Feeling out of balance? Sharpen your saw

It's easy to get stuck in a routine. I was on autopilot for so many years--waking up before 4 a.m. to get in a morning run, rushing to work, then a bike ride or weight lifting after work. I wondered, "Where did my life go?"


Although routines are important--they keep us moving towards a goal--sometimes we miss opportunities for change. We even recognize that our life has been thrown out of balance. We might notice that we haven't been challenged intellectually at our job. Perhaps our bodies are showing that we've neglected them.


When we want to try something new, we tell ourselves we don't have time for it. I hear many people say they don't have time for meditation. However, when I see how much time people spend scrolling through their phones (myself included), I know that it's just a matter of balance. Rather than spending an hour reading endless stories about the pandemic, maybe I could spend just half an hour and use that extra half an hour for prayer or meditation or something physical.




It's really about recognizing where you spend your time, and what purpose it serves. If it doesn't benefit you mentally, physically, spiritually or socially, then it might need to be reassessed. Stephen Covey, in his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” stressed the importance of balancing your day with the physical, spiritual, mental and social components. He calls this “Sharpening the Saw.”


In this, he suggests that all of us commit to a “Daily Private Victory.” Each day for one hour, he suggests, we work on our physical, mental and spiritual lives. The physical might come easy to some, especially my fellow competitive triathletes. This is any movement—perhaps even a 20-minute walk—to awaken the body.


The mental dimension is feeding the mind with material that challenges you. This, too, is active, so it does NOT include having news spoon-fed to you. In fact, Covey argues against television. My guess is if he wrote this book in the past 10 years, he would have included excessive cell phone use. He suggests reading books and classic works to actively engage the mind to keep it focused. He also advocates writing as a means of sharpening the mind. Again, this is about sharpening the mind rather than an emotional purge.


Keeping the spirit engaged could include a religious practice, but sitting in nature contemplating its beauty can rekindle your spirit. It’s about working towards a purpose outside of yourself. Because we all have a mission to serve our communities (whether we’re aware of it or not), it’s important for us to rekindle this dimension.


Covey believed that a personal commitment to balancing mind, body and spirit is key to making a healthy contribution to society. When these are out of balance, personal problems can occur, which can eventually fuel problems in community. We must continually work on these three personal attributes to grow as individuals.


Another component to “Sharpening the Saw” is social. Although this is outside of your “Daily Private Victory,” it is likely to be included in your day unless you’re a hermit. Even monks experience community. Our social dimension—our relationships with others—provide a mirror of yourself. By looking closely at how you relate to others, you can see your own progress in your personal growth. Your relationships with others help you grow, particularly if they compassionately reveal your flaws.

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