Sharpening the Saw: The Mental Dimension


This series addresses why taking care of yourself is paramount to taking care of your practice.

In his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey made a strong case for the connection between mental activity and enhanced effectiveness. Exercising our bodies isn’t enough, Covey explained in a chapter called “Sharpen the Saw”; we also need to exercise our gray matter! Unfortunately, once formal schooling is over, most of us stop giving our brains a workout.

It appears Covey was ahead of his time in emphasizing the importance of the mental dimension. Recently, there has been a lot of press about how mental activity may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, it’s always a challenge for us laypeople to know exactly what to believe when it comes to medical topics. When I want health-related information, I go to my favorite resource—

According to the site:

“Older adults who stay mentally active may be at lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Regularly reading newspapers, books, and magazines, playing cards and other games, working crossword puzzles, going to museums, doing other social activities, and even actively watching television or listening to the radio may help you avoid symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Although this ‘use it or lose it’ approach has not been proved, no harm can come from regularly putting your brain to work.”

The scientific evidence may not be conclusive, but the theory that mental activity helps us sharpen the saw is certainly encouraging. And, given how much advisers exercise their gray matter—doing mental math when working with clients, for instance, or taking continuing education courses—we may well have an advantage in this regard.

Based on my own observations, most outstanding advisers are also avid readers. (I’d be curious to know if there’s any data linking how much an adviser reads to his or her production.) In fact, no matter their profession, the majority of successful people seem to read, read, read. Whether it’s industry publications or newspapers, fiction or nonfiction, literature or current bestsellers, reading is probably one of the easiest (and most enjoyable) ways to boost our mental activity.

When all’s said and done, there may be no need to run out and buy “brain games” to keep our minds healthy. Just keep reading!

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

2 thoughts on “Sharpening the Saw: The Mental Dimension

  1. Reading no wonder helps a lot in stabilizing the minds. nice post!

  2. Pingback: Sharpening the Saw: Practicing Balance « FPA Practice Management Center Blog

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