Several years ago I was fortunate to work for an enlightened manager, who demonstrated strong personal commitment to building a team and helping each team member realize their potential. He also saw employees as multidimensional people with goals and daily lives that extended well beyond the workplace. Steve was a firm believer in Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and sent me and two other colleagues to a 3-day course. I admit I was a bit baffled: I’d read the book, and learned some lessons about time management. And time management was something I already did pretty well. But Steve had a different goal in mind for me: discovering more about who I was, and defining the person I wanted to become.
I was still early in my career, trying to balance work, a dual-career marriage, and the demands of being a new parent. Steve understood the challenges I would soon face, and I am forever indebted to him for doing so. The course couldn’t have come at a better time. It was immediately clear this was not a time management seminar, and I surrendered to what was, frankly, a kind of cultish approach. The first evening I worked on my “personal mission statement.” The next day, I defined the roles I played in my life (parent, partner, manager, etc.), and set 5-year goals for each role. This way of thinking about my life has stood me in good stead ever since.
You might be asking, where is she going with this?
I also learned about the seventh habit, known as “sharpening the saw.” This habit emphasizes personal renewal across all dimensions — physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual — and maintaining a balance among these dimensions. The idea is to be intentional about it; make it a habit, if you will. While balance is important to me, I don’t really think about this habit much. But I’ve realized that I regularly experience feelings of personal renewal, when I make room in my life for three things I love:
- Gardening: I like being out in my vegetable garden early on weekend mornings, before the neighborhood lawn mowers rev up. I love hearing the birds in the trees, and feeling the sun warm on my shoulders. I love the way things look after a serious weeding and pruning session. And I love the feeling of renewal, as pent-up stress fades away.
- Music: I was sitting out on my deck last Sunday afternoon, when my husband put on a CD of Glenn Gould playing Bach. I closed my eyes and let the beauty of the music flow over me, and again I felt that same sense of renewal and peace.
- Reading: (you knew I’d get there eventually, didn’t you?) Some time ago, I began bringing a book with me to the office to read at lunchtime. Occasionally I fit in an extended reading session, but even 10-15 minutes can make a huge difference. A reading break clears my head and re-energizes me for the rest of the day.
So, these are my saw-sharpening tools. They’re not just mindless diversions. They are an important part of who I am and are essential to my well-being. I need to remember that.
How do you “sharpen the saw”?