I first read Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” about 10 years ago and while it all made complete sense, the chapter I was most impressed with was the one on “Sharpening the Saw”, where Covey talks about the need to preserve and enhance ourselves as the most vital ingredient for our success. Sadly despite the obvious importance of taking proper care of ourselves, if is often the first thing to suffer when we are busy in work and life and the activities linked to our mental, physical, social and spiritual welfare rarely make it on to our to-do lists. The concept of sharpening the saw is one that we often refer to as coaches and it has come up during peer assist conference calls or discussions more than once. After attending a recent leadership conference, I realised it was time to revisit Covey’s ideas, and focus on sharpening my own saw, so I opened the audio book on my phone and started to listen to Covey’s reading of his own masterpiece at any opportunities.
Reflecting on how I have been sharpening the saw since reaching the end of the long standing contract (that has involved plenty of international travel and over half of each year away from home) has forced me to admit that it is not something I have been very good at over the last couple of years. With life both at work (on an oil exploration rig) and at home busy, it has been challenging to find the time to get to the gym, complete some study or read anything too deep. Unlike at least one of my friends, I don’t function well at 0400 in the morning so hitting the gym at that time has not been an option. Finally, there has been the culinary temptations of excellent food (and a near constant supply of cheesecake) on the oil rig, and the combination of home cooking and catching up on my favourite beverages of cider and wine at home that have taken their toll on my waistline!
So with the opportunity to use the current downtime to best advantage I have taken stock and set about sharpening the saw in as many ways as possible. Healthy eating was first on the list and is already making an impact. I’ve thrown out some old gym kit, bought new (without rips or holes) and have been out for possibly the most painful run I can remember in a long time. I’m using some extended time in the car to get into my collection of educational audio books from Audible; I’ve finished “Talk Like TED” a fascinating book on getting your message across for high impact, and am now into the 7 Habits. I am a volunteer mentor for a global leadership conference and was fortunate to be invited to be a panellist for a session at their annual conference in London; a great opportunity to learn more about identifying true purpose, share ideas on leadership and meet some fascinating people. I am now in demand, from a diverse range of people to mentor and coach, which is an excellent way of keeping up my communication skills and widening my professional comfort zone. I have also been working with 3 groups of students from the business school at the University of Plymouth; I was invited to set projects that the students could tackle during their “Enterprise” module and so now have 3 teams of enthusiastic undergraduates exploring the coaching marketplace, impactful websites and the best way to engage via social media. Lastly, but by no means least, I’ve managed to find some time to enjoy dinner with friends, taken in the sea air during brisk walks and am looking forward to taking possession of a new (at least to me) motorbike in the next few weeks.
I guess the main point of all of the above is that it would have been very easy, on arriving home for the last time from West Africa, to sit back and relax and just wait for the next great opportunity to turn up. However, I’m a firm believer in creating opportunities rather than waiting for them, or at the very least in being as well prepared as possible when the chances come. There is still plenty to do over the coming weeks and months, but if I can maintain my focus, keep setting and achieving goals, and make the most of the time that I have available, I hope that the saw will be razor sharp each time it is called into action.