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Sharpen the Saw

This is the seventh post in a 7-week series covering Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you missed the first six weeks, you can read them here.

I galavant into my 7th grade leadership classroom. At this age, I rarely walk. Instead I skip, spin, run, or hop. The insane amount of energy I have has to express itself somehow. Leadership class is my favorite class with my favorite teacher, Mrs. Lute, so I galavant into the room.

This semester we'd discussed serving others extensively. You could make the argument that this wasn't leadership class, it was service class (Mrs. Lute would say there isn't a difference). Today, Mrs. Lute tells us that to really serve others, we must first pour into ourselves. We can't fill others cups if ours our empty.

We learn that there are four areas of our life in which we must invest: physical, mental, spiritual, and social/emotional. I could have never imagined just how valuable that one class would be to me in my development as a leader.

17 years later, I use those four areas to guide my annual reflection, a critical personal development exercise for me. I then use those reflections to set my personal goals for the year (if you're interested in following a similar process, I wrote about it here). Those goals have translated to me living my dream as a professional leadership speaker, maintaining my physical health, building a strong foundational faith, and investing in relationships that matter to me.

It just so happens Mrs. Lute was teaching us the 7th and final habit: Sharpen the Saw.

When we Sharpen the Saw, we renew each aspect of our lives, ensuring we are then able to invest in others. Unfortunately, this renewal has not been a priority for the majority of Americans.

We are experiencing unprecedented rates of burnout, fatigue, and poor work/life balance. People are running on fumes because they do not take time to renew themselves.

Lumberjacks don't take dulls saws to work. Nascar drivers don't let their cars run out of gas. Starbucks doesn't wait until they're out of coffee to brew more (not as strong I know... you try thinking of three metaphors).

So why do we run ourselves ragged and then say, "I need a vacation?" Don't wait until you're on empty. Make a small deposit daily and ensure you never run out of gas.


Designate one day of the week to renewing one of the four aspects of your life. Ten minutes of renewal, four days a week.


Which of the four areas of your life is running on fumes?


“Renewal is the principle—and the process—that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.” - Dr. Stephen R. Covey

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The sixth habit is Synergize.


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