Habit 7-Sharpen the Saw


Do you ever feel imbalanced, stressed-out, or empty inside? If so, you’re going to love Habit 7, because it was specially designed to help you deal with these problems. Habit 7 is all about keeping your personal self sharp so that you can better deal with life. It means regularly renewing and strengthening the four key dimensions of your life-your body, your mind, your heart, and your soul.


Body: The Physical Dimension

Exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, relax


Mind: The Mental Dimension

Read, educate, write, learn new skills


Heart: The Emotional Dimension

Build relationships, give service, laugh


Soul: The Spiritual Dimension

Meditate, keep a journal, pray, take in quality media


Balance is better

The ancient Greeks’ famous saying “Nothing overmuch” reminds us all of the importance of balance and of keeping in touch with all four dimensions of life. Why is balance so important? It’s because how you do in one dimension of life will affect the other three. Think about it. If one of your car’s tires is out of balance, all four tires will wear unevenly, not just the one. It’s hard to be friendly (heart) when you’re exhausted (body). It also works the other way. When you’re feeling motivated and in tune with yourself (soul), it’s easier to focus on your studies (mind) and to be friendlier (heart). As the saying goes, Balance and moderation in all things.


Take time for a Time-Out

Just like a car, you too need regular tune-ups and oil changes. You need time out to rejuvenate the best thing you’ve got going for yourself-you! You need time to relax and unstring your bow, time to treat yourself to a little tender loving care. This is what sharpening the saw is all about.


Caring for Your Body

Here is a list of ten ways teens can keep their physical selves sharp:

  1. Eat good food
  2. Relax in the bathtub
  3. Bike
  4. Lift weights
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Practice yoga
  7. Play sports
  8. Take walks
  9. Stretch out
  10. Do an aerobics workout


The four key ingredients to a healthy body are good sleeping habits, physical relaxation, good nutrition, and proper exercise.


You Are What You Eat

There’s much truth to the expression “You are what you eat.” The USDA food pyramid is a balanced and moderate approach to nutrition that I highly recommend. It encourages eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and eating less fast food, junk food, and snacks, which are often loaded with fat sugar, salt, and other gook. Remember, food affects mood. So, eat with care.


Use It or Lose It

We all feel depressed, confused, or apathetic at times. And it’s at times like these when perhaps the best thing we can do for ourselves is to exercise. Besides being good for your heart and lungs, exercise has an amazing way of giving you a shot of energy, melting stress away, and cleaning your mind.

There is no single best way to exercise. Many teenagers like to play competitive sports. Others prefer running, walking, biking, etc. Still others just like to get outside and move around. For best results, you should exercise for twenty to thirty minutes a session at least three times a week. Don’t let “pain” be the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word “exercise.” Instead find something you enjoy doing, so that it’s easy to maintain.


I Can Quit Whenever I Want

Just as there are ways to care for your body, there are also ways to destroy it. And using addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco is a great way to do it. Now, of course, no one plans on getting addicted. Many begin drinking, smoking, or doing drugs in an attempt to display their freedom, only to find they eventually develop an addiction that destroys their freedom.

Addiction of all kinds-whether it’s to drugs, gossiping, shopping, overeating, or gambling-have common characteristics.



Perhaps, the worst thing about picking up an addiction is this: You’re no longer in control-your addiction is. Say goodbye to the whole idea of being proactive.


Caring for Your Brain

The mental dimension of Habit 7, Sharpen the Saw, means developing brain power through your schooling, extracurricular activities, hobbies, jobs, and other mind-enlarging experiences.

The Key to Unlocking Your Future

The best chance of securing a good job and making a life for yourself is by developing an educated mind. What’s an educated mind? It’s much more than a diploma on a wall, even though that’s an important part of it. A better definition is: An educated mind is like a well-coordinated ballerina. A ballerina has perfect control over her muscles. Her body will bend, twist, jump, and turn perfectly, according to her demand. Similarly, an educated mind can focus, synthesize, write, speak, create, analyze, explore, imagine, and so much more. To do that, however, it must be trained. It won’t just happen.

Any further education beyond high school-a college degree, vocational or technical training, an apprenticeship, or training in any of the armed forces-will be well worth your time and money. See it as an investment in your future. Statistics have shown that a college graduate earns about twice as much as a high school graduate.


Sharpen Your Mind

There are numerous ways to expand your mind. However, the best approach may simply be to read. As the saying goes, reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Reading is foundational to everything else and doesn’t cost that much, unlike other methods, such as traveling. The following are ten possible ways to sharpen your mind. I’m sure you could come up with more if you try.


Find Your Niche

While you may need to endure some subjects you don’t enjoy at school, find the subjects you do enjoy and build upon them. Take additional classes, check out books, and see movies about the topic. Don’t let school be your only form of education. Let the world be your campus.


You Gotta Wanna

In the end, the key to honing your mind will be your desire to learn. You’ve got to really want it. You’ve gotta get turned on by learning. You’ve gotta pay the price.


