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Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening my ax.

-Abraham Lincoln

Persistence and drive are noble qualities in human beings.  We can set a goal, put blinders on and break down the doors until we find an opening.  These qualities have created champions, life saving inventions, men who walked on the moon.  However, what happens when the blinders we put on hide new possibilities and openings for action?  We become lost in the forest and our view is only of the trees immediately in front of us.  We can no longer see the whole landscape, the big picture.

There is the story of an earnest, young martial arts student who went to the teacher and said “I am devoted to studying your martial system.  How long will it take me to master it?”

The teacher’s reply was a casual “About ten years.”

Impatiently the student answered “I was to master it faster than that, I will work very hard.  I will practice every day, 10 or more hours a day if I have to.  How long will it take then?”

The teacher thought for a moment, “About twenty years.”

This is a lesson similar to Abraham Lincoln’s words “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, I will sharpen my ax for 4 of the hours.”   Blindly moving forward is just that…BLIND.  In life it is important to stop, breathe and clear your mind.  There are so many things we cannot see, so many things we don’t even know we don’t know.  Trust in this empty space.  This is sharpening your ax in life.  Let things be, clear, and uninterrupted each day.  Sit in meditation, take a walk, listen to music, anything but WORKING HARDER and things will come to you.  Trust in your intuition and the answers will come.  This is akin to traveling on a journey and occasionally stopping to check your coordinates on the map.

As hard as it may seem, the busier you become the more you need to sharpen your ax.  Take off the blinders and let go.  Do not wait until there is urgency, sharpening your ax is like drinking water to hold off dehydration.  If you wait until you are thirsty it is too late.  Put time in your calendar for YOU time.  This is time on your own without interruption to clear your mind.  This is your time to reflect, to invigorate, to let the universe speak to you.  Hold yourself to this time and do not compromise your schedule.  This is your time.  This is sharpening your ax.  This is finding peace within yourself.

Call to Action:

        • Schedule time each day on your calendar to reflect, to meditate, to pray.  Time alone in reflection.
        • Look at your life, where are you pressing too hard?  Where are you in the thick of the forest?  Get present to these areas in your life and find time for reflection.

Thomas D. Craig

Author A Cup of Buddha

Writer. Seeker. Adventurer. Warrior