Spring is a season of renewal and growth—and with that season nearly upon us – now is a perfect setting in which to reflect on our progress during the first few months of the New Year: how we’re tracking on our personal and professional goals, commitments and development plans.
At this timely moment, we’ve reached Covey’s seventh habit of effectiveness, “Sharpen the Saw.” In the spirit of reflection, it seems fitting to consider this final habit in the context of all the others before it.
“Sharpen the Saw” is a Quadrant 2 activity (important but not urgent) requiring time, initiative and pro-activity. It makes all the other habits possible when we practice self-renewal and self-improvement in four areas.
The first three are closely related to Habits 1, 2 and 3—the principles of personal vision, leadership and management. The fourth focuses on Habits 4, 5 and 6—the principles of interpersonal leadership, empathy and creative cooperation:
Physical: Caring effectively for our physical bodies through exercise, nutrition and stress-management
Spiritual: Renewing our commitment to our core values through spiritual reading, study and meditation
Mental: Honing and expanding our minds and discipline through education, reading, visualization, planning and writing
Social/emotional: Strengthening our relationships through service, empathy, synergy and good character
Habit 7 teaches us how to maintain a balance among these dimensions so that we can reach higher levels of understanding and effectiveness in our lives and relationships. According to Covey, it’s all about preserving and enhancing our most important asset—ourselves—so that we can do and be our best:
By centering our lives on correct principles and creating a balanced focus between doing and increasing our ability to do, we become empowered in the task of creating effective, useful, and peaceful lives…for ourselves, and for our posterity.
Exercising the 7 Habits on a path of continuous growth and renewal helps us become more principled, more purposeful and more productive in ways that make a positive impact not only in our lives, but also in the lives of those around us. It’s a powerful lesson and aspiration for all of us—one I hope you’ll embrace, as I do.