Sharpening the Saw


I was struck with the idea of writing a new series of blogs when an adviser recently confided that he needed to step back and take stock—not just of his practice, but of his life. His comment reminded me of “sharpen the saw,” the seventh habit that Stephen R. Covey wrote about in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Covey, who passed away July 16, 2012, stated that “Habit 7 is personal PC [Production Capability]. It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you.” He went on to say that it involves renewing the four dimensions of your nature: physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional. I certainly don’t proclaim to be an expert in all these areas, but by using Covey’s book, we can all step back and think about what we need to do to proactively form good habits—habits that are an investment in ourselves.

So, I’ll be devoting the next few blogs to this concept of “sharpening the saw.” If you are not familiar with Covey’s book, it is worth reading. The other six habits are:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. synergize

All seven are important concepts. And if we need to sharpen the saw in order to achieve the others, it is well worth the time and effort. Covey refers to the activities of habit seven as “Quadrant II” activities—those that are not urgent but still critically important. Because we are the instruments of our own performance, we need to make time to attend to our own physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional health and wellbeing.

I suspect that as baby boomers encounter what may be their first health issues, there is increased appreciation of habit seven, though we seldom stop and think of it in as organized an approach as Covey does.

So, for starters, here are a few questions to help you sharpen your saw:

  • What does it mean to you to take care of yourself? Are there other dimensions than the four that Covey describes (physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional) that are important to you?
  • Which dimension is most /least important to you?
  • Which dimension has the most/least effect on your practice?
  • Which dimension is it easiest/most difficult to do something about?
  • What has gotten in the way of attending to these dimensions in the past?
  • Most of us know people who seem to have their act together as human beings. They may or may not have had much “success” in business. Is there someone you would like to emulate?
  • Are you ready for change?
  • What is in it for you to invest in yourself? And what is the risk if you don’t?
  • Is there any better time to make a change than now?

Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

2 thoughts on “Sharpening the Saw

  1. I look forward to your series!

  2. Pingback: Sharpening the Saw: A Focus on Nutrition « FPA Practice Management Center Blog

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