Am I Taking Care of Me?

Am I Taking Care of Me?

An Art of the Question Blog

Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.

                                                                                                      -  Solomon

Imagine being nine feet in the air, standing on a flimsy board stuck in a slot that was cut into a tree trunk. Got that picture in your mind?

Great. Now imagine that you are trying to set a new world record for chopping. By chopping, I mean that you are trying to chop through a 12-inch diameter aspen log – using a hand-held ax.

So there you are up in the air on a rickety board that behaves pretty much like a diving board. It moves with every swing of your ax, threatening to dump your sweaty backside to the ground. Pretty tricky, right?

Now, imagine that you are trying to set this new world record using a dull ax.

I know, I know, not very smart. But that is what many of us do, every day of our life. We go out and attack the day, the project, the goal, the sale, whatever we have in our sights to accomplish that day. And we do it with a dull ax.

By the way, there really is a competition event exactly like the one described above. It is called the Springboard Chop. In the real world of logging, this technique allows a working lumberjack to reach the softer wood often found above the base of the tree. The wood of the base is generally tougher and filled with more knots. So the lumberjack climbs above the tough wood, cuts a slot in the tree, inserts a base board, and starts chopping.

In competition, the World Record for the Springboard Chop is held by Dave Bolstead. In 2003, he chopped through a 12-inch log in 41.15 seconds. That’s right. 12 inches in less than three-quarters of one minute.

Tommy Sanders is a television commentator for the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series. Asked about Bolstead, Sanders said, “He trained incessantly. He studied every chop made by every competitor.” One of the analysts on the show called Bolstead “The Professor”. He was focused on learning and being the best in his field.

Dave Bolstead started chopping wood when he was five years old, and by the time he began competing, had amassed a lifetime of chopping knowledge and technique.

One of the things Dave would no doubt tell us is that perhaps the most important thing to do when you are attempting a new world record in chopping is to be sure your ax is sharp.

OK, so you are not a lumberjack, and have no interest in setting a new world record in chopping. What does any of this have to do with you? Well, we aren’t really talking about an ax made of steel and wood. We’re talking about an emotional ax, a spiritual ax, a mental ax. We’re talking about keeping ourselves in tip-top condition so that we can accomplish all our goals and dreams.

One of the problems for those of us who are Type-A-Driven personalities is that we only have one speed – full speed ahead. But any strength, overdone, becomes a weakness.  If we commit ourselves to going full-out 100% of the time and never take time to refresh ourselves, we are doomed to failure.  

Stephen Covey, in his amazing book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has a chapter called Sharpen the Saw, which he calls the 7th Habit. He wrote:

Sharpen 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, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples of activities:

  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

 Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived. Here is his take on this concept:

Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist based at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. She said, “Focus, willpower, and the ability to tackle difficult projects all draw from a limited reserve of energy. When you deplete these reserves–whether through sleep deprivation, which alters how the brain and body use energy, or through pushing too hard on too many projects–the quality of your work plummets, along with the usual pleasure of working on something important, such as doing good science.” It’s biological. “No one can afford to skip rest, and anyone’s work will be refreshed and restored from some time off.”

So how do you know if your ax needs sharpening? Most of the time, we have a good inner sense of when we need some down time. Usually, we know there is a problem, but may be challenged to correct the problem. But just in case, here are some symptoms that the folks at the Mayo Clinic put together:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

Any of these ring a bell? If so, here are some helpful thoughts for how to sharpen your ax:

  • Start the day with a little less intensity – change the alarm from that unnerving give-me-a-heart-attack blare to a more sedate wake-up sound. Have cup of coffee. Meditate, pray, commune with nature. Listen to some inspirational music or stories on the way to the office. (P.S. Would you be interested in an audio version of the Art of the Question blogs professionally recorded on CD? Send me an email at terry@terrynewberry.com and let me know!)
  • Laugh – There are hundreds of languages, but we all laugh the same. A study done in 2005 by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center linked laughter and the healthy function of blood vessels. There are even studies showing a correlation between laughter and pain relief. Maybe the Three Stooges had it right!
  • Watch your inputs and outputs – what we put into our bodies affects us; our energy level and our stamina. What are you fueling your body with? How about rest – the machine needs time to repair and regenerate. What are you putting into your mind? Is it wholesome and uplifting, or does it cause worry and anxiety? Are you exercising? According to WebMD, experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise daily. But they also say that just 10 minutes of moderate exercise helped liven up the day.  
  • Just say no – set limits and boundaries. Know what your goals are, and be rigorous about defending your time. If it isn’t in alignment with your goals, let it go. It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but it will pay big dividends by helping you be more focused on your goals and critical tasks.
  • E-mail, Schme-mail – Put it away. Turn it off. Unplug. Disconnect. Revert. Go old-school. Whatever you call it, do it. Get unlinked for a period every day – and not just when you’re sleeping!
  • Draw the line, and then draw the line – once you set boundaries, be sure to get involved in some creative outlet. This works a completely different part of your brain than is normally engaged in daily problem solving. I can usually tell when I am getting out of balance because my creativity begins to diminish. Writing, woodworking and photography are some of the creative outlets that I enjoy.

I was in New York recently doing some speaking engagements. I spent the better part of a day in Central Park trying to capture the spirit of the city through my camera lens. I came away from that experience with a renewed sense of zeal about my work.

 As a friend told me recently, there is a reason the flight attendants on airlines tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help someone else with theirs. Take care of you first, or there won’t be enough of you left to take care of anything – or anyone – else.

Imagine the possibilities.

Terry

 Terry’s new book, The Boss, is available now in hardback, softcover, audiobook or kindle versions. Go to terrynewberry.com/theboss to place your order. Also available through Amazon.com.

Terry D. Newberry is a motivational teacher and certified lifecoach.  His client list includes BellSouth, AT&T, Auburn University, Children’s Hospital, UAB, and others. Contact Terry for bookings or appointments at terry@terrynewberry.com

terrynewberry.com

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About terry newberry

Business Consulting, Seminars, Motivational teacher - Terry is a certified personal coach. He has served in leadership roles as Executive VP, VP Finance and CFO of several multinational companies. He is an award winning writer and speaker who has traveled throughout the U.S. and internationally consulting businesses and speaking in seminars, workshops and keynote addresses. Terry's client list includes Auburn University, the University of Alabama, Children's Hospital, Wake Med Hospital, Inquest, and Fortune 100 companies like AT&T and Bellsouth. terrynewberry.com terrydnewberry@bellsouth.net 205.296.7679 View all posts by terry newberry

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