As we enter a new year, I am reminded of one of my favorite books. Twenty-five years ago I wandered into a bookstore and noticed a book with an intriguing title: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. I had never heard of the book or the author, but it went on to become one of the best-selling books of all time.
I also admit it had a profound impact on my life. In writing an article for the New Year, I could not help but think of the seventh habit, which Covey calls “Sharpening the Saw.” He begins the chapter with a great little story:
Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.
“What are you doing?” you ask.
“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”
“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?” “Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”
“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you enquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”
“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”
Habit 7 is taking time to sharpen the saw. It surrounds the other habits on the Seven Habits paradigm because it is the habit that makes all the others possible.
Covey is trying to tell us that we get so busy with life, that we do not spend much time on personal growth and development, which makes us ineffective in the most important areas of life. For this reason it is imperative to strengthen and enhance the greatest asset you have – you.
You see, investment in ourselves is the only instrument we have. Covey goes on to say:
“This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw.”
There are clearly four dimensions of life where consistent growth is needed if we are going to see our lives flourish and if we are to be healthy, balanced people:
Spiritual, Relational, Mental and Physical
One of the greatest truths that has become so apparent to me is this: if you want to grow and develop any area of your life, you have to be intentional. You have to plan for growth or it will never happen.
My challenge to each of you reading this article is to examine the most important areas of your life, come up with a plan for growth and then execute that plan.
This is a choice you have to make, knowing that your life will be determined by all of the choices you make over the course of time. As the legendary basketball Coach John Wooden put it:
“There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make is what ultimately makes you.”
I’d like to invite you to read my book Reflections on the Existence of God. The book lays out, in short essays, much of the evidence for the existence of God that is available. It would make a great daily devotional to strengthen your plan for growth in the new year.
Richard E. Simmons III is a Christian author, speaker, and the Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership, a non-profit, faith-based ministry in Birmingham, Alabama. His best-selling titles include The True Measure of a Man, The Power of a Humble Life, Wisdom: Life's Great Treasure, and his newest book, Reflections on the Existence of God. Follow Richard on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @thecenterbham. Tune in to Richard's Reliable Truth Podcast on your favorite podcast app.