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Sharpen the saw

Too many people think that to be successful, you must say yes to everything, work yourself to the ground, skip meals, use cutthroat strategies to climb up the professional ladder, and reply to every email within 5 minutes, even when you’re lying on a sun lounger whilst on a family holiday.


The above, are in fact, highly detrimental habits that will see the individual burning out before too long.

For some, success might mean landing a deal with a very high paying reputable client. For others, raising money for charity. Getting through a lockdown. Making your family coffees in the morning. Being offered that promotion for the position you’ve worked hard to get. Perfecting a dance move. Reading a bedtime story to the kids.

Perception of success is a powerful thing. And as we all have different realities, we all have completely varied definitions and perceptions of success. Successful CEOs often owe their success to a well-rounded perception, with a solid idea of what success means for them not just in their working life, but in everyday life. Reaching goals isn’t a linear process and requires a patient approach. Success requires consistent practising of finely tuned habits which all simultaneously affect and improve motivation, and the desire to succeed while nourishing mindset. We explore the concept of ‘sharpening the saw’, and how it can enhance both personal and professional growth.

Sharpen…the Saw?

If you haven’t got the foggiest what we mean by ‘Sharpen the Saw’ we’re referring to Stephen Covey’s bestselling self-improvement book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

As is obvious from the name, Covey elaborates on ways in which we can improve our effectiveness and wraps up the book by saving the most important one until last. That is, the 6 other habits simply cannot occur without the seventh. The all-encompassing 7th habit, is ‘Sharpening the Saw’, which is described by Franklin Covey as

“Preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have - you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.”

Because real self-improvement is balance and renewal. ‘Sharpening the Saw’ is about self-enhancement, self-reflection, and self-analysis.

Covey points out that there are four pillars of life. These are categorised into:

  • Physical

  • Emotional

  • Spiritual

  • Mental 

By paying attention to each of these areas individually, and in equal parts, then the individual can achieve equilibrium, and optimise their effectiveness as a human being. Eating nutritious food, exercising, doing what makes you happy, and giving to others. ‘Everything in moderation’ comes to mind here – and there’s some real truth behind that. Having too much of one thing removes its novelty – but balance can help us develop a deeper appreciation for the things around us.

Applying this to your business

This can only mean, that by mastering 'sharpening the saw' in your own life, the same principles can be understood and applied to your business

Of course, as a business owner, your business can’t survive without a you! You and your business are synergetic. As long as you’ve got that fire and motivation, which is harnessed effectively with a well-balanced, positive mindset - then your business isn't going anywhere. There’s a reason why people often refer to their businesses as their ‘babies.’ Just as sharpening the saw for yourself can help you grow and develop; it can help your business grow and develop.

Imagine yourself as one of the pillars of your own business. Once you're able to replenish and renew the four pillars of your own life, you can fine-tune your mindset which will enable you to run your business effectively. Periods of rejuvenation leads to growth as a person. So naturally, by that logic, your business grows too following this period of rejuvenation. Just like a body, a business needs to be exercised to become stronger. Targeting areas that need attention is a good place to start – whether it be your employee skillsets, training and education, resources, operations, or functionality.

Take note, and take stock

Realise and reflect on what you’ve already got. Think about what you already have and assess. The habit of ‘sharpening the saw’ begins with introspectiveness and reflection, so instead of looking outwards, look inwards to your business and dissect it.

This doesn’t just have to be looking at numbers either. Appraisals, employee feedback, evaluation of any professional partnerships, revisiting your business plans, checking in with your values – they’re all useful ways of really getting a well-rounded idea of what’s working well. But there’s always something that can be pampered, improved, and given a bit of TLC.

Take the time to assess aspects of your business that could be replenished. Just like the four pillars of your own life, think about the pillars of your business and how you can improve them. Are there any gaps? Is there anything you could do better?

Exercise patience

Growth won’t happen overnight. An effective business owner exercises a patient approach, as renewing and replenishing the pillars of business will take time – learning and developing is not always a linear process. During quieter periods, take stock of elements or ‘pillars’ which can be improved and replenished. There’s always something that can be done better, something that your business can mould into. Shift happens, and only through continuous cycles of evaluation and renewal will your business shape into something better.  

You, as a person

It’s good to remind yourself that there is no hierarchy of success. In his ‘maturity continuum’ structure, Covey does stress the importance of not getting into negative habits such as gossiping about colleagues or comparing oneself to others. The individual can expect to see more benefits through focussing more heavily on beneficial and positive social behaviour such as clarifying your expectations from other people from the get-go; practising gratitude; and diminishing negative workplace behaviour.

The outcome?

By sharpening the saw, you are keeping yourself mentally refreshed. You’re better prepared to deal with the unprecedented curveballs that life can throw at you. The same applies to business. Growth will come naturally as you continually pamper aspects of both your business and yourself.  

By consistently ensuring the saw retains its sharpness, your business will constantly grow and renew. Ignorance to the importance of introspectiveness can be a massive hindrance! The consistency of reviewing, fixing, and evaluating is essential to expansion and can secure both you and your business a fruitful and positive future.New call-to-action