Sharpening the Ax: Applying Diligence to Your Life

Use the upcoming season to focus on self-improvement and becoming your best self

Sharpening the Ax: Applying Diligence to Your Life
Practice a skill or try a new hobby. You might be surprised at how you rise to the challenge. (Rawpixel/Getty)
Barbara Danza

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.”

As summer dissipates and autumn calls us back to routine, the time is ripe for revisiting our habits, levels of diligence, and the ways in which we plan and prepare for the work ahead. In short, how we sharpen our ax.

In order to live to one’s fullest potential, diligent care must be given to the aspects of life that impact everything else. There are always improvements to be made in each of these important life categories, and consistent attention to them ensures that you’re prepared to show up, do well the work you’re meant to do, and handle the challenges that inevitably come along.

So as you pack away your bathing suits and sip your pumpkin spice latte, consider each of these and what you can do each day to improve. Here are a few simple suggestions.

Physical Fitness

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank your level of physical fitness? If it isn't a 10, what can you do to improve? (If it is a 10, what can you do to maintain that?)
Rather than revamping your entire diet and exercise regimen starting tomorrow, what small changes can you make to improve? Maybe, you’ll schedule a walk before breakfast, or place a grocery order of only clean, unprocessed foods.


The thoughts that we think have a huge impact on our lives. Nobody communicates with you more than you do—what are you saying to yourself?

How can you improve the quality of your thoughts? Are you hindering your progress in some areas with negative thinking? Are you weighing yourself down with judgments of others, complaints, or self-criticism?

Aim this season to recognize the quality of your thoughts. Then, practice nurturing more positive thoughts as time goes on.

Financial Fitness

Summertime can lull us into a lax state when it comes to financial fitness. With the new season, reinvigorate your resolve to work toward your financial goals. Whether you’re working your way out of debt, saving for a home, starting a business, or getting ready to put your kids through college, evaluate your financial state and take a step toward progress.

A simple way to jump-start improvement is to utilize automation. Schedule a regular payment to tackle a debt each month (or twice a month), or send a specific amount to savings to reach a particular goal. Did you know that if you put $27.40 in savings every day for a year, you’d have $10,000?

As you afford more attention to your finances, you may find yourself mastering your budget, preparing for larger expenses, and investing wisely for your future.


Personal relationships have taken a hit over the past couple of years. What can you do to improve this area of your life?
Reach out to an old friend, send someone a card, schedule a visit, or simply give an extra hug to someone at home. The key is to put some focus on your relationships and aim to incrementally improve them.

Intellectual Development

Continual learning can improve your life in unpredictable ways. Replace an hour of television or phone scrolling with reading. Practice a skill or dabble in some new hobbies. You may be surprised at how your mind rises to the challenge.

Spiritual Development

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, focus on your spiritual life and your understanding of the biggest questions that you can conceive. Seeking wisdom, calming your mind, experiencing inner peace, and aiming to comprehend the fundamental meaning of life are worthwhile endeavors deserving of your diligent attention.
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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