Can exercise make you a better person?

sharpen sawI just started reading the last chapter of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey last night. I highly recommend reading it from start to finish if you haven’t read it. It is truly a life-changing book. It was published in the late 1980s, but every single piece of advice still holds true today.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, the last chapter is about “sharpening your saw.” Covey shares a story about a man who has been trying to cut down a tree for several hours and is completely exhausted. Another man approaches him and suggests that he stop cutting for a few minutes so he can sharpen his saw and get the tree down faster. The first man is shocked. Clearly this second man doesn’t realize that the tree needs his constant cutting. He certainly can’t take a break to sharpen his saw. There’s jut not enough time.

How often do we treat ourselves like that saw? We work nonstop from the time we get out of bed until the time we crawl back into it. We don’t dare take too much time for ourselves or we’ll never get through our to-do lists. The few times we do stop to take care of ourselves, we feel guilty. We should be taking care of our families or finishing up that report that’s due next week.

Unfortunately, this mentality leads to low energy, inability to focus, illness, and feeling cranky. Covey starts the chapter by discussing the importance of taking care of our physical bodies. If we don’t make time to take care of our bodies, we become less productive in both our professional and personal lives. How can we possibly perform at our best when our bodies are exhausted? I know a lot of people insist that exercise makes them tired. I also know that those same people are shocked when they feel better just a few minutes into their workouts. They forget by the very next day how much better exercise makes them feel. The good news is that those good feelings come back quickly, so just get started!

What if you can’t exercise? My youngest sister uses a wheelchair and likes to remind me that she’s still healthy despite the fact that she can’t exercise. Even if you can’t exercise, you can still sharpen your physical saw. Eat an extra serving of vegetables. Have a turkey and spinach sandwich instead of a baloney and cheese sandwich. Get some fresh air.

Maybe you don’t care about your health or your looks, but I bet you care about your career and your family. It’s impossible to give your best self to the people and activities that are most important to you if you’re not taking care of yourself. Write down one action that you can take within the next week to sharpen your own saw. Then take action and do it!

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