiest part of you to renew because you are doing it constantly as you live your life around other people.
Spiritual. You discover your personal values and reflect on how to live in their accord. You ensure you find meaning. Even if that isn’t in work, you seek out and discover that which fills your heart – passions, hobbies and above all, service to others.
Renewal is in Quadrant B/2 – it is important but never urgent, so you have to act upon it. You have to plan your weeks so that you get the renewal done – with the exception of the social dimension that happens all around and all the time, the rest of it is down to you to arrange.
Try to synergise. Train at work, using work’s resources (physical, mental, social). Exercise with friends and family (physical, social, spiritual). Go on a nature walk and reflect upon your mission (social-emotional, physical, spiritual). The possibilities are many, and all serve you and your ability to live a principled, productive lifestyle.
Renew – stay relevant, happy, productive and ‘on purpose’.
That’s the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People down from 340+ pages to about 14. I have really edited down a synergistic, whole-life approach to the life you design because you want what’s in it.
Now I really encourage you to go get a copy and read for yourself the wisdom that Stephen Covey himself edited down from 200 years of what he called ‘the wisdom literature’. You would see that it isn’t just a list of to-dos, as many books can be. There is an intellectually compelling completeness to what Covey wrote. You start with learning about a Paradigm and then realise that you’re reading a book where you end up noticing that how you see each Habit affects how/if you apply it. You realise that everything you do well is in your Circle of Influence if you want it to be there – or it stays outside that Circle and just bothers your conscience. And you realise that you have the capacity to act, because you are aware that you can. If you want.
Be careful, though. Through reading and applying this material you might just get what you want. I did.