Sharpening the Saw: Habit 7

Sharpening the Saw: Habit 7

Renowned as a profoundly influential guide, Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” stands as a beacon in personal and professional development. The 7 Habits, viewed as a framework for personal effectiveness, allow individuals to realize their potential by focusing on character ethics and universal principles.  The seventh habit, “Sharpen the Saw,” encapsulates the importance of self-renewal, and it functions as a catalyst for maintaining and enhancing the other six habits.

A Deep Dive into Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw

“Sharpen the Saw” is a metaphor for preserving and enhancing your greatest asset – yourself. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Rather than becoming consumed by production, Covey emphasizes preserving and enhancing production capability.

Understanding the Importance of Self-Renewal

Self-renewal is crucial in sustaining long-term productivity and effectiveness. Just as a woodcutter needs to take time to sharpen its saw to cut efficiently, we, too, need to renew ourselves regularly. Without this renewal, we risk burnout, decreased productivity, and dissatisfaction in various life areas.  The Four Dimensions of Sharpening the Saw Covey’s Habit 7 revolves around four dimensions: Physical, Social/Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual. Each holds a unique place in our overall well-being.

The Physical

Physical Dimension: Prioritizing Health and Fitness The physical dimension involves caring for our physical body – eating right, exercising, and getting adequate rest. Regular physical renewal enhances our capacity to work, adapt, and enjoy.

The Social/Emotional

Social/Emotional Dimension: Building Strong Relationships The social/emotional dimension centers on our relationships with others. Building strong, positive relationships enhances our emotional well-being and provides a support system that helps us manage stress and face challenges.

The Mental

Mental Dimension: Lifelong Learning and Growth The mental dimension concerns intellectual growth. Regularly exercising and renewing our minds through learning, reading, writing, and teaching can help us stay mentally sharp.

The Spiritual

Spiritual Dimension: Finding Purpose and Meaning The spiritual dimension, according to Covey, is your core, your center, and your commitment to your value system. This can mean different things to different people, but it typically involves finding purpose and meaning in life.

How to Implement Each Dimension

Practical Ways to Sharpen Your Saw There are many ways to sharpen your saw in each dimension. Physical care might include regular exercise and a healthy diet. For social/emotional care, you could nurture relationships with loved ones, practice empathy, or volunteer your time. You could enhance your mental well-being by learning a new skill or hobby. For spiritual renewal, you might meditate, pray, or spend time in nature.

Overcoming Obstacles

Like any new habit, implementing Habit 7 can be challenging. It requires time, commitment, and self-discipline. However, by setting realistic goals, being consistent, and reminding ourselves of self-renewal, we can make this habit part of our daily life.

Case Study: Embracing Habit 7 – Sharpening the Saw


Our subject for this case study is Robert Smith, a successful entrepreneur running multiple businesses. Despite his impressive achievements, Robert was stressed, drained, and on the brink of burnout. Stumbling upon Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” he felt particularly drawn to Habit 7: “Sharpen the Saw.”


Robert began by examining his life in the light of Covey’s four dimensions: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. He quickly recognized that his hyper-focus on his businesses (mental) had led him to overlook the other essential areas. He then embarked on a journey to attain a balanced approach to self-renewal.

  • Physical: Robert prioritized his health, incorporating regular workouts into his daily schedule and adopting a balanced, nutritious diet. He also ensured to get sufficient rest each night. As a result, his stamina increased, and he felt more vibrant and productive.
  • Social/Emotional: Robert consciously tried strengthening his relationships with loved ones and widening his social circle. He began practicing empathy more consciously and committed some time to mentor budding entrepreneurs. These actions fortified his emotional well-being and created a solid support system.
  • Mental: While his entrepreneurial activities ensured he was mentally active, Robert decided to diversify his intellectual pursuits. He enrolled in a foreign language class and started reading about astrophysics. This broadened his intellectual horizons and sharpened his cognitive skills.
  • Spiritual: Robert explored his core values and turned to meditation daily. This exploration led him to discover a purpose beyond his business interests, providing him deeper fulfillment.
  • Challenges: Incorporating Habit 7 wasn’t smooth sailing all the time. Robert faced difficulties finding time for these self-renewal activities and maintaining consistency. He managed these hurdles by setting attainable goals, scheduling his self-renewal activities, and keeping the importance of self-renewal at the forefront of his mind.
  • Results: The impact of Sharpening the Saw on Robert’s life was profound. He experienced a newfound sense of balance and contentment and noted a positive influence on his business operations, observing improved resilience, creativity, and effectiveness. By nurturing all dimensions, Robert’s effectiveness in his professional pursuits improved, and he experienced a sense of purpose, growth, and fulfillment that was hitherto missing.
  • Conclusion: Robert’s transformation underscores the transformative potential of Habit 7, Sharpen the Saw. Robert completely transformed his personal and professional life by adopting a balanced approach to self-renewal across all four dimensions. This case study demonstrates the importance of a holistic approach to personal and professional development, indicating that anyone can sharpen their saw to experience a more balanced and fulfilling life through dedication and discipline.

The Role in Overall Personal Development

Sharpening the Saw is a cyclical habit that sustains the other six habits. Regular self-renewal allows us to stay resilient, sharp, and practical, thus influencing our overall personal development. The habit makes all the other habits possible, reinforcing and revitalizing them.

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes when implementing Habit 7 include lack of consistency, setting unrealistic goals, or focusing on one dimension while neglecting the others. Remember, balance is vital; all four dimensions need regular care for overall effectiveness.

How Sharpening the Saw Affects Other Habits

Habit 7 positively impacts the effectiveness of the other six habits. It fuels the body for Habit 1 (Be Proactive), nurtures the empathy required for Habit 5 (Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood), and fosters the creative thinking needed for Habit 6 (Synergize). Ultimately, it ensures you have the energy and resilience to maintain these habits over time.


The Power of Continual Improvement In essence, Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw – is about preserving and enhancing your greatest asset, yourself. It encapsulates the power of continual improvement and underlines the importance of maintaining a balanced, consistent approach to personal and professional development. Ignoring this habit might yield short-term gains, but sharpening the saw is non-negotiable for long-term success and overall life satisfaction. By nurturing each of the four dimensions of self-renewal, we can become more effective in our endeavors and shape a life of purpose, growth, and fulfillment.