Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

We all use tools to help us throughout our day. The condition and quality of those tools is essential to how we perform: a sushi chef requires sharp knives for the perfect slice, a painter washes and dries his brushes so they may be used again, a potter keeps unused clay moist so it is easy to work with. Caring for our tools makes us better at what we do. In our everyday lives, we also rely on tools to perform at our best: our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Built into our philosophy at Almond Acres’ is the mission to grow children’s heart, mind, body and soul. Along with that growth, we teach our students that it’s important to balance work with rest and renewal. Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw is all about finding balance. 

Almond Acres students wearing red t-shirts with a running number and a teacher wave at the camera

Sharpen the Saw

You probably know what it feels like to “have a dull saw.” It may show up as exhaustion or disinterest. It may feel like a 3rd cup of coffee to get going for the day. For kids, it may be that feeling right before bedtime, when they’ve hit the wall and even going to bed sounds impossible. It feels like being “hangry” (angry because you are hungry) just before dinner because you missed lunch. In short, it’s no fun. 

If we continually seek improvement without caring for ourselves, we will experience burnout—our saws will dull. And without a sharp saw, we can’t continue to grow and be at our best. 

How Do We Do It?

Rest and relaxation isn’t all about sitting on the sofa to watch tv (although, if that is rejuvenating to you, do it!). We have to pay attention to our whole selves. Here are some examples of activities that renew us as we seek balance:

Heart: “Carefree timelessness” in meaningful social connections with family, friends, and community members are revitalizing. Laughing with a friend and having fun is a great way to strengthen your heart. 

Mind: Reading great books, journaling, and engaging in puzzling activities stimulates your brain and sharpens your focus. Learning is one way to take care of your brain!

Body: A healthy dose of sleep, diet, and exercise. Are you moving your body everyday? Have you filled up on nourishing food? Are you getting adequate sleep? No one can keep moving on an empty tank.

Soul: Enter the “classroom of silence”. Expand your spiritual self through prayer, meditation, art, music, or spending time in nature. Any activity that fills your cup is rejuvenating to your soul. 

As we renew each part of ourselves, we leave room for growth and change. We increase our capacity, our resilience in the face of challenge, and our ability to give. Self-care is not selfish!

An Almond Acres student journals while looking out toward the rocks and sea

Sharpening the saw for children might look different from an adult. It might mean learning to rest after a busy day at school by relaxing with a good book or painting. Or maybe your child balances a passion for video games with breaks outside to move his body and breathe fresh air. Finding balance is deeply personal and how we do that will change as we grow.

In a world that teaches us that we must constantly be moving and doing, Almond Acres aims to help students seek balance. We model rest and recharging so that we can be at our best, everyday. How do you sharpen your saw? How do you help your children sharpen their saws?  

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Almond Acres Charter Academy students are growing their hearts and minds this week by focusing on win-win thinking and creating positive outcomes for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at Habit #4: Think Win-Win and how this type of thinking can help us grow into Highly Effective People.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student views an image through a viewfinder while another student waits patiently behind her for her turn
What might we find when we use a different lens? Like these AACA kids in a pre-Covid world, our thinking shifts when we try on a new perspective. 

Contrary to what might pop into our heads at first glance, win-win thinking isn’t about giving in, giving up, or giving a trophy to both teams. It’s about cooperation, collaboration, community, and creative thinking!

Win-Win thinking is cooperating to seek a solution that leaves both sides happy with the outcome. Our success does not have to be framed by another’s failure. That concept of win/lose is expected in a board game or a tennis match, but life and relationships are not competitions. Instead of competing, we ask: How can we re-frame a problem so everyone can win? 

Creative Thinking

Win-win requires flexible and creative thinking—it pushes your brain to try something new. And using your brain is fun! Win-win thinking recognizes that there is more than one solution to the decisions and challenges of the world. We aim to help children see that their way plus your way may be the best way

Creative thinking and problem-solving are woven into all of our studies and projects at AACA. The tracks children set down in their brains when they solve a complex math problem or build a tall tower out of wooden blocks also support the ability to look at a social problem and come up with multiple solutions. All of our learning is connected!  

Six Almond Acres Charter Academy students of varying ages sit together on the floor in a circle to work on a project.
When we work together towards a common goal, we can think bigger and honor everyone’s ideas.  The sky is the limit!

Abundant Heart

Thinking win-win cultivates empathy and healthy relationships. If we seek first to listen to and understand the feelings and ideas of our family, friends, and colleagues, we are taking the first step to a win-win situation. 

We can approach relationships with an abundant heart and the belief that there is more than enough to go around. Win-Win thinking means that sharing is not losing. Young children can easily understand that if you cut a pizza the right way, everyone can have a piece. 

We practice perspective-taking when we think about what other people may want or need. We can put our immediate desires on hold so that both parties can be happy. Win-win thinking means we are maturing and building empathy and patience!

