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The 7 habits of highly effective people: sharpen the saw

Today, we’re completing our series on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

There’s a reason why Stephen Covey’s global sensation has been a bestseller for decades. The information found within the pages of this book truly has the power to change your life both in the personal and professional spheres.

My hope is that your journey through this 7-part series has been informative, educational, and enlightening. I hope also that you’ve been able to implement the strategies from each installment with amazing results.

Before we continue, let’s take a quick look at the ground we’ve covered so far. In case you’ve missed any of the previous installments, there available below for you to access.

In Part 1 ,we discussed the importance of taking initiative and being proactive in life.

In Part 2, we discussed how getting clear on your values will help you live a more meaningful and satisfying life.

In Part 3, we covered the necessity behind time management and effectively setting goals.

In Part 4, we talked about the notion of thinking ‘win-win’ to build your character and create better relationships.

In Part 5, we discussed the importance of emphatic listening and seeking to understand others in order to meet them where they are.

In Part 6, we covered the importance of synergy in the workplace and how it can help to build an environment of trust, safety, and productivity.


Stephen Covey provides such insightful content on each of the topic areas above, and I encourage you to review the material again and again so that it can become second-nature to you and help you thrive as a leader.

To conclude the series, we’ll now shift our attention to the final habit in Covey’s book: Habit #7, which is to sharpen the saw.

This is something we’ve discussed extensively on the blog, but it certainly bears repeating. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” We must continuously strive to better ourselves, to increase our knowledge bank, to hone our craft, to sharpen our leadership skills. When we allow ourselves to grow stagnant, it’s not only a detriment to our potential but also to the potential of the teams we lead.

In fact, Covey presents that there are four areas in which we must regularly renew ourselves and improve upon ourselves: the physical, the mental, the social/emotional, and the spiritual.

Let’s take a look at each of these areas.

  • The Physical. To put it simply, do you take care of your body? Do you maintain a nutritious diet? Do you exercise regularly? Do you get enough sleep each night? Many of you may already be familiar with Arianna Huffington’s story. Arianna had been working 18-hour days to build The Huffington Post website. Then one day, she collapsed from sheer exhaustion in her home and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. Soon after, Arianna realized just how important self-care was to her health. Remember, you can only realize your potential and fulfill your purpose if you have the energy to do so! If you’re so tired and unhealthy that you can’t even get up from bed in the morning, then there’s a problem. Start taking your health more seriously. Ask yourself what needs to change in your life so that you have more energy each day and can get more of the things you love to do done.
  • The Mental. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. As Author Siim Land says, “To really manifest your greatness and creative genius, you have to become a non-stop seeker of knowledge.” The never-ending hunger for knowledge is something I discuss in my book, The Resilient Employee. Resilient people spend time enhancing their skills because it leads to a sense of confidence and competence, which allows an individual to flourish in any situation. Do you devote any time to learning at present? To personal edification? To skill-building? Research shows that even into our 60s and 70s, new brain cells are still growing, and so you should never stop expanding your mind to learn new things.
  • The Social/Emotional. Equally as important is working on your social and emotional health. This is all about maintaining strong, healthy relationships with loved ones and colleagues as well. Sometimes as a leader, you may feel that the walk of the ‘lone wolf’ more aptly suits you, but there’s something to be had from relationships with others. As social creatures, we simply need the support of others in our lives. Indeed, research has repeatedly shown that those with a close network of friends often outlive those who are isolated and alone. Do you make time in your schedule to interact with others and to feed your social needs? Reach out to those around you and start building more formidable relationships with them.
  • The Spiritual. Your spiritual dimension is all about your core, your center, and your commitment to the values that you uphold as most important. It draws upon the sources that inspire and uplift you and provides guidance and leadership for your life. This is an area we touched upon when discussing Habit #2: beginning with the end in mind. When we better understand our purpose and when we take the time to get clear on what is most valuable to us, we can live a fulfilling life that’s most in alignment with who we want to be remembered as. So regularly set aside dedicated time each week to review your values and to ensure that you’re living your life in a way that fills you with inspiration, encouragement, wonder, and awe.


When you commit to taking care of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life, you create a lifestyle of empowerment. Stronger and healthier than ever, you’ll find you have more energy to excel in your work, to lead with excellence, and to get more of the things you love to do done within a day’s time. This is how the world’s most highly effective leaders thrive each day, and now you can do the same.

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