Sharpen The Saw

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The last of the 7 habits of highly effective by Dr. Stephen R. Covey may well be the most important and the hardest for many to accomplish. We spend a great deal of time taking care of others needs and also trying to accomplish everything in our daily lives that we forget about the most important person – ourselves.

The phrase sharpen the saw is used to describe self-care or self-renewal. To be effective for others, we must take care of our own physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We cannot pour ourselves out onto others or into the other parts of our lives (work, school, family, friends) if our own vessel is empty.

We can attempt to pour from an empty vessel, but in doing so we will find that we are very ineffective and our own bodies, minds, and spirits become worn down, sick, and unable to function in a healthy way in any part of our lives.

Taking care of our physical self and renewing our bodies requires beneficial eating, exercising and resting. Choosing more healthy options over fast food, meal planning, picking nourishing foods with which to refuel ourselves. Exercising as much as possible and getting creative when we have less time such as taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking farther away from where we need to go so that we walk more, incorporating yoga or tai chi into our office breaks. Adequate sleep is paramount in renewing our bodies and minds. But adequate sleep that is actually restful is even better. Finding ways to achieve deep, restful sleep such as meditation before bed, warm baths, herbal teas, or supplements.

In renewing our social and emotional selves we must make intentional, meaningful connection with others. Intentionally reaching out to friends or family to sincerely connect with them even if it is just for a few minutes of your day. Many people use texting as their only method of communication and it is connection, but what if we had an actual phone call, sent a hand written letter, or made time for lunch or coffee instead.

Renewing our mental health means not only addressing our emotions and responses to stressors and trauma, but adding learning about ourselves and our mental health. Reading about how to strengthen our minds and emotional resilience. Writing our emotions in journals. Seeking out therapy if needed. Being open to processing and working through things that impact our mental health.

Expanding our spiritual renewal by spending time in nature, utilizing meditation, music, art, prayer, or acts of service. Connecting with whatever our spiritual beliefs might be and being aware of our spiritual self and connection with the universe. Enriching our spirit through reflection and meditation.

These acts of self-renewal or self-care allow us to grow and change as individuals to be able to offer more to others and to the world around us. Renewal allows us to increase our ability to handle challenges that arise because we are fresher and stronger.

If we live our life in balance we take the time to renew ourselves. The four areas of renewal when practiced regularly have an overlapping center that contribute to our ability to be our best possible selves within all areas of our lives, and especially for our own self-care. Without this, we are unable to be effective anywhere else. A saw that is not sharpened will not be of any use.

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Seeking Synergy

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As we continue the exploration of the 7 habits of highly successful people as written by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, we come to habit number six, synergy. The definition of synergy is as follows: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

When we have differing points of view, as is the case in many aspects of society today, problem solving WITH others of different points of view becomes somewhat of a unicorn in communication. Meaning it is mythical and seldom seen. Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to convince others to our point of view and synergy is nowhere to be seen.

Synergy requires creative cooperation. Working together, being open-minded, and working to find solutions to problems.

Synergy is however not the same as compromise. A compromise is rarely an even trade. One side will likely get more than the other. Synergy is one plus one equals three, or fifty, or millions or more.

If we are willing to be truly open setting aside biases, prejudices, past hurts and truly listening to what someone else has to say, we can find new ways of seeing things. New approaches to problems begin to emerge just from the addition of different points of view.

Synergy starts with differences to which the next step that must be added is be willing to listen. Clarify what the end goal needs to be. Explore the alternatives – all the alternatives. Seek first to understand (listen) and then to be understood (heard).

Being in synergy can be manifested in several ways. Having a change of heart, seeing things in a new way, feeling that the relationship has been transformed, and ending up with an idea or result that is better than what either one started with.

Do you truly value differences with others in the mental, emotional, and physical realms? Or do you just wish everyone would agree with you so you can all get along (on your terms only)? Are you willing to look at any of the things you say you believe most strongly in willingly, openly, with others who have differing opnions? Or do you wish only to drown out all opposing viewpoints?

Many people mistake everyone believing the same way as unity and sameness for oneness. If we expect everyone to believe, look, and live the same as we do, then we are not trying to achieve unity but forced compliance.

Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way. ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey