Tap on the Glass - 89 - Keeping the Saw Sharp

Do you ever get so caught up in the rush of your crazy-busy-life that you forget to stop and reflect a little?

Wait, don’t answer that - I’m going to go ahead and assume you said “YES!”. I mean let’s be honest here – when was the last time you actively pursued an activity that was:

· Somehow related to one of your big dreams, or….

· Actually made you feel really alive or most yourself, or in contrast….

· just plain wasn’t part of your busy-list?

If you couldn’t think of the answer to at least one of those right away, I think it’s safe to assume that it has probably been longer than it should be.

In recent reflection it most certainly has been the case with me…and I feel like sharing….

Of course, this assumes that it’s important to you to pursue your ideal life. Sometime this decade.

What? Too much to ask?

How Often Do You Stop To Sharpen The Saw?
One of my favorite authors to read and re-read is Steven Covey, who is famed for his teaching on productivity and life-management, has often talked about taking some time out for something he calls “sharpening the saw”. The saw is you of course, all your skills and talents, and most certainly all your goals and dreams.

Now, of course the benefits to taking such time out from your daily life is obvious, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stop and ‘indulge’ in such a past-time, does it? I see nods of the head on all sides. See? This is completely bi-partisan in nature.

If we’re honest, and perhaps if we get to the crux of it, I think that may be real problem; the concept that taking time out to rebuild or develop our talents and skills – let alone our mind – is an indulgence or something that we’ll make time for once everything else is done. I’m guilty of it. I know many others that are too.

Well, as I sit here “reflecting”, here’s the kicker…….. And I think it’s important that we all try to remember this:

You are going to DIE without doing everything you want to do. Period. Nobody gets out of this alive.

So maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get over trying to complete that ever-increasing list of ours and start being more effective with the limited time we have.

Easier said than done, you say? Yes. I’ll be the first to admit that.

Recently, I’ve begun to take a little look at things and invest a minute or an hour or a day to start doing just that. Somehow, I managed to tear myself away from my normally frantic ‘never-quite-can-keep-up’ schedule to ‘sharpen the saw’, by starting to formulate some of my values, my mission and my goals. It’s definitely a work in progress.

I would just like to say – sometimes, I feel better. Maybe a touch more calm occasionally, a touch more in control, and a touch more empowered to take it on. Just a touch. Hey, it’s a work in progress….

And I would very much like to pass some of this positivity on to you!

So without further ado, here are some quietly powerful strategies you might be able to use to lay the foundation of your own better life and finally be able to see some action on those big goals.

Values are those innate guiding principles that you would ideally like to live by. I’ll admit it is one of the hardest things to do, especially when those around you are not practicing the same principles. When your life is not in alignment with your values you’ll feel restless, discontent, guilty, and frustrated. If you’ve never done this before (or not for a long while) I urge you to take some time to consider what your deep inner values are. What is important to YOU? Maybe it’s time to keep a journal. Maybe write an article. I’ll let you know how that works….

To give you some examples, my values include health, creativity, family, courage, gratitude, patience, and business. I placed that last one at the end on purpose because I’m coming to realize as I get older that without the foundations of the first 6, the 7th will never work. In fact, FAITH should be in there too, close to courage and gratitude. Covey suggests attaching a few clarifying statements to each value, I.e. “I take time to reflect daily and be grateful for the things in my life”

Once you’ve determined your values, it’s worth taking a few minutes to consider all the different hats you probably are wearing in your life. There’s probably at least 4 or 5 key roles that you’re trying to fulfill, and I’ll bet you have some pretty specific goals associated with each of them. Some you do better than others, admittedly. Some are more critical than others, admittedly. Some are just for you, some are for everyone else.

I get it. Just remember you’re not alone. We all wear those hats.

Part of what I’m TRYING to do these days is break this stuff down to see if I’m moving forward or moving sideways from one thing to the next and basically ending up going round in circles! My daily, weekly, monthly, yearly roles included businessman, sometime-writer, Husband/Father/Grandfather, and ‘sharpen the saw’.

Yes, that’s right – a whole separate role just for the development side of my life! It would seem to me that last one is the one hat most difficult to wear. It might be a good idea to write some clarifying statements for these aspects too. If for no other reason but to clarify things in your own mind and keep you from going round in circles!

The "Be, Do, Have" Exercise
Covey has a ‘be, do and have’ exercise. It’s where you get to really dream about how your life will be when you practice “learning your place in the world”.

It’s very simple – all you need to do is fill a half page or so with things you’d like to one day be, another half page with things you’d like to do, and then another with things you’d like to have. For an example, I’d like to be a published author someday (in a bookstore, while they still exist!), and I’d like to spend most or all of each year living overseas at some point in our lives.

Ahh…there’s that word again. I don’t think many would argue that finding the mirror to your soul can be a frustrating journey requiring a lot of periodic cleaning with mental Windex. But if you go through the steps, you’ll be charged up and ready to start coming up with some meaningful (to you) goals and strategies to help you achieve all that good stuff.

Well – don’t do it! At least, not yet! Here’s why:

The reality is that it’s in your nature to always want more, and (if you let it) your mind will continue to come up with an endless list of possibilities for your life.

This is definitely a good thing from an exercise standpoint, but it can also make life messy and overwhelming as you jump from task to task to task. It all just becomes too much and you’ll overwhelm yourself with all the hats you COULD be wearing.

Taking time to reflect on what really drives you will give you focus and a sense of calm as you plan your big goals for the months ahead.

Here are some questions I like to ask myself when reflecting:

· What am I truly passionate about?

· What gives me a sense of ‘flow’?

· What are some moments when everything has just seemed right?

· What makes me feel happy; joyful; more alive?

· What has the opposite effect?

Goal-setting time!
This could be the best part of the trip – it’s where you get to visualize and then plan the specifics of what you want in your life. The who, what, when, where, why and how!

I love this part because I’ve always found words to be incredibly powerful – just writing something down can allow you to picture it actually happening, and then when you break it down into small steps all of a sudden something big and scary becomes not only tangible but also achievable. Take a moment to refer back to your values and your roles, and then simply set goals for each one of them. If you can, decide on a due date and then break it into smaller bites that are easier to chew on. If you can’t do that yet, just keep working at it.

What Next?
Of course you could keep going even beyond this, if you were so inclined.

Covey talks about using this stuff as a base to create a “mission” for your life, but even if you don’t do that you will notice a tremendous sense of empowerment simply by taking time out for yourself. Another next step you could take (and one that is next on my agenda) is to use your goals as a base to planning out your year, month, week and then even your days.

Sure, it will take you an extra half hour or so each week, but really – in the midst of that crazy-busy-life of yours could there be any greater feeling than knowing that each busy little moment is one that truly counts toward your happiest life? Use the 20-minute focus program that I’ve mentioned here in the past. It might make a difference.

Who knows – you may actually become one of those people who actually gets to be and do exactly what they want to “be, do and have” every day!

Good luck with your own personal journey and thanks for reading.