Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw

By Erin Walker


Habit #7 can be an antidote to the stress, anxiety and burnout experienced by so many people during this global pandemic. The key idea to this Habit is that regularly investing time for self-renewal has a significant and positive impact on reinforcing your well-being and personal growth. Given the current global situation, there is no shortage of advice on how to do exactly this, like growing a new garden, starting back up an exercise routine or baking sourdough bread. What if all these people and their good intentioned advice are onto something? And where the heck do you start?!

Back in the 80’s Stephen Covey coined the term Sharpening the Saw as the principal and process of taking the time for self-renewal by regularly “sharpening” the 4 key areas of your life:

  • The Body (ex: daily exercise, consuming a nutritious diet, and the less advocated for: getting regular, quality sleep.)

  • The Mind (ex: learning a new hobby, reading more; watching tutorials, and the underestimated, planning and organizing)

  • The Heart (ex: listening to others with empathy, volunteering and helping others, and investing quality time with the people we care about)

  • The Spirit (ex: spending quality time in nature, listening to the music you love, and meditating)


Habit 7


Breaking down this process into the 4 areas gives us a chance to discern the importance of diversifying our attention and efforts. To begin Sharpening your Saw, apply these three simple and continuous steps to each of the 4 areas: Learn, Commit, Do. As you continuously Learn, Commit and Do, you will find yourself on the Upward Spiral Model. According to Covey, one must continuously educate the conscience in order to climb and develop on the upward spiral.

Pursuing Habit #7, the principle of self-renewal by education, as part of your regular routine, and especially leaning into it during changing and challenging times, will advance you along the path to personal freedom, security, and of course, wisdom.

If you’re stuck on choosing something new to learn, choose an activity that you can actually enjoy or that excites you in each of the areas. I learned that for me personally, starting a running routine is a fun-sucking and dreadful experience, one which solidified my respect for runners of all abilities. But biking on the other hand, is something that I actually look forward to and will continue to pursue! In the end it’s all about mindset, but there’s no harm in choosing enjoyable activities to get yourself onto the upward spiral.

In which of the 4 areas are you Sharpening your Saw? Which areas do you need to focus more time and attention to?