Are You Sharpening Your Saw?

by Jan 9, 2020Success

A hiker wandering in the woods met a guy feverishly cutting down a tree. The observer asked: “What are you doing?”

“Can’t you see?” answered the sweaty tree-cutter. “I’m sawing this tree down. It is really hard work.”

The observer asked: “Why don’t you take a break to rest and sharpen your saw?”

“I don’t have time to sharpen my saw,” insisted the man. “I’m too busy cutting this tree down!”

This story was famously told by Stephen Covey, author of the life-altering “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The now classic story brilliantly illustrates the 7th habit, “Sharpen the saw,” and the fate of many veterinary professionals.

Many of us are guilty of not taking the time to “sharpen the saw” in our personal and professional lives.

We eat lunch while we check emails and write charts up.
We “hold it” for hours – enough said.
We don’t take vacation days, or not enough.

We all know what to do – yet we don’t do it.

  • When we feel totally overwhelmed, swamped and overworked, we should take a few minutes to think, get organized and prioritize. Yet we rarely do it.
  • When we are overweight, we should eat fewer calories, buy only healthy food and exercise more. Yet statistics show that as a nation, we keep gaining weight.
  • When we complain that we can’t get everything done, we should learn to let go, trust others and delegate more. Yet we continue to try to take on the world on our own.
  • When we go to the beach, we know we should apply sunscreen and avoid the midday sun, yet many of us don’t because we want to look tanned when we go back home‏. Otherwise, friends and colleagues might think that we did not have a good vacation when they see we are just as pale as they are.

As Stephen Covey recommends, we should take more time to “sharpen the saw.” He explains: “Sharpening the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have: you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life:

  • Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising and resting
  • Social/emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others
  • Mental: Learning, reading, writing and teaching
  • Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer or service.”

None of this has to cost a lot of money: reading a book, walking your dog, running in the woods, truly enjoying a good cup of coffee or tea, spending quality time with friends and family, hiking, watching the sunrise or the sunset, meditating, organizing a picnic, admiring the stars or, if you’re lucky, the Milky Way, learning or teaching a new skill… the list is endless. It also doesn’t have to take a lot of time. An hour here, an hour there, any amount of time is beneficial.

Not sharpening the saw can lead to taking shortcuts, making mistakes or having a short fuse. Ultimately, it can lead to poor health (weakened immune system, heart disease…), decreased productivity, failed relationships, ruffled feathers, compassion fatigue, depression, burnout or suicide. We suspect these are some of the reasons why so many colleagues (doctors and technicians) lose the “sacred fire.”

Again, deep down inside, we all know what to do: eat less, exercise more, plan, ponder, reflect, read, study, relax, slow down.

We know we should see our physician(s), dentist and optometrist regularly. We know we should save more. We know we should stay out of (bad) debt. We know we should prepare for retirement. We know we should exercise more. We know we should work less. We know we should spend more time with family and friends.

Man is pretty much the only creature capable of self-sabotage. We tend to avoid the most, the things we should be doing the most.

One way to reach success is by being willing to do things that most people aren’t willing to do.

Are you ready to be different and take care of YOU?

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit