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

Understand and Be Understood

Habit number five in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. It sounds complicated, but it is actually fairly simple in practice and absolutely necessary to effective communication habits.

How many times have you found yourself in conversation with someone and you are only thinking about what you are going to say when they ever stop talking? Concentrated on your reply and not what they are actually saying.

Often times, we may not even hear what they are saying, especially in highly emotional conversations. The reply in our heads coupled with anger or fear or sadness blocks out every word they say to us. We wait only to pounce with our heated reply or disagreement or accusation.

Many times, we seek only to be understood first. We want people to hear us. We want to make our point. What the other person has to say takes away from our time to be understood, or so we believe.

We can listen selectively, focusing on words that make us more angry, more sad, more afraid and leaving out the context of what someone is saying entirely. We can filter everything someone else is being said through our own frame of reference and experience. Not hearing anything about the other person’s personal story in the words.

We can jump to conclusions about what someone else means by their words before they even finish speaking. In today’s climate this is particularly true when what one person says does not line up with what another person thinks or feels, immediate judgment comes without ever taking the time to actually listen to the other person.

We respond usually in one of four ways when we are not seeking to understand. We judge what is being said and then either agree or disagree. We ask questions but only from our own frame of reference. We give advice or solutions to the problem. We analyze the other person’s motives and behaviors based on our own experiences or beliefs.

When we seek to understand we intentionally listen to the other person, even to the point of making notes if we have to in order to actually hear and see what they are saying. When they are finished speaking, we paraphrase or repeat back what we heard them say such as “I heard you say” or “I hear you saying”. And then asking them if what you say you heard is actually what they said.

Without intentional listening, repeating back, asking for correction if what we repeat back is not what they said, and then responding with I statements, we end up with reactive responses having actually heard nothing from the other person. This results in misunderstanding, blame, and repetitive arguments. Common ground is nowhere to be seen and no one understands anything about the other person.

Deep communication is intentional. It requires effort and the ability to resist being reactionary. But practiced over time this habit can transform relationships.

“If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Put First Things First

I just realized as I was beginning to write this week’s blog that I skipped this habit last week and went right on to habit four of highly successful people by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. This is indeed habit number three, put first things first.

To put first things first we must be guided by the principles we set in place during the habit of begin with the end in mind. Our personal mission statement that includes roles, goals, values, and beliefs. To realize what truly is a “first thing” we need to measure each by our personal mission statement to see if it aligns and if it does where does it rest on the scale of needing to get it done.

In deciding what the first things are, we need to examine things in a four pronged approach. Things that are urgent, not urgent, distractions, or wasteful. There are things that are important and things that are not important.

In the category of urgent or necessary, we might find things like crises, things that are not planned for but just crop up, being assigned last minute projects or events, and emergencies. These are things that we must take care of to avoid very serious disasters, but are not things that we “imagine” will be serious disasters if they do not get done. Be careful how you interpret them, use facts, not theories.

In the category of not urgent or effectiveness, we might find proactively working, planning, building relationships, learning, self-care and recreation. These are the building blocks of being proactive about our lives instead of reacting. In order to avoid crises and emergencies, being proactive can help alleviate the likelihood that those things may happen.

In the category of urgent or distraction, but not important are things like needless interruptions, meaningless meetings, other people’s minor issues, unimportant emails, social media, texts, etc. These are things that need to be minimized or eliminated. They take away precious time that can be focused on what is important. They prevent us from doing first things first.

The last category is waste and it is both not urgent and not important. This is the category that interferes most with first things first. Falling into a rabbit hole of all day gaming or social media, binge watching for days shows on Netflix, avoidance of important things by doing any other time wasting activity, and drama involvement. These are things that should be eliminated if they are in the category of too much or unhealthy and if they are done specifically to avoid the important things.

First things first means you are living and being driven by the principles you value most and not allowing yourself to be influenced by the agendas of others or outside forces surrounding you.

First things first means also saying no to things that do not serve or align with your personal mission, values, beliefs, and goals. It is okay to say no, in fact it is necessary for the healthy, effective management of your life and mental health.

What are the things that are most important to you in your mission statement, beliefs, values, and goals? What things are preventing you from doing first things first?

Putting first things first is about physical creation, making things happen. Where will your focus be today?

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Think Win-Win

Photo by Danielle McInness on Unsplash

Habit number four in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey is Think Win-Win. This may be the most difficult habit to do and to write about in our current climate.

Think Win-Win is about cooperation. It is about each person having mutual benefit. Agreements are made to support mutual benefit to both sides.

As I was contemplating what I would write, I could not help but think of today’s climate of very rigid sides of issues. It seems that many feel that any cooperation is unacceptable. It appears that many feel that mutual benefit is not possible.

In our current climate it seems that many feel there must be a single winner – one viewpoint must win without consideration of any other point of view. And this is on ALL sides of the issues. There is no win-win in the conversations I have heard lately.

To think win-win, a person needs these three characteristics:

  1. Integrity: Standing by your true feelings, values, and commitments.
  2. Maturity: Being able to express your feelings and ideas with courage AND consideration for the ideas and feelings of others.
  3. Abundance Thinking: Believing that there is enough for everyone.

