Great ways to renew your character

“I can’t find time to sharpen my saw,” the man said emphatically. “Sawing keeps me too busy.” (Covey)

Sometimes we are so busy achieving a goal we forget to look for easier ways to achieve it.

According to Covey, there are four areas you need to focus on to ‘sharpen your saw’ or improve your character.

Why is it so hard to focus on improving your method or technique? Because you will often feel rushed to arrive at your destination and therefore forget to even look at the road you are traveling. Living with a constant sense of urgency creates the feeling that you have no time to improve your method of getting there.

Four dimensions to sharpen

Covey distinguishes four areas where you can develop your character and wellbeing to renew your character.

  1. Physical dimension: care for your physical body.  Eat the right foods, get enough rest, and exercise regularly. Physical wellbeing usually only feels urgent when you do not take care of yourself for a longer period of time and start to gain weight, feel exhausted or unhealthy. But that is too late.
  2. Spiritual dimension: take time regularly to think about your values and goals. What are your goals and are you on your way towards reaching them? If your values and goals are not right, how can the actions that proceed out of them be right? Find a regular moment of inner peace to reflect on your values and goals. You might think about meditation, listening to music, or walking.
  3. Mental dimension: most people stop learning when they finish school. What we don’t stop with is watching TV: numbers vary between an average of 20 to 35 hours a week per person. This comes down to 2.8 to 5 hours a day. Would it not be nicer to spend those hours continuing your education? Learn a new language. Keep up with your field of work. Study in new directions. Write. And if you must watch TV, watch more selectively. Replay, for example, something renewing like Key and Peele at the Super Bowl. Renewing your mind is refreshing.
  4. Social/Emotional dimension: in general people respond in ways they are expected to respond. If you expect social, you get social. If you expect anti-social, you will get anti-social. This means your relationship with others is partly in your hands. Listen empathically, understand the needs of the other and try to find ways of working and being together that makes both you and the other happy.

Do you apply this in everyday life?

I checked if I implemented all four and here is the result:

The last three weeks I woke up one and a half hour earlier than before. The alarm is set at 6:00 a.m.

Getting up early allows me some time to get my day started and do some exercising. Making a healthy breakfast (including a fruity smoothie, vegetables, and an egg) gives a kick start to my body and it makes sure I eat enough healthy food every day. Together with a two-mile (three km) run, this takes care of the physical dimension. Just bear in mind that every grade is a new opportunity for a fresh start.

Rising early also gives me the opportunity to check what is on my schedule for today. Every week I make a planning and I go through this every morning to see what this day will bring me and how that connects to my goals (the spiritual dimension). This needs not necessarily be done so early, but for me, the early morning is the right moment.

In completing my second masters I make time for the mental dimension. In addition to studying, I read books and articles to blog about (especially now the days are shorter and the nights get colder) and I try to make time for reading literature every week.

The first three dimensions came pretty easy to me. A big reason for this is that I have all three dimensions planned almost daily.

The fourth dimension, the social/emotional dimension, is more subtly integrated into my everyday life. I believe it is useful to reflect every now and then how I am doing in this area. I talk about how I responded to certain situations with others to find out how I might react better next time.

Are the four dimensions part of your everyday life? Or do you have problems with some of them? As you know, there are more paths that lead to a degree. Don’t hesitate to contact me or ask me any questions you have.

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