How sharp is your saw?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Millward
  • 344th Air Refueling Squadron
As members of the United States military, we are busy. I know I didn't need to tell you that, but we all know it's true. We are fighting three different wars and trying to aid as many allies as we can while also being down-sized.

When demands are placed on our time, we have to prioritize what we will accomplish in the time allotted. When we are busy, it is very easy to neglect taking care of ourselves, but if we neglect ourselves, our health, our relationships with our family and friends or our job performance, will inevitably suffer We cannot effectively care for and serve others and our great country if our lives are off balance.

If a carpenter wants to build something, he needs to ensure his carpentry tools are in good shape. They must be clean and sharp to be effective. The carpenter has to put time and effort into ensuring his tools are ready for the task ahead. Likewise, we must put time and effort into ensuring we are ready for our tasks. Dr. Stephen Covey, author of "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," calls this "Sharpening the Saw."

Dr. Covey discusses four areas into which we must invest our time and effort to ensure we are effective. These areas are: physical, spiritual, social/emotional and mental.

As you've no doubt noticed, our Air Force leadership has placed much more emphasis on physical fitness than in the past. Why? When we are fit physically, we are more able to perform in stressful situations and we can work harder for a longer amount of time. We can think more clearly and make better decisions. If on the battlefield, we can carry ourselves and our equipment more easily. In the long term, it will helps us avoid a slew of illnesses which can result in disability or death. All these factors make it clear that physical fitness is of utmost importance to us and to the Air Force.

Spiritual health gives us a moral compass so we can make decisions based on correct principles. If you are active in a religion, you should allow time for prayer and scripture study. You must take time for meditation and introspection.
Believe me when I tell you I know how difficult this can be especially when we're busy, but I believe the times when we're most busy are when we need to tend to our spiritual health the most.

We, as human beings, fill our emotional needs by interacting with other human beings. There is no substitute for face-to-face social interaction. Spending too much time by ourselves upsets our emotional balance. We need to connect with our friends and family on a regular basis to reestablish that balance.

The former 22nd Air Refueling Wing Commander, Col. Jamie Crowhurst, emphasized that we as Airmen need to be innovators. We need to sharpen our minds to accomplish this. We need to expose our minds to new and different ideas and concepts so we can aggrandize upon them and become more innovative. This is why the Air Force expends so much time and money into education within its ranks.

We should "Sharpen the Saw," or spend time and energy in all of these areas on a daily basis. Taking care of our physical, spiritual, social/emotional and mental needs will allow us to be more effective and will ultimately lead to a more effective Air Force. This is essential to maintaining our personal and professional viability in an ever changing world.