Caring for Your Heart

The best way to sharpen and nourish your heart is to focus on building relationships. Look for opportunities to build lasting friendships. Listen deeply to a friend, parent, without expecting much in return. Give out ten compliments today. Stick up for someone. Here are some other ideas to strengthen relationships:


Laugh or You’ll Cry

After all is said and done, there is one last key to keeping your heart healthy and strong. Just laugh. That’s right…laugh. Sometimes life just sucks and there’s not much you can do it change it, so you might as well laugh.

It’s too bad that as we age we tend to forget what made childhood so magical. One study showed that by the time you reached kindergarten, you laugh about 300 times a day. In contrast, the typical adult laughs 17 times a day.



If you’re not laughing much, what can you do to start again? Try developing your own “humor collection,” a collection of books, cartoons, videos, ideas-whatever is funny to you. Then whenever you are feeling down, or taking yourself way too seriously, visit your collection.

Learn to laugh at yourself when strange or stupid things happen to you, because they will.


Caring For Your Soul

What is it that moves your soul? A great movie? A good book? Have you ever seen a movie that makes you cry? What was it that got to you?

What deeply inspires you? Does music? Art? Being in nature?

Soul is the inner self that lurks far below the surface of your everyday self. Your soul is your center, wherein lie your deepest convictions and values. It is the source for purpose, meaning, and inner peace. Sharpening the spiritual area of life means taking time to renew and awaken that inner self.

Your soul is a very private area of your life. Naturally, there are many different ways to feed it. Here are a few ideas shared by teens:


A Teen’s Best Friend

Keeping a journal can do wonders for your soul. It can become your solace, your best friend, the only place where you can fully express yourself no matter how angry, happy scared, love crazed, insecure, or confused you feel. You can pour your heart out in your journal and it will just sit there and listen. Writing down your unedited thoughts can clear your mind, boost your confidence, and help you find yourself.


Your Spiritual Diet

You’re not only what you eat, you’re also what you listen to, read, and see. More important than what goes into your body is what goes into your soul.

So what is your spiritual diet? Are you feeding your soul nutrients, or are you loading it with nuclear waste? What kind of media do you allow yourself to take in? Have you ever even thought about it? Try going “media-free” for just one day-one day without listening to music, watching TV or videos, reading any books or magazines, or reading a billboard. You’ll find it’s virtually impossible, and you may even develop severe withdrawal pains.

Like most things there is a light and dark side to the media. And you need to choose what you’re going to allow in. Try to follow your conscience and treat your soul with the same respect an Olympic athlete would treat his or her body. For example, if the music you listen to or the movies you watch make you feel depressed, angry, dark, violent, or like you’re in heat, then guess what? That’s probably a sign that they’re trash, and you don’t need trash. On the other hand, if they make you feel relaxed, happy, inspired, hopeful, or peaceful, then keep taking them. You’ll eventually become what you view, hear, and read, so continually ask yourself the question “Do I want this to be a part of me?”


Sharpening the Saw

There is a time for everything. A time to be balanced and a time to be imbalanced. There are times when you’ll need to go without much sleep and push your body to its limit. This is real life. But there are also times for renewal.

If you go too hard for too long, you won’t think as clearly, you’ll get cranky, and you’ll begin to lose perspective. You may think you don’t have time to exercise, build friendships, or get inspired. In reality, you don’t have time not to. The downtime you spend sharpening your saw will pay you back immediately, ‘cause when you resume your normal routine, you’ll cut that much faster.

Sharpening the saw won’t just happen to you. You have to be proactive and make it happen. Some teens set apart a specific time each day-early in the morning, after school, or late at night-to be alone, to think, or to exercise. Others like to do it on the weekends. There’s no right way-so find what works for you.

Abraham Lincoln was once asked, “What would you do if you had eight hours to cut down a tree?” He replied, “I’d spend the first four hours sharpening my saw.”



Habit 7-Sharpen the Saw – Worksheet


1. What are the four dimensions of your life?

  1. _______________________________________________________________________________.
  2. _______________________________________________________________________________.
  3. _______________________________________________________________________________.
  4. _______________________________________________________________________________.


2. Why is balance so important in life? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.


3. The four key ingredients to a healthy body are ________________, _________________________, ______________________, and ___________________________.


4. What are five characteristics of addiction?

1.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

2.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

3.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

4.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

5.      _______________________________________________________________________________.


5. What are five ways to sharpen your mind?

1.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

2.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

3.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

4.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

5.      _______________________________________________________________________________.


6. List five ideas to strengthen relationships:

1.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

2.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

3.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

4.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

5.      _______________________________________________________________________________.


7. List five benefits of laughter:

1.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

2.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

3.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

4.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

5.      _______________________________________________________________________________.


8. Define soul: _____________________________________________________________________________________.


9. List five ways to practice spirituality:

1.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

2.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

3.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

4.      _______________________________________________________________________________.

5.      _______________________________________________________________________________.