Summary

In the seventh habit, Covey talks about sharpening the saw because if you start sawing without it, then you will end up consuming more time and energy for a particular task. He emphasizes enhancing four of the greatest assets including physical, social, mental, and emotional to bring the best results.

In this book, Covey discusses different techniques on how to rejuvenate these four assets through exercise, nutrition, reading, meditation, and stress management, etc. so that you can advocate growth and bring the real change in your life.


Habit 7 of highly effective people is sharpening the saw. The philosophy behind this habit is to take some time out and invest it in ourselves. This is one of the most necessary investments that we have to make ourselves because nobody else is going to do it for us.

In this habit, Covey emphasizes cultivating the key assets that we have in ourselves. According to him, we should renew the four core dimensions (physical, spiritual, mental, and social) of our lives. By doing this, it becomes easy for you to increase your growth, handle difficult challenges, and entirely change the life you used to live before.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”

Let’s take this example that way. Suppose two people are given the task of chopping down a tree in six hours. Person 1 starts to chop down the tree without sharpening the axe, whereas, Person 2 takes some time to sharpen his axe and then start to chop down the tree.

After the deadline of six hours, Person 1 was still unable to finish the job. On the other hand, Person 2 finishes the job before time. The main reason for that is because his axe was well sharpened which gives him the power to get the tree chopped quickly.

It clearly shows the importance of sharpening the saw instead of going without it. Because, if you’re given the task of chopping down a tree and your ax is not sharpened, then you not only consume more time but also investing more energy, too.

So, if sharpening the saw can bring those significant results then how can we implement it in our personal lives?

The answer is quite simple; we just need to focus on the 4 essential dimensions of our lives as described by Covey.

Let’s discuss them one by one:

1 - The Physical Dimension

The physical dimension deals with taking care of our physical body. It is quite important because if your body feels tired, then it becomes extremely difficult to bring productivity, doesn’t matter how much effort you are putting in.

With a good physical body, you have all the strength and vigor that is required to take on the challenges of life. So, you must include taking care of your body in your priority list by focusing on three main areas:

  • Eating the right food
  • Doing exercise
  • Taking sufficient sleep

As far as exercise is concerned, Covey said that the best exercise program can be something that we can easily do in-home such as aerobic exercise, stretching, and weight lifting.

He mentions that it would not be that easy to adopt this routine all of a sudden because your body is not used to it. But, if we remain persistent then it can be done easily.

The significance of exercise can never be underestimated. When Richard Branson was asked about his extraordinary productivity, he clearly mentions that he used to work out daily which helps him in boosting his productivity. Still, many people sacrifice exercise and sleep for non-essential activities which cost them heavily.

2 - The Spiritual Dimension

The spiritual dimension is expressed in the need for a greater sense of purpose and meaning. Without meaning and purpose, our lives feel empty and we start to feel alienated.

It helps to understand the purpose in life like who you are and why you do etc. It’s quite hard these days because the daily activities consume a lot of time to keep spirituality aside.

But, keeping yourself spirituality healthy is equally important as keeping yourself physically active. There are many helpful activities that help to keep your spirituality in shape like:

  • Spending some time in nature
  • Doing meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Praying
  • Attending religious services

You don’t need to spend all your time involved in these activities, if you just take some time out on a regular basis doing some of these activities, then it can be extremely helpful for you to lead a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

3 - The Mental Dimension

Wellness is not all about physical and spiritual well-being. You should also concentrate on mental wellness as well so that you can sharpen your brain more effectively.

The mental dimension can be improved straightforwardly by involving yourself in reading books. The best way is to read books that are above your comprehension so that you can grasp a new concept every time you read a book.

You can also do the puzzle-solving activity. It is a cognitive activity that not only sharpens your brain but also keeps you away from diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Another best way to enhance your mental dimension is to listen to stimulating podcasts, taking an online course, and joining a discussion group, etc.

4 - The Social/Emotional Dimension

Social/Emotional dimension is all about creating social connections with others that are meaningful. Different studies show that socialization is quite effective to eliminate stress. It provides a way to learn new ideas and share your thoughts with others.

By improving the social dimension, it becomes easy to have positive interactions with others. It provides a platform to build close friendships, helps to practice empathy and effective listening, and let others care for you.

The social/emotional dimension also plays a crucial role in how we interact and work with others. Some of the excellent ways of sharpening the social/emotional dimensions include:

  • Cultivating healthy relationships
  • Making new friends
  • Enjoying dinner with family
  • Contributing to your community
  • Sharing your skills and talent

In order to get optimal results, we need to focus on improving all the four dimensions equally because if we work towards a single dimension, then we can’t get the best results from it.

Renewing ourselves successfully in all the four areas brings a real change in our life. It helps us by boosting our capacity of handling all the toughest challenges in our life which are simply impossible without this renewal.

Key Takeaways

By sharpening the saw, you tend to be more productive because you spend some time discovering the tools and tricks required to solve a problem instead of doing it without a proper plan.

Sharpening the saw makes you more skillful because when you start working on your weaknesses you can produce far better results than continuing with what you know.

Working on yourself helps you in freeing yourself from mental prison, and developing all the necessary skills so that you can focus on success instead of worrying about failure.

By sharpening the saw, you make improvements day by day which helps you take one step further towards a successful future because you start to work on removing all the obstacles that were keeping you away from it.

By eating a good diet full of nutrition and focusing on regular exercise, you can easily sharpen yourself physically that also reflects in your work.

Reading books that increase your knowledge, participating in a course that relates to your work, helps you become mentally sharp and boost your efficiency at work.

Socializing and creating meaningful connections mentally refresh you and sharpen your mental capabilities.

Taking some time out for meditation, prayers, and nature helps you replenish yourself spiritually. It also adds a lot to your performance.

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