What splitting the last log taught me about goals

On Saturday 5 November, I split the last log for this year. I completed a task I had started back in March. My goal of having enough wood cut for winter had been achieved. This is the first winter that I have managed that, every other year, I have had to spend a few hours each week right through the coldest months cutting and splitting more wood.

That is this years wood pile in the photo.

We live in an old farmhouse built in 1902, it is a big old place, with a separate staircase up to a large “East Wing” which is only really used by our cats.

Although it has had newer double glazed windows fitted sometime in the last 20 years, the rest of the insulation is probably not the most efficient.

There is a huge furnace in the basement which can use both wood and oil.

At current prices, it would cost around $1000 a month to heat the house with oil in the coldest months.

We are not rabidly green, but we do have a common sense attitude towards doing our bit to protect the environment.

Because of the cost and pollution of burning oil, we choose to heat the house with wood. We also find that burning wood maintains a more consistent heat than burning oil. Given the age, and size of the house, we burn our way through a lot of wood each winter. We  have a few acres of bush on our property and generally find about 6 large dead trees each year to provide the firewood. Living in a friendly rural community means that we often get offered trees that have either fallen or been cut down to make way for roads, power lines, or some other development.

Luckily, in the 7 years we have lived here, we only had to buy wood the first winter before we got organised with chain saws and a tractor. We bought a large truck load of cut firewood, it looked like a mountain sitting on our lawn. We thought it would last all winter – it lasted 2 months.

A kindly neighbour carted some trees in to our yard for us, we bought a chain saw and borrowed a hydraulic wood splitter. After cutting and splitting, we carted that up to the house one wheelbarrow at a time, 230 or so wheelbarrow trips over the