Thinking win-win can be a challenge at first, but with time and practice, we see that it is the best way forward. We encourage our students to reflect on what makes this tough, walk a minute in their neighbor’s shoes, and look at situations with a creative lens to come up with new solutions. 

When have you created a win-win situation? 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Think Win-Win: The Habit of Mutual Benefit!

“Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody – that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense of others.” – Stephen Covey

We have 100,000,000,000 neurons in our brains and each can connect to 10,000 of its neighbors. This is how we can have win-win. Recognizing that there are so many answers to the decisions and challenges of the world. Seeking first to understand the feelings, ideas, and solutions of our family, friends, and colleagues is the best way to start a win-win. Helping children to recognize that their way plus your way may be the best way. But it takes time and energy to stop an listen. I encourage us to find the time to create win-win experiences for our children. 

Mother’s Day was a great example of thinking win-win. If our families appreciate our mom’s often enough and express it with kindness and carefree timelessness, our mom’s are better mom’s. In the long run, when someone else wins, other’s do too. Thinking win-win is the only good alternative to healthy relationships. 

Practice

  • Heart – Speak to one another at the same eye level with a cheerful countenance – even when it’s hard.
  • Mind – Solve an equation together so that each person’s smarts can become the others’.
  • Body – Exercising together is a great encourager. 
  • Soul – Talk about personal dreams and how your family can help each person’s come true. As we look into the summer fun time this might be a very important conversation. 

Learning Links

Sharpen the Saw: Be Strong in Key Moments

As you attempt to win your Daily Private Victory (AKA, sharpening your saw; heart, mind, body, & soul), you’ll encounter obstacles. These difficult, pivotal moments include such things as:
  • Getting up on time (“mind over mattress”)
  • Controlling your temper and not saying the unkind thing
  • Disciplining yourself to eat healthy foods
  • Sticking to your reading regimen when you are busy
When you discipline yourself to make it through these decisive moments, you will reap great rewards.
Ways to Practice
Heart – Spend some carefree timelessness with family and friends.
Mind – Tell your brain what you want to do. Skip the “try” word. Use “will”!
Body – Say yes to a good walk, meal, and night sleep.
Soul – Enter the classroom of silence and have a nice chat with yourself.
Learning Links

What Gets Fed, Flourishes

What we feed grows and becomes something powerful. Putting our values and priorities first in our lives lets us live the life we wish for. I have been told that when I feel too busy that I am probably busy on things I shouldn’t be busy with. When we are focused on priorities in our heart, mind, body, and soul we tend to feel very satisfied with how we are spending our time and experience greater joy in life. Balancing life really means that we stop juggling our life. People who are good at saying no to quadrants three and four do a great job filling their time in quadrant two and are able to handle quadrant one episodes.

In last week’s habit, we talked about beginning with the end in mind. When we plan our week to the best of our knowledge, we tend to be at peace when saying no to opportunities that interrupt our plans. This is exactly what the word discipline means: to learn and habituate behaviors. Using a planning tool clarifies and maps how we want to spend our time. It gives us a pathway that leads to a healthier lifestyle: heart, mind, body, and soul.

Take time this week to review each area of your child’s life–heart, mind, body, and soul–and ask if there is enough time and effort placed on the things throughout the week.
Heart – relationships
Mind – academic success
Body – sleep, diet, & exercise/play
Soul – music & spiritual/personal development
Key Concepts from the “Leader in Me” Curriculum
Focus on your highest Priorities (Quadrant 2)Eliminate the unimportant (Quadrant 3 & 4)Plan your week.Stay true to your big rocks.
Learning Links

Inventiveness: Begin With the End in Mind

Inventiveness is born in an environment that allows a mind to explore, experiment, dabble, play, risk, and fail. Playdough, legos, or lincoln logs aren’t just toys to pass the time. They provide a tool for the imagination and the development of essential critical thinking and reasoning skills for our future inventors, entrepreneurs, and engineers. Studying every subject in the curriculum encourages inventive thinking when the subject is treated with wonder and awe.
It is our role as parents and educators to present it that way. According to Tony Wagner, in his book Creating Innovators, there are three super “p’s” that are ingredients to creating our next generation of great American innovators – Play, Passion, and Purpose. When we allow our children to; use playful imagination, discover their personal passion, and provide purpose in creative endeavors – we fertilize the next generation of innovators. Innovation can be found within each of our heart, mind, body, or soul passions. Whether we are writing a poem, calculating in a spreadsheet, experimenting with a 3d printer, or beating on a drum, innovative thinking produces the wonders and awes of life. Let’s reinvigorate our enthusiasm this week by saying “yes” to the inventive ideas of our children and never robbing them from eureka moments! Allow eureka to spark within the minds of our children!
“It does seem to produce more creative results when there are limitations. It’s like in wartime with rations – people became more inventive with cooking.” – Laura Fraser
“Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.” – Lauren Bacall
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain
Learning Links