Sharpening the saw in 2020

I don’t know what word you would use to describe 2020, but I’m calling it disruptive. The economy, health infrastructure, culture, and daily routines are a few areas in our world that have been tilted this year. My biggest struggle of 2020 so far has been navigating an unbounded furlough for the last three months and competing for jobs in a depressed labor market with millions of other Americans. Others are dealing with the death or sickness of loved ones.  Some are struggling with how to respond to social injustices. While others of us are just tired of sheltering-in-place and fearful to go outside. To me, disruptive events like what we are experiencing help to bring the benefits of self-reflection to the forefront. 

So I ask, will we let 2020 be a year to forget or we will use this time to improve and be better for it?

Business professionals love the concept of self-reflection and personal improvement. Stephen Covey wrote about it as the 7th habit of successful people to sharpen the saw. In Lean teachings, it’s referred to as Hansei which is to acknowledge mistakes and pledge improvement. Jim Collins even mentions self-reflection as a contributor to helping individuals evolve to level 5 leaders

To combat the disruption of 2020, I’m replying with a counterpunch. I’m motivated and determined to reach the end of 2020 in a better place than when I started it. But not just for me, but also for my family, friends, and those in my circles of life. Here are a few of the things I’m doing to improve in 2020 (I’ll use the 7th habit of sharpening the saw as a guide):

Social/Emotional: When the events of George Floyd’s death were made public, I did something I’ve never done before. I called two of my friends who are black to have a candid conversation with them about race relations in America. I started each conversation by asking how their family was during this time and then intentionally listened as they spoke. This action opened the door for other conversations, and I expect them to continue.  A small gesture, but one I could control in my circle of friends and a way to make more meaningful connections with others.

Physical: Let’s just call it insanity. Two walks a day with my wife and the dog (1-2 miles each). Run every other day (4-5 miles) and Shaun T Insanity workouts each night with my daughter. I’m in the best shape of my life! But make no mistake, the real prize here is spending time with my family. We are connecting in purposeful conversations and building memories.

Mental: I’ve taken online classes for fundamentals in data science, Azure, and DevOps.  I’m spending 20-30 minutes a day relearning and improving my skills in Spanish. This is a mix of business and personal goals and an area I’ve neglected over the past few years.

Spiritual: In a world full of anger and division, I have been attracted to the wisdom of the teaching to “Love the Lord your God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.”  I’ve been motivated to take the spiritual concept of loving my neighbor and turn it into action through volunteering my time to my local church and youth associations. My wife and I meet every other week with a small group of friends to discuss spiritual matters and how to put our faith into action. This is a journey. 

What about you? Are you using self-reflection and sharpening the saw to make 2020 a year worthwhile? I’d love to hear what things you are doing to make yourself and your community a better place in 2020.

Onward and upward!

Photo credit: – Jason Pettitt via Creative Commons