Stephen Covey once told the story of a man who came across a frustrated lumberjack.
The lumberjack was trying to cut down a tree with a saw and was swearing and cursing as he laboured in vain.
“What’s the problem?” The man asked.
“My saw’s blunt and won’t cut the tree properly.” The lumberjack responded.
“Why don’t you just sharpen it?”
“Because then I would have to stop sawing.” Said the lumberjack.
“But if you sharpened your saw, you could cut more efficiently and effectively than before.
“But I don’t have time to stop!” The lumberjack retorted, getting more frustrated.
The man shook his head and kept on walking, leaving the lumberjack to his pointless frustration.
This story acts as an analogy for meditation; a counter-intuitive practice that if given time and effort, improves all aspects of your work performance.
It is counter-intuitive for a number of reasons:
You’re taking time out to create more time. By training attention, you’re becoming aware of when you’re becoming distracted and this mindfulness and sustained concentration propels your work processes.
It puts you into direct confrontation with your thoughts. Some days your mind will be calm and focused, other days it will be distracted, agitated or uncomfortable. Becoming equanimous through periods of mind wandering, distracting thoughts and imaginations, enables you to more easily navigate the days ups and downs.
It creates relaxation AND makes you more alert. By taking some time out to rejuvenate, your mind and body get a vital opportunity to refresh and recharge. Your stress levels lower, while at the same time, you’re creating space in the mind to be more attentive.
Just like the saw, your brain needs to be maintained to work at its very best. It is your most precious resource and is responsible for your thoughts, feelings and emotions; the tiny engines that direct and underscore your work day.
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(Reference – Covey, S.R., 1989. Sharpen the Saw)
May 29, 2016