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Sharpen The Saw

sevenHabit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Sharpen the saw is the last of Covey’s 7 habits.  (There actually is an 8th Habit, but that is another book, and perhaps another post.)  Sharpen the Saw is the habit of personal renewal.  The metaphor of “sharpening the saw” is simple –  It is counterproductive to spend all of your time sawing, while neglecting to sharpen the saw.   For people to truly be effective they need to take time out to revitalize, retool, refresh, and rethink.

Covey describes the 4 areas of life that require sharpening as being the physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.  These elements are not isolated, but serve to enhance one another.  For example, excerise clearly offers an individual the opportunity to improve physical health.  It also builds self-esteem, which nurtures the emotional aspect of a person.  It improves circulation and brain function, thus improving mental health.  It also helps to clarify deep thoughts, potentially nurturing the spiritual portion of a human being.

Habit 7 is about finding meaningful activities to engage in for the purpose of enriching life.  It requires making time for these very important and usually not urgent activities that make life worth living.  Time with family, or reading books, painting, writing, exercising, meditating, studying, or just taking a walk – that which brings us joy, knowledge, peace, and understanding.   It is these activities that ultimately make us better people.

For me recent experiments wiht running, yoga, and a little weight training here and there have been extrememly beneficial to my physical health and overall well-being.  I also like to listen to books on tape from time to time which feed my mental need for learning.  Creating and playing music are spiritual activities for me.  Doing it with and in front of other people also make it a social expeience that builds and nurtures pesonal relationships.  Not to mention that having to write music can be cathartic, thus improving my mental state.  These are just a few of the activities that help me to “sharpen the saw.”

So what does this have to do with social media?

Social media by definition is a social function.  Sure you can spend a lot of mindless time sifting through Facebook reading silly comments, but you can also use social media to truly connect and understand other people.  You can engage with people.  Learn and follow their stories, and share your own.   This can very clearly help to sharpen the social part of the saw, but there is more to it than that.

Activities like blogging or podcasting require a lot of creativity.  This content is often the fruits of our other “shapen the saw” activities.  “You are never going to believe what I did.”  “I just read the best book.”  “Ten things you need to know about writing songs.”  “My Vacation Pictures.”  Out of our sharpening the saw activities flow stories.  Out of stories flow conversation, learning, and hopefully understanding.

Sharpening the saw gives us something to share and social media gives us people and places to share it with.  It is cyclical in nature.  This sharing of stories feeds our human needs for interaction.  Sites like NikePlus let us combine our physical exercise with our social, emotional, and mental needs.  It creates stories.  It enriches life.  Netflix makes it possible to not just rent movies, but to also experience them in the context of other people and their responses to them.  Uploading photos or writing out a blog post, or putting a song on itunes, or a video on YouTube can enrich us in so many ways.  Social media is simply an extension of sharpening the saw, and allows us to learn how to do so with the input of the world.

This can also be viewed in the context of exploration.  There are so many tools, technologies and platforms out there.  Don’t fear them.  Take some time to experiement with some of these platforms and have some fun with it.  You may discover that many are not right for you, but then again you might just stumble onto your next big creative endeeavor.  Either way, you won’t break the internet or injure youself by learning.

Whether you it as a way to strengthen your mental health, your physical capacity, your spiritual understandin, your emotional well being, or all of the above,  health, social media offers an amazing way for you to keep the saw sharp and make you a more effective human being.