This 7th habit marks the end of our brief journey through Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: powerful lessons in personal change”. The lessons are powerful indeed, and are worthy of attentive nurturing. The last habit contained in this book, “Sharpen the Saw”, is about cultivating the greatest asset we have – ourselves. More specifically, it is about renewing the four vital dimensions of our lives: the physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual. Covey mentions that “although different words are used, most philosophies of life deal either explicitly or implicitly with these four dimensions”. He says that investment in ourselves is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life. Furthermore, no one can do it for us, we must do it for ourselves.
The 4 dimensions of renewal
- The Physical dimension involves caring effectively for our physical body. The right nutrition, relaxation and exercising on a regular basis are all necessary. According to Covey, a good exercise program is one we can do in our own home and one that builds our body in three areas: endurance (aerobic exercise), flexibility (stretching) and strength (i.e. weights or sit-ups). The author lets us know that if we haven’t been exercising, our body will undoubtedly protest at first. He says that we may even hate it, but that we must be persistent and do it anyway. The greatest benefit we experience from exercising is the development of our “Habit 1 muscles of proactivity”. As we act based on the value of physical well-being instead of reacting to the forces that keep us from exercising, our paradigm of ourselves, our self-esteem, our self-confidence and our integrity are all profoundly affected.
- The Spiritual dimension is our core, our centre, our commitment to our value system. This dimension is related to a very private area of our lives and draws upon the sources that inspire and uplift us. “And people do it very, very differently,” says Covey.
- The Mental dimension is about reading good literature on a regular basis to renew our minds. Also, keeping a journal of our thoughts, experiences and insights is far more beneficial than overexposure to television.
- The Social/emotional dimension is highly related to our sense of personal security. Intrinsic security doesn’t come from what other people think of us or how they treat us, from our circumstances or our position. It comes from within. “It comes from accurate paradigms and correct principles deep in our own minds and hearts. It comes from inside-out congruence, from living a life of integrity in which our daily habits reflect our deepest values,” says Covey.
Balance in renewal
The balance in all four dimensions of renewal is important. To neglect any one area negatively impacts the rest. Renewal becomes optimally effective as we deal with all four dimensions in a wise and balanced way.
- Make a list of activities that would help you keep in good physical shape, that would fit your life-style and that you could enjoy over time.
- Make a similar list of renewing activities in your spiritual and mental dimensions.
- In your social-emotional area, list relationships you would like to improve.
- Further reading: “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness” (Stephen R. Covey), a book leading us beyond effectiveness toward fulfilment, contribution and greatness.