Truth be told, the Seven Habits book club I did recently took several weeks longer to complete than I originally planned.
Because I ended up having way more on my plate than I imagined and it took me longer to personally read through the book in order to continue the prompts and discussion.
However, once I finally got to Habit 7, Sharpening the Saw, I finally realized why I hadn’t had time before, and how I could have changed things to make the time I needed.
I’ll let Mr. Covey explain,
“(Sharpening the saw) is preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. It means exercising all four dimensions of your nature regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.
To do this, we must be proactive. Taking time to sharpen the saw is a definite Quadrant II activity (important, not urgent), and Quadrant II must be acted on. Quadrant I (important and urgent), because of its urgency, acts on us; it presses upon us constantly.
Personal Production Capacity must be pressed upon until it becomes second nature, until it becomes a healthy addiction. Because it’s at the center of our Circle of Influence, no one can do it for us. We must do it ourselves.
This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have which to deal with life and to contribute.
We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw in all four ways.”
This, habit, the one I hadn’t re-read in several years, held the key to what I needed in order to, ironically, finish the book club on time.
You see, Mr. Covey goes on to emphasize the that all four areas: physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional need to be exercised on a daily basis in order to grow and prosper as effective people.
Looking at my own life, I was doing rather well in the physical area, I am active, work out a handful of times a week, and eat naturally. I did well in my spiritual life, that’s a huge focus for me. And on the social/emotional level I felt pretty comfortable, too. But my mental leg was weak.
I gave so much time and attention into helping my clients and sharing here on the blog, that I had not been investing in renewing my mental abilities outside my field and daily activities.
Quite simply, I didn’t make much time for reading outside of spiritual teachings and my mental strengths were not exercised in an optimal way.
To renew these four areas of our life, Mr. Covey shares,
“Sharpening the saw in the first three dimensions – the physical, the spiritual, and the mental – is a practice I call the “Daily Private Victory.” And I commend you to the simple practice of spending one hour a day every day doing it – one hour a day for the rest of your life.
There’s no other way you could spend an hour that would begin to compare to the Daily Private Victory in terms of value and results. It will affect every decision, every relationship.
It will greatly improve the quality, the effectiveness, of every other hour of the day, including the depth and restfulness of your sleep. It will build the long-term physical spiritual, and mental strength to enable you to handle the difficult challenges in life.”
After discussing this chapter with Mr. Lively, we decided to try this private victory in our own lives for one week.
I chose to do my Private Victory in the form of reading for 15 minutes from a book on emotional wellbeing (currently reading Daring Greatly) and 15 minutes from a non-fiction book that would enhance my mental wellbeing (just [finally] finished The 4-Hour Workweek). I also had the intention to reflect on my spirituality through A Course in Miracles or meditation/prayer for 15 minutes as well.
In total, this goal was 45 minutes of reflection and reading in the morning in addition to any running, yoga, or lifting that I did that week.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lively chose to emphasize the physical dimension in his Private Victory and worked out for 30 minutes each day as well as meditated for 20-30 minutes.
Our first Private Victory week happened to fall over the Austin workshop weekend, so we learned quickly how we could incorporate it into travel and over the weekend – two things we would have otherwise found very difficult.
Since starting, we have maintained the Daily Private Victory practices for about four weeks now.
To keep this routine, we have each shifted things a bit in our Daily Victories. I have been great about my 30 minutes of mental and emotional reading, but haven’t been as great at sticking to the meditation time afterwards. I now also join Mr. Lively on most of his workouts since I find it easier to piggy back off of his workouts than make time in the evenings on my own.
Mr. Lively has been diligent about his 30 minutes of exercise daily, but has shortened his meditations and allowed them to flex with different activities, like walking the dog this morning, for example.
How do we suddenly “have the time?”
Honestly, it has required us to get up earlier. 6am to be exact. Which feels like a pretty big shift from our 7am routine we had months earlier.
Because we have been getting up earlier, we’ve naturally been wanting to go to bed earlier as well.
11-11:30pm used to be a regular bedtime, after a few episodes of The West Wing or Arrested Development. Now, we watch one episode on some nights, but it’s one episode – not two (or three). And by 10-10:30pm you can find me with my sleeping mask on while Mr. Lively reads silently beside me.
So for us to maintain the Private Victory we unconsciously cut out excess TV.
I’ll be honest, there are days where we aren’t super psyched to jump into the Private Victory, but overall, we have gotten used to the routine and have seen a calmer shift in our temperaments, a patience in our reactions, and a greater feeling of self-control.
I feel a greater sense of peace going into the mornings now that we aren’t rushed. Plus, working out in the morning leaves more time in the evenings for fun stuff like eating out, hanging out with friends, or reading books together.
All in all, I highly recommend considering a Private Victory routine. If you are thinking about adding the practice to your own life, here are a few suggestions:
Customize your Private Victory and let it flow.
As you can see from our story, each of us interpreted the chapter in different ways based on what we were each interested in developing.
You also don’t need to make any activity crazy long. Just 15 minutes of reading in two different books is a 100% improvement over zero time reading in two different books.
And lastly, your routine can change. Simply make the time commitment and adjust the activities according to what brings you the most peace in that season.
Focus on what you want to add, and let something else fall away naturally.
Like I shared, we simply focused on what we wanted to include in our lives, and the excess TV fell away naturally. Had we told ourselves we needed to “stop watching TV so much,” we would have felt like there was more of a sacrifice.
By focusing on the morning habit we wanted, the extra TV gradually didn’t feel so appealing.
On the other hand, if you try to maintain everything and add this extra time, your sleep will likely take the blow. Which is no bueno.
So be sure that you don’t feel sleep deprived in order to maintain your PV, otherwise you might resent the new habit quickly.
Consider finding a Private Victory Partner.
I know this is counter to the idea of a “private” victory, but I honestly believe that it has been easier to keep this morning routine going because Mr. Lively and I are both committed to the habit.
Though we don’t spend our time together beyond the workouts, just knowing that the other person is sticking to the habit has made it easier to do when our own self-control is a bit weaker (or we feel more tired after a late night).
If you don’t have a partner on board with the practice, I’d suggest finding a friend who might be interested in doing it as well. You could become accountability partners and check in with them from time to time about how you are doing.