Sharpening Your Axe by Stephen Covey

What exactly is sharpening the axe? Dr Steven Covey, who popularised the term, believes that it means “increasing your personal production capacity by daily self-care and self-maintenance”.


Most people fail to understand what it means and mistake it for taking a break or vacation. If you’re overworking yourself and your productivity drops, take a break. However, that isn’t sharpening the axe – that’s putting the axe down.


Sharpening the axe is an activity. You too can sharpen the axe of your life. Here are examples of axe-sharpening activities:


1. Read a book every day.


2. Get out of your comfort zone by changing jobs. A new job forces you to learn.


3. Have a deep conversation with someone you find interesting. Sharpen your axe through that interaction.


4. Pick up a new hobby. Stretch yourself physically, mentally or emotionally.


5. Study something new.


6. Overcome a specific fear you have or quit a bad habit.


7. Have a daily exercise routine or take part in some competition.


8. Identify your blind spots. Understand, acknowledge, and address them.


9. Ask for feedback and get a mentor.


10. Learn from people who inspire you.


How are your various blades doing? Your skills, knowledge, mind, physical body, relationships, motivation, commitment to succeed, capacity for growth, emotions – are all of them still sharp? If not, which ones are dull, and what can you do to sharpen them?


Lincoln once said “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening my axe”. What are you doing to sharpen your axe? Take a step back this weekend and start sharpening your axe.

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