“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln
Resting. Relaxing. Getting away.
We need to regularly put time between us and the daily grind in order to maintain emotional stability, happiness, and to avoid burnout. Taking time to yourself allows you to gain perspective, and to better handle the challenges of life.
Stephen Covey, best selling author of the classic self development book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this focus on preserving a healthy mental state, “Sharpening the saw.” It means taking care of YOU before all else. Eating healthy food, exercising regularly, meditating, reading, and resting are just a few examples of what it means to sharpen the saw.
The busier you are, the more frequently you need to take moments out of your life to focus on giving your body and mind what it needs. This can be reading uplifting material for a few minutes every morning, walking in nature, napping in the afternoon, or hitting the gym after work. Experiment to find the right blend of activities you personally need to keep you feeling your best.
You cannot give to others what you don’t already possess.
If you’re constantly stressed out, tired, and running late, what is the quality of your interactions with others? Are you giving your commitments the time and presence they deserve? When we’re drained of energy, productivity often takes a backseat.
We’re more apt to emotionally react to situations than to respond rationally. Chronic emotional stress inevitably manifests itself as disease in the body, then we’re dealing with physical illness which threatens our livelihood and wellbeing.
We live in a society where we’re often criticized for taking a break, and travel is viewed as a luxury not many can afford. Over the years I’ve fine tuned my perfect blend of saw sharpening necessities. They are: Traveling to unfamiliar places every three months so I can gain a fresh perspective on life and learn new things. Reading for at least ten minutes every morning and taking notes on what I’ve just read so I can feed my mind good things at the start of the day. Exercising in the morning, preferably hiking or taking a short run outside so I can connect with my body. Doing Yoga at least two days per week to ground myself, reduce tension in my body, and improve my mental clarity.
These are just a few things that keep me operating at my fullest potential every single day. After all, I need to be functioning optimally not only for myself, but for my wife, the important people around me, and for my business.
If you’ve been neglecting yourself lately, now is the time to switch gears. I encourage you to think about a few things that you really love doing, but don’t currently make enough time for. Implement a plan for how you can include more of the things that help you sharpen your saw.
We can never completely avoid stress, nor should we. Stress is a necessary part of growth, and without it, life would be dull and meaningless. Making time for the things that help us feel whole is vital to our every day happiness, health, and wellbeing.