In the second characteristic, consideration for the ideas and feelings of others is where I think in our current climate we struggle. Tolerance is a word that many use quite freely. Many claim to be tolerant of all people, all views, all beliefs, however, some of those very same people are intolerant of any view different than their own.

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Meaning, you cannot have it both ways. If you claim to be all tolerant, then you must actually be able to consider the ideas and feelings of others with maturity and courage and believing that if everyone has some mutual benefit it makes for a happier society.

Unfortunately, our society has become a win at all costs and make sure the other person loses endeavor. There is no mutual benefit, only power and domination of singular viewpoints or nothing. This results in everyone being the loser resulting in distrust and resentment.

You can apply the think win-win habit to every aspect of your life. In your work life, in your relationships, in your family, in every aspect where mutual agreements are necessary and beneficial.

This habit can be very difficult to implement. It can be very hard to let go of the idea that if someone else wins you lose. With mutually beneficial agreements and courageous, empathetic discussion, both parties can win and perhaps reach a deeper understanding, peace, and happiness.

“In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Begin With The End In Mind

Photo by Mehmaz Taghavishazi on Unsplash

Begin with the end in mind is habit number 2 in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. We must have the end in mind in order to successfully navigate your goals.

It is unlikely that we would start building a house without a plan or at the very least a rough draft of design ideas. Why should our lives be any different?

If we do not consciously have a plan for our lives, we give the power to shape our lives to other people and other circumstances. Instead of being the hammer, we become the nail being forced into whatever someone else’s will or the force of other circumstances desires.

So how do we begin with the end in mind? We construct a personal mission statement. A blueprint for the building of our lives so that we are the hammer.

To start a personal mission statement, we must carefully, deeply examine what values, beliefs, and morals are. What is it that we want our lives to truly represent?

To fully understand that question, we must look very carefully at all the roles we play in life. There are many and over time they also change. A personal mission statement will also change based on the roles we are filling at the time. Some of those roles might be spouse, parent, child, sibling, entrepreneur, employee, writer, teacher, counselor, friend, etc. Whatever roles you fill in all aspects of your life.

Now take those roles and find the five most important ones in our lives at the moment, and this can change as time goes on. Write out what values we want those five roles to embody. The highest-level purpose for each one. The things we would want the people affected by those roles to say about us when we are dead. Be idealistic but always focused on aligning each role with our values, beliefs, and morals.

Refine each one, make them simple and concise. Do that for each of the top five roles currently. Put them together in one document and this results in our personal mission statement.

Review it frequently, daily actually. When making big decisions for our lives and when planning out our week. Do the things we are doing and planning align with our mission statement for our defined roles currently? Or are they being shaped by other people and circumstances? Do they align with our defined values and the end that we have in mind?

Keep a copy available to you at all times. Take a photo of it and have it on your phone so that it can be referred to whenever you need. Print it out and have it where you can see it every single day as a reminder to check your alignment.

Remember it is okay and necessary to amend your personal mission statement as time goes on. Roles change, new roles may appear (grandparent, retiree, etc.), different milestones are accomplished. Attune yourself to where you are in every moment and what roles are your highest priority and amend your mission statement accordingly.

In creating your personal mission statement and utilizing it daily, you become the leader and builder of your life. It is you who create your destiny and you who is working toward the future that you want.

Begin with the end in mind, every day.

Until next time, be well,

Deborah

Be Proactive

The first habit of highly successful people

Proactive — adjective — (of a person, policy, or action) creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey was published in 2004 and has sold over 15 million copies. It is still one of the most highly ranked books for sale on Amazon.

This book has offered millions of people ways to change the way they think, respond, and create success in their lives. The first habit is to be proactive.

Most people are reactive. They skip right over the very few seconds between thought and response where the choice resides. Many believe that they have no choice to make and they are compelled to respond in the way they do.

The responses are attributed to everything from the weather to politics and every possible thing in between. People who are reactive feel that they are not responsible for their reactions.

It is raining and rain always makes me depressed.

Reactive people attribute their responses to things they cannot control. If they could control them, then they would not affect them, right?

Reactive people lack the ability to be response-able. Read that again. The lack of the belief that they are ABLE to respond differently. They are ABLE to choose their response.

All it takes is a very few brief seconds or moments to stop at the thought to make a choice before proceeding to the response. And after you make the choice to respond, being responsible for the outcome of that choice. You decided to respond in that way not to allow something or someone to make that choice for you.

Many people think that their responsive behavior is a choice and that they are making the choice. This is because for years of their lives they have responded to certain things in the exact same way over and over every time. This trains their brains to believe this response is their choice. When it clearly is just a reaction.

Reactive people live in the circle of concern — worry over things they cannot control. Their reactions are to those things they fear they cannot control. By reacting to these things their circle of concern grows bigger and bigger.

People who are proactive go from thought/event to critical thinking (choice) to actively making a choice. Proactive people live in a circle of influence — what things do I actually have control over.

He makes me so mad is reactive. I control my own feelings is proactive.

Building positivity into the circle of influence expands the circle. The more we acknowledge responsibility for our thoughts the more we can choose to control the outcome.

Proactive people decide what happens to them moving forward instead of allowing what has happened to them to keep them stuck. Proactive people realize it is the thought itself that needs to be acted upon not the outside force that is blamed for the thought.

Between stimulus and response there’s a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. ~ Stephen Covey