Column: Here’s how to look sharp in 2014

by Father Mark Goldasich

Did you hear about the photographer making small talk with the first-graders whose pictures he was taking?

He asked one little girl, “So, what are you going to be when you grow up?”

“Tired,” she said.

Boy, ain’t that the truth! And the poor little thing won’t have to wait until she’s an adult to feel that way. Tired was the operative word for me after the marathon of Masses during the Christmas season. In any spare time that cropped up in those days, I found myself dozing off. All of that rushing around might be one of the contributing factors to why we’re so susceptible to the various bugs roaming around during the winter: We’re running on empty and have no reserves to battle illness.

I’ve resolved that 2014 will be different in that regard for me. I’ve resurrected something that I’d learned many years ago — but failed to continue — at a Franklin Covey seminar on how to manage time better. The tool is a simple one, called the Weekly Compass. Essentially, at the beginning of a week, you take out a form, look at the various “roles” that you’ll play that week and select one goal to accomplish in each area. For example, a few of my roles are pastor, editor, son, friend, and correspondent. Although that goal section is helpful, it’s the very top of the form that I’m concentrating on. It’s based on a story similar to the following:

Two men had to clear a field of trees. The contract called for them to be paid per tree.

Bill wanted the day to be profitable, so he grunted and sweated, swinging his ax relentlessly. Ed, on the other hand, seemed to be working about half as fast. He even took a rest and sat off to the side for a few minutes. Bill kept chopping away until every muscle and tendon in his body was screaming.

At the end of the day, Bill was terribly sore, but Ed was smiling and telling jokes. What’s more, Ed had cut down more trees. Bill said, “I noticed you sitting while I worked without a break. How did you outwork me?”

“Did you notice I was sharpening my ax while I was sitting?” said Ed, smiling. (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)

Franklin Covey refers to it as “sharpening the saw,” but the idea is the same. It sits at the top of the Weekly Compass form, because nothing much will get done — certainly not as well or efficiently — if we are not “sharp.” With that in mind, seminar participants are directed to make a “sharpening” goal in each of four areas: physical, social, mental and spiritual.

While I’m sure I filled out my compass religiously for a while, I quickly fell out of the habit, being “too busy” with other things. And, as you might suspect, when you lose your compass, you wander around a lot, get tired and rarely reach your goal.

Probably a lot of us are going around in such a state. We’re slaving away at things, but not making much progress. This issue of The Leaven presents some possible ax sharpeners that are easy to implement. The new ReachKCK center, featured on the front page and spread, reminds us of the need for social interaction with others, doing something as simple as conversing over a cup of coffee.

And while a Zumba class might be too strenuous (or embarrassing) for us older folks, the need to keep moving, to get some physical exercise — ideally with a partner or group — remains vitally important.

The article on parish libraries on page 4 is a reminder to sharpen the
ax in both the mental and spiritual areas. Reading is a perfect solution. If there’s not a parish library where you are, you can either start one or download any of the increasing number of excellent e-books (if you got a new Kindle, Nook or tablet at Christmas).

So, if you’re feeling a little dull in this new year, a Weekly Compass may be just what you need to become as sharp as a tack.

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