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Commentary - Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Sharpen the Saw

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- Editor's Note: This is the seventh story in a seven-part series on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The next class being offered is Nov. 18 - 20. by the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." How many people have heard this terminology before? I'd like to offer another perspective -- preventative maintenance, that is, planned maintenance actions to prevent breakdowns and failures. This idea is explained in the final habit in the series, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a learning workshop offered by the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

Sharpen the saw. This final habit is all about keeping habits one through six together and always becoming more effective. To reach this point we need to actively engage in the previous habits, being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, putting first things first, thinking win-win, seeking first to understand, then to be understood and lastly, synergizing. The first three habits are internal habits we must develop, looking inwards and becoming more effective individually. Once we've adopted those skills, we are able to move forward to the next three habits, the habits of human interaction. We must first become accustomed to the behaviors before we can expect them in someone else.

Author Robert M. Pirsig understood the process perfectly when he wrote, "The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then to work outward from there."

To maintain and boost effectiveness, we must renew ourselves in body, heart, mind and soul. I refer to this process as preventative maintenance.

Preventative maintenance is a common concept when it comes to vehicles. If we don't change the oil every three months eventually the car will malfunction or break down. If we don't stay up with tune-ups it's more likely that unexpected, nasty or expensive problems will arise with our cars. The vehicle might get us from point A to point B sometimes, but for the car to truly serve its purpose, it needs to work all the time. It's the same idea for us. If we don't keep up with our own preventative maintenance, how can we fully prosper?

The seminar teaches how important it is for us to consistently renew in the physical, social, emotional, spiritual and mental dimensions. This method of preventative maintenance is vital in understanding that to carry on growing and developing any of the habits, we must remain active in the pursuit of them, or take time to sharpen the saw.

It is great to focus on a goal and do whatever it takes to get there. However, it is vital to use our peripheral vision and look around us to see what we could be missing by always looking straight ahead, centering on our goal. It is when we reflect, examining ourselves and our relationships and our ability to influence and grow, we can begin the journey of becoming effective.

For more information on self-renewal or the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People seminar, please contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at (720) 847-6681.
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