Thursday, February 3, 2005

Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter ask for a job in a timber merchant, and he got it. The payment was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.

His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.

The first day, the woodcutter brought down 18 trees.

"Congratulations," the boss said. "Go on that way!"

Very motivated for the boss’ words, the woodcutter try harder the next day, but he only could bring down 15 trees. The third day he try even harder, but he only could bring down 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing down less and less trees.

"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.

"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked.

"Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees."


It remains the perennial analogy. We never seem to take the time to "sharpen our saw." Stephen Covey spends one entire chapter and one habit in his book Seven Habits for Highly Effective People on this very analogy. It is the very process of self renewal. So, what is it that we are encouraged to renew?

Mr. Covey goes on to break down our needed renewal into four dimensions: physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual. Broken down even further, the dimensions concern the following:

  • Physical - Taking the time to exercise and engage in stress management strategies. How often do we take time in a given week to purposefully exercise just to feel good? It's no wonder we feel tired. It's not a matter of being physically overworked; it's more of a matter of being mentally overworked and no physical outlet.
  • Mental - Taking the time to read, visualize and plan. There is nothing more emotionally or mentally exhausting than to enter your day with no plan on how you are going to address your ongoing issues, obstacles and challenges. Add to that the stress of having your mind focus only on your ongoing issues, obstacles and challenges. We all need time to read something - anything - that motivates us, interests and and inspires us. Who knows, but maybe what we are reading may hold the key to one of our present problems.
  • Social/Emotional - I tend to believe there are two types of individuals we tend to deal with in our life: those that drain us and those that energize us. In this case, we need to "sharpen our saw" and renew ourselves by surrounding ourselves with those that help to build our own sense of well-being.
  • Spiritual - Some call it religion. Others call it faith. Still others call it meditation. It is that which is much bigger than ourselves in our present life. It is much bigger than you and I, but that essence that connects all of us. Where do you find spirituality - the ability to see the Big Picture - in your life? And when was the last time you involved yourself in that spirituality?

The dimensions and the analogy make sense to me. And yet, we all tend to ignore the warning signs of a saw that is reaching maximum bluntness. So what will it take?

As a final note, it always intrigued me that Mr. Covey focuses on self renewal and the proverbial "sharpening of the saw," but never seem to address in his book our need to cut down so many trees. Perhaps the reason our saw becomes so dull so quickly is our incessant need to cut down more and more trees in our lives; more projects, more deadlines, more obligations... Perhaps it would behoove us to stop and reflect on our timbering goal and ask ourselves if that is truly realistic and healthy for us in the first place. My guess is that if we did this, we could all save a few more trees, complete a few less projects and save a few more saw teeth in the process.

hoedl's haven
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2003