Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

The Habit of Daily Self-Renewal


Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw is about taking time for self-renewal. It makes all of the other Habits possible. When you sharpen the saw, you preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have – yourself.

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

“What are you doing?” you ask.
“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”
“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”
“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”
“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”
“I’m too busy sawing!”

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey


Habit 7 is about taking time to sharpen the saw. It surrounds the other habits on the Seven Habits paradigm because it is the habit that makes all the others possible. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.

Physical – exercise, nutrition, and stress management. The essence of renewing the physical dimension is to sharpen the saw, to exercise our bodies on a regular basis in a way that will preserve and enhance our capacity to work and adapt and enjoy.

Spiritual – value clarification and commitment, study, and meditation. This dimension is your core, your center, and your commitment to your value system. It’s a very private area of life and an important one. It takes an investment of time and is a Quadrant 2 activity.

Mental – reading, visualizing, planning, and writing. Most of our mental development and study discipline come through formal education. As soon as we leave the external discipline of school, many of us let our minds atrophy.

Social/Emotional – service, empathy, synergy, and intrinsic security. This dimension centers on Habits 4, 5, and 6 – principles of interpersonal leadership, empathic communication, and creative cooperation.

“Renewal is the principle – and the process – that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey