A young man needed to work, but all he had was an ax that his father left him and his enormous physical strength, so he decided to try his luck at a sawmill.
The owner hired him immediately. As soon as he was assigned his work area, the young man brandished his ax and in one day cut eighteen trees. Encouraged by his productivity, he decided that the next day would improve his own record, so he went to rest early.
In the morning, he got up before anyone else and went to the forest. Although he tried hard, he could not cut more than fifteen trees.
Sad for his poor performance, he thought maybe he should rest longer, so that night he decided to go to bed with the sunset. At dawn he got up determined to overcome his 18-tree record. However, that day he only cut ten.
The next day were seven, then five, until at the end of that first week of work he only cut two. He could not understand what was happening to him, so he thought that maybe the first day he had had a stroke of luck and that he really was not so good for that job. He decided to present his resignation, so he went to the foreman:
– Sir, I do not know what’s happening to me, I do not understand why I stopped performing at my job. I’d better leave it.
The foreman, who was a very wise man, asked him:
-When did you sharpen your ax the last time?
-Sharpen? I have never done it, I did not have time to sharpen my ax, I could not waste time on that, I was very busy cutting trees.
Following the foreman’s advice, the young woodcutter, between a tree and another, began to devote part of his time to sharpening the ax. So he could cut more trees.
There is a moment for action and another for reflection
This interesting story reflects our modern life. To all of us happens the same than to the young woodcutter: we are very busy, running from one place to another, taking care of tasks that seem so important that we neglect ourselves, we forget the psychological preparation necessary to face those tasks effectively. As a result, it is not strange that we have to strive more and more just to achieve worse results, that we end up physically and mentally exhausted.
Søren Kierkegaard had already warned us: “We pursue the pleasure with such haste that we are out of breath and hurry to leave it behind”. The philosopher meant that we live too hastily to be able to enjoy the small conquests or to prepare adequately for the problems we have to face.
We live by impulse, without stopping, without programming, without thinking. Therefore, it is normal that our mind is blocked and we begin to suffer stress, chronic fatigue and diseases of all kinds. Even at that moment, when we realize that we are not well, we move on without thinking that perhaps we should pause to reconsider what we are doing, how we are doing it and why.
We must remember that sometimes we don’t fall by weakness but for having been too strong for too long. We must avoid reaching that point. The secret of inner strength lies not in being strong against all odds but in knowing when it is time to stop and regain strength.
How to sharpen our “mental ax”?
The Roman emperor Augustus used to say to his assistants: “Hurry up slowly.” He referred to the need to do things consciously, to avoid unnecessary mistakes that forced us to retrace our steps making us lose more time and energy. Therefore, we must make sure to take conscious steps in our life.
We can start with these questions:
– Are you resting enough or don’t have a free minute in your agenda? Not having a minute is not good. We all need time to rest, to be alone with ourselves, away from the daily noise and the stimuli that continually bombard us and overload our nervous system. Loneliness and silence are essential to rediscover strength and inner peace. The rest time is not wasted time, it is time essential to recharge your emotional battery.
– Do you have clear your priorities or are you facing the gaps as they arise? If you are always doing something, you will end up absorbed by the whirlwind of routine. You are facing the setbacks as they appear, without asking you if they really are important. In this way, the little things of the day to day become a black hole that absorbs your time and energy. On the other hand, limiting yourself to react every time a problem arises generates a deep sense of lack of control, which is very damaging to your mental balance because you begin to feel that you are at the mercy of destiny. That is the prelude to learned helplessness. Therefore, instead of responding automatically and running to solve this inconsequential problem, learn how to prioritize.
– How else can you do the things? Make sure you practice introspection, look inside yourself and understand what is happening to you. Maybe you are dedicating too much time and effort to the others or your work, and you are neglecting it. Ask yourself how you can achieve a more satisfying balance. Why do you do what you do? It’s really worth it? Are you in tune with your values and goals in life? Remember that there is always another way of doing things, maybe it is not the shortest way but it may be the one that generates less stress.