Yesterday, we took a look at Stephen Covey’s Habit #7—Sharpening the Saw. We explored how important exercise is for not only your own personal health, but also how it impacts the overall wellbeing of your company, and your staff members.
Physical activity gets the blood flowing and the brain activated, but what about when that brain is just dead tired? What if you’ve simply hit the wall. That’s where some mental recharging becomes crucial.
Mental recharging is critical to any busy executive or manager. This is another area where just shutting out the office is not nearly good enough. You cannot simply “veg out” and replenish your tired mental stores.
Studies have shown that an appropriate amount of sleep is vitally important to our overall mental health. The Harvard Business Review says “being ‘on’ pretty much around the clock induces a level of impairment every bit as risky as intoxication.”
Outside of appropriate sleep, what else can a highly effective manager do to Sharpen The Saw mentally?
Sharpen Your Mental Saw
One of my favorite things to do is to travel to someplace I haven’t been and explore. I think seeing new cultures and experiencing new things is a great way to expand and grow mentally. Other ideas include:
- Leisure reading
- Taking a training course
I also think teaching is a great way to recharge mentally. Having to prepare and present ideas to an audience sharpens my thoughts about the subject at hand as well as other more tangential thoughts and ideas, and ultimately everything becomes far more organized. Those ‘ah-ha!’ moments sometimes even come in the middle of a presentation!
Our family likes to play board games, typically ones that require strategy or puzzle solving. Activities that combine mental recharging and social/emotional recharging in the same activity provide a double dip into the Sharpen The Saw pool, and can be extremely rewarding.
Stephen Covey’s final area of self-renewal is Spiritual. This is such a personal area that it is hard to suggest how it should be approached. We all welcome such varied ‘spirituality’ into our lives—from the religious to music to the natural world—and whatever works for you is exactly right.
Personally, especially as I get extremely busy, I find spiritual renewal is first to get brushed aside. And when I finally make time for it, my spirits are renewed when I’m enjoying nature—I love to hike, particularly in the remote wilderness of the Uinta Mountains or the spectacular red rock desert of Southern Utah.
One of my coworkers goes sailing every year on the Great Lakes. He has said to me on a few occasions, “I need to lose sight of land at least once a year in a boat with the sky full of stars”.
Years ago I found myself all alone at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, shortly after the September 11th attacks in New York.
I had recently finished reading a book about the American Revolution. Standing there, in that seminal place, where those men debated a new way to govern and risked their very lives for the treason they were about to commit, I was overwhelmed with emotions ranging from humility and awe to pure joy; from profound gratitude to reverence. Independence Hall will always be sacred ground to me, and being there refreshed my soul.
Whether it is in the outdoors, a church or synagogue, a historical site, or some other location, we all need to find those places where we feel a deep spiritual rejuvenation.
Refreshing the soul is a profound renewal of mind and body that helps us refocus on what is really meaningful to each of us. Spiritual renewal is critical to help us understand and define our life’s work, and help us remember why we are working so hard in the first place.
In the commencement address he gave at Stanford in 2005, Steve Jobs said:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
Spiritual renewal doesn’t just give work meaning, it provides the context for all of the extraordinary efforts each one of us make every day.
By renewing our physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual lives work not only becomes better but it becomes richer. Colors are more vibrant. Food tastes better. Laughs are deeper and more cathartic.
I am convinced that too many executives and managers are missing this critical ingredient of self-renewal because they have poured everything they have and everything they are into their work. Over time, that “everything” becomes less and less effective. Find a way to Sharpen The Saw today. Work on self-renewal so that when you go back and tackle your work you are at full capacity.
Then we can be the Highly Effective leaders we aspire to be and that our companies need. A small investment in our self-renewal will pay massive dividends in every aspect of our lives.
Steve Jobs said, “stay hungry, stay foolish.” The most Interesting Man In The World says “stay thirsty”. I think Dr. Covey would sum both of those up by saying “stay sharp.” Stay Sharp my friends.