The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Redux: Habit 7 – Sharpen The Saw


Once you have mastered something you need to continually work on it in order to keep your skills sharp and current. This is the essence of Covey’s “Sharpening The Saw” where we go over what we have learned and reflect on what we need to work on.

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This post is part of my “7 Habits Redux Series” in which I take another look at the “7 Habits of Highly Effective people”(affiliate link) 6 years after my first reading of it. All posts in the series are listed here, and you can read my 2008 take on the 7 habits here.

Habit Seven encompasses all of the other habits making them possible, it’s all about taking care of you. Habits 1 to 6 focus on our interaction with others, habit 7 focuses on your inner being. As important as looking after everyone else is, it’s equally important to look after ourselves.

Covey splits this “self-maintenance” into 4 sections:

  • Physical – Exercise, stress management, diet
  • Social/Emotional – Helping others, empathy, synergy, security
  • Spiritual – Values, self-reflection, meditation/prayer, learning
  • Mental – Reading, visualising, planning, writing

“Sharpening the Saw” is the practice of all of these traits: perfecting and honing them enables us to grow as a person as well as renewing our energies. In order to achieve this we must use Habit One and be proactive: making time for ourselves and understanding that these are important tasks.

The Physical dimension

The importance of exercise for mental and physical wellbeing is well known. Covey goes into great detail regarding exercise types and why you should do them. I’m not going to bore you with that here, but I know that exercise helps me feel mentally and physically refreshed.

The Spiritual Dimension

“Spiritual” in this sense doesn’t revolve around religion, it refers to a sense of self – your “inner being”. It allows you to sustain your relationship with yourself and therefore others.

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This can be achieved in many ways. Some find self-renewal in prayer, meditation, self-reflection, walking through the park/fields/woods or journalling – whatever works for you as long as you can remove yourself from everyday distractions it will aid your self-renewal.

Again, this is an activity we know is important but seem to ignore or not find time for, and yet without it we would quickly suffer burnout and be of no use to anyone.

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The Mental Dimension

In this section we keep ourselves mentally acute. This may be doing a crossword puzzle or sudoku every lunchtime, reading a book, learning a new workplace skill or just watching an interesting documentary on T.V (sorry, Real Housewives doesn’t count!) Anything that stretched us mentally and challenges us helps us in the mental dimension.

Covey isn’t a big fan of Television – he states that he limits T.V watching to 7 hours a week – I do that in a day! I’ve learned a great deal from documentaries, but then I’m lucky enough to have the B.B.C to educate me!

Social/Emotional Dimension

This section works on our interactions and relationships with others. It builds on habits 4, 5 and 6. From using these habits we build a sense of inner security. We know we have high credits in our Emotional Bank Accounts with others. This gives us a high trust level with those we deal with and in turn helps us feel good about ourselves.

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Balance Is Key

During the process of working and renewing these four dimensions we must ensure that we balance them equally, working on all of them rather than favouring one.

I know I’m guilty of this, I’m quite happy self-reflecting, reading and learning and interacting with others but have always struggled with the “physical dimension”. I don’t know why the act of exercising makes me feel so much better about myself, it’s the getting started I have problems with!

That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased

Continuous improvement enables self-growth, we need to strive to be a better person through knowledge and spiritual growth. This makes us a better spouse, parent, friend, employee or manager. This all takes hard work and perseverance but the rewards are worth the effort in the end.

About The Author
Katy is always trying to be more productive one day at a time! Whether it's analogue, digital, motivational or psychological who'll try any system that will help her get things done and get organised. As well as running, she also loves making music and reviewing things.
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