Get into the habit of “sharpening the saw”

Society & Culture | By Ernest Mackina, Photographer | 02 October 2015
PHOTO: © Ernest Mackina

Reading is a culture that has since receded into oblivion, yet it has the potential to open new dimensions and evoke vivid images during the transfer of text from the author to the reader. The culture of reading enables the reader to undergo the cognitive process of understanding of written linguistic messages. An author can trap a frame, a thought, a conversation, an ideology or a paradigm in a paragraph. 

Upon reading these sentences and clever grouping of words one can transform their knowledge and unlock new possibilities.  Recently during this practice of reading, I came upon a discovery of Stephen Covey’s 7th habit of being a highly effective person. This self-development expert coined the term ‘Sharpening the Saw’ as a means of ‘preserving and enhancing the greatest asset we have; Ourselves’. Many a time, we have experienced a block, or a stage where fatigue stifles our progress and we are so restricted that we cannot move forward from that point. 

Turning Point:
Remember that time when you stopped and asked yourself: ‘what’s the point?’ Well, the solution is simple: Self renewal.

Covey rightfully postulates that having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life that is; your physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual well-being are the key towards re-invigorating yourself and ultimately ‘Sharpening the Saw’. Let’s take a look at these areas and try to come up with examples of activities that can help put Covey’s 7th habit
in motion.

Physical Renewal
In the physical being, an individual can undergo self-renewal through healthy eating. Paying attention to a balanced diet, taking four meals a day and drinking at least six glasses of water as well as avoiding saturated fats and junk food, food with artificial colouring are steps towards healthier eating habits that aid self-renewal. It is also important to consume food in its right proportions, too much of one thing can be unhealthy. It is also important to take the time out to exercise. According to Wikipedia, physical exercise maintains physical fitness and overall health and can boost the immune system. Exercise can also be done as recreation for personal enjoyment and fulfilment. At the end of the day, after the hustle and bustle of life it is very beneficial to give the body that works and the mind that thinks time to rest.

Ok, Rest and Exercise. What else?
The human body maintains a stable equilibrium through homeostasis comprising of physiological processes that regulate a body’s organ functions. Continuous work for prolonged periods such as staring at a screen all day for instance working with spreadsheets and the Internet can strain the body and result in Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CRT), Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) as well as migraines and dehydration. Regular breaks permit the body to renew and re-focus its energies and enables increased productivity in both studying and in the work environment. Simple exercise and stretching can make a difference between a tiresome day to an extremely fatigued day. Get adequate amounts of sleep, resting at odd hours deposits fatigue into the following day and at the end of the week one’s body can crash from this collective fatigue. Do remember, sleep is not for children alone, you too need to recharge your batteries.

Talking matters…
Covey also claims in his 7th habit that by ‘making social and meaningful connections with others, one is able to renew themselves socially and emotionally. It goes without saying that humans thrive on attention and on social relations. Our social lives have a bearing on how we operate and can be the same factor that boosts our productivity or outright demotivate us. Creating, maintaining and mending our social relations with friends, relatives and colleagues can rekindle our passion for life and light up a flame that can help us look forward to performing tasks and getting things done. 

So go ahead, strike a conversation with that long lost cousin, call an old friend, visit a colleague out in hospital, surprise your parent with a gift. Not only will you make them smile, you will realize a happiness which has the potential to
renew you.

Learning for self-renewal
You can renew your mental being by learning new things, reading literature, writing down your experiences and feelings. Taking time out to share what you know by conducting demonstrations, teachings and lectures can give you a sense of self fulfilment and empower those around you. You can even mould protégés through mentorship. Putting aside time to teach is like giving out pearls of wisdom and these are gems which can last a lifetime.

 Connecting with your spirituality
Man has a connection with his spirituality and this section could start a whole new article. However, Covey claims in his 7th habit of ‘sharpening the saw’ that man can renew his spiritual being by ‘spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation and music’.

At the end of the day, all I’m trying to say is…
You are the engineer of your own happiness. It is a script that only you are responsible to write down. Your happiness is not someone else’ responsibility, but your very own. So next time you feel all worn out and all your emotions are spent, why don’t you try ‘sharpening the saw’? Renewing yourself could prove to be revitalizing and make you highly effective as a person.