The Client-centred Blog

Are you sharpening the saw?

It’s important for financial advisers to consider self-care and their mental wellbeing in order to best serve their clients.

Are you taking time to ‘sharpen the saw’?

In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’, he shares an analogy about sharpening the saw:

Suppose you were to come across someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

“What are you doing?” you ask.

“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”

“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”

“Over five hours” he returns, “and I’m beat. This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you enquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy working!”

How can you be the best version of yourself more of the time?

Covey uses the ‘Sharpening the saw’ metaphor in relation to looking after yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself far more of the time.

When providing financial advice to clients, being the best version of yourself is important because this helps to bring out the best in your client and have them do their best thinking.

One thing I noticed during the covid lockdown was how many more people were using their time to ‘sharpen the saw’.

As I was going out for my bike rides, I noticed far more people cycling, running and families spending time together. I also read how normally sleep-deprived people are taking much-needed rest. Other people learned new skills or nurtured their spiritual growth.

Yet under usual circumstances, I wonder how many of us neglect our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being?

And at what cost?

We fool ourselves that we are just too busy, it is not important enough, or that we’ll get around to it someday!

You cannot compartmentalise your life

How can you expect to get the best out of yourself in some areas of your life if you are neglecting yourself in others?

One of the most valuable insights I ever got was from well known psychologist George Pransky.

What lead me to discover George’s work was being curious as to why some people have a powerful, positive impact on their clients, whilst others have very little. What was making the difference?

George pointed out that the level of mental and emotional well-being of the practitioner is the most significant component in the impact their work has on their clients.

I realised this was just as true for financial planners as any other professional.

If you are a financial planner a crucial question is:

Am I displaying the level of well-being I want to bring out in my clients?”

Sharpening the saw is instinctive, even for financial advisers…

When your mind is clear and healthy you look after yourself because it is built into life. How do you know this?

Simply observe nature.

My home office looks out onto my garden and I often watch birds taking a bath in the pond. They preen their feathers, they sing, and they spread out their wings in the sun. They instinctively know what to do to stay healthy because their life depends upon it.

Humans become disconnected from instinctively looking after themselves because they think too much. They get into a busy state of mind and ignore their innate wisdom.

But you never lose it. As soon as you allow your mind to relax you pay more attention to what is basically common sense.

Why did people start looking after themselves better during lockdown?

Some people will say it is because they now have time, but this is not the whole picture.

It is because they became more conscious. Their mind quietened down enough so that they reconnected to their deeper intelligence rather than living with a mind constantly full of ‘noise’.

From this place ‘sharpening the saw’ makes complete sense.

P.S. What activity can you add into your daily life to help you feel even more renewed, refreshed and on top of your game?


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