Suppose you came upon someone in the woods working to saw down a tree. They are exhausted from working for hours. You suggest they take a break to sharpen the saw. They might reply, " I didn't have time to sharpen the saw, I'm busy sawing!"
Habit 7 is taking the time to sharpen the saw. By renewing the four dimensions of your nature - physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional, you can work more quickly and effortlessly. To do this, we must be proactive. This is a Quadrant II (important, not urgent) activity that must be acted on. It's at the center of our Circle of Influence, so we must do it for ourselves.
The Physical Dimension.
The physical dimension involves caring for your physical body - eating the right foods, getting enough rest and relaxation, and exercising on a regular basis.
If we don't have a regular exercise program, eventually we will develop health problems. A good program builds your body's endurance, flexibility and strength. A new program should be started gradually, in harmony with the latest research findings.
The greatest benefit of taking care of yourself is development of your Habit 1 "muscles" of proactivity.
The Spiritual Dimension.
The spiritual dimension is your center, your commitment to your value system. It draws upon the sources that inspire and uplift you and tie you to timeless truths of humanity.
A doctor suggested that Covey try a four step prescription at three-hour intervals at his favorite place as a child. Listen carefully, try reaching back, examine your motives, and write your worries in the sand.
When we take time to draw on the leadership center of our lives, what life is ultimately all about, it spreads like an umbrella over everything else. This is why a personal mission statement is important.
The Mental Dimension.
It's important keep your mind sharp by reading, writing, organizing and planning. Read broadly and expose yourself to great minds.
Television is the great obstacle to mental renewal. Most of the programming is a waste of time.
Every day we should commit at least one hour to renewal in the first three dimensions: physical, mental, and spiritual. This practice is a "Daily Private Victory."
The Social/Emotional Dimension.
The physical, spiritual, and mental dimensions are closely related to Habits 1, 2 and 3: personal vision, leadership and management. The social/emotional dimension focuses on Habits 4, 5 and 6: the principles of personal leadership, empathetic communication and creative cooperation.
Our emotional life is primarily developed out of and manifested in our relationships with others. Renewing our social/emotional dimension requires focus and exercise in our interaction with others.
Success in Habits 4, 5 and 6 is not primarily a matter of intellect, but emotion; it's highly related to our sense of personal security. Intrinsic security comes from within, from accurate paradigms and correct principles deep in our own mind and heart. It comes from living a life of integrity, in which our daily habits reflect our deepest values.
There is also intrinsic security that comes as a result of effective interdependent living and from service, from helping other people in a meaningful way. Each day, we can serve another person by making deposits of unconditional love.
Most people are living in a reactive mode based on the social mirror. Their scripts are based on the opinions, prescriptions, and paradigms of the people surrounding them. As interdependent people, we recognize our role as part of that social mirror.
We can affirm the proactive nature of others by treating them as responsible people. We can help support them as principle-centered, value-based, interdependent, worthwhile individuals.
In the story of the mix up of the "bright" and "slow" students, the teachers of a group of "slow" children erroneously classified as "bright" said, "For some reason, our methods weren't working, so we had to change our methods." The IQ scores of the students dramatically improved. Apparent learning disability was really teacher inflexibility.
Goethe taught, "Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be."
Balance in Renewal.
Self renewal must include balanced renewal in all four dimensions--physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional. Neglecting any one area negatively impacts the rest.
The same concept also applies to organizations. The process of continuous improvement is the hallmark of the Total Quality movement and a key to man's economic ascendancy.
Synergy in Renewal.
The things you do to sharpen the saw in any one dimension have a positive impact in the other dimensions, because they are so highly interrelated.
The Daily Private Victory, a minimum of one hour a day to renew the personal dimensions, is the key to the development of the Seven Habits and is completely within your circle of influence. It's also the foundation for the Daily Public Victory. It's the source of the intrinsic security you need to sharpen the saw in the social/emotional dimension.
The Upward Spiral.
Renewal is the principle and process that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.
Education of the conscience is vital to the truly proactive, highly effective leader. Conscience is the endowment that senses our congruence or disparity with correct principles and lifts us towards them. Training and educating the conscience requires regular feasting on inspiring literature, thinking noble thoughts, and living in harmony with its small voice.
Dag Hammarskjold, past Secretary-General of the United Nations, said, "He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn't reserve a plot for weeds." The law of the harvest governs, we will always reap what we sow--no more, no less.
Moving along the upward spiral requires us to learn, commit and do on increasingly higher planes.
For our new reviews of business and self-improvement books, subscribe to our newsletter, Michael Gray, CPA's Tax & Business Insight!