By EJ Qua Hiansen, Deputy Group CFO of Phinma Corp and Chairman of the Junior FINEX Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) Research Development Foundation

*As published in the Business Mirror, May 12, 2023

ABRAHAM Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I spent last year, sharpening my axe in preparation for an expanded role at work this year and there were two habits that I have continued to use: coaching and journaling. The combination of these two has allowed me to have a clearer mind and better focus not just in my professional life but in my personal life as well.

I had reservations about coaching prior to trying it out. My executive coach is Julius C. Ordoñez who is the founder and president of Benchmark Consulting Global Ltd. as well as the Philippines’s first International Coach Federation-certified “Master Coach.” Upon our first meeting, I really saw the value in Julius helping to put me in the best position for me to succeed. We met on a regular basis and Julius would always ask me what I wanted to achieve in each session. Mainly he would listen and guide me toward eliminating self-limiting beliefs and setting clearer goals. From being a skeptic, I became a real advocate for people to engage a coach.

As someone who grew up playing competitive sports, I have always valued having a good coach that could help develop me in terms of strategy, fundamentals, and tactics. As an adult, I have embraced that these same principles apply to an executive coach as well. Similar to getting in more repetitions outside of training and putting up more shots, there is a lot of room to continue with self-development.

Julius also brought up my self-coaching quite a bit and this is related to my second point, the value of journaling. As Stephen Covey wrote in “Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success,” “Keeping a personal journal—a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences—is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them.”

I have gotten into the habit of starting my day with a cup of coffee and 15 minutes to 20 minutes of time journaling, spending that time sharpening the axe to prepare for the day. The benefits of it are numerous, first, it gives me time to wake up my mind slowly and it helps me start the day centered. I write about anything under the sun. Sometimes it’s a reflection, sometimes it’s more about self-care and sometimes I focus on gratitude. Anything under the sun is fair game.

The benefits of both the coaching and the journaling have been immense as I feel more confident and have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish. I find myself managing stress much better, focusing on what is really important. Re-reading my earlier journal entries, I’m struck by how much more organized my thoughts are.

One of my favorite sayings is by the author Will Durant, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” I also feel the benefit of coaching and journaling on a habitual basis. I know that I am taking proactive steps to look after myself. I’ve been able to set tangible, measurable goals such as with regard to my physical fitness as well. I then have a channel to review my progress toward those goals. It’s an ongoing process as no one is perfect but it is a process that I am enjoying undertaking. We live in volatile times with numerous business challenges and while the road ahead might be murky, it is important to develop the tools to make sure that our minds are clear. Coaching and journaling are two of the tools that I use to keep sharpening my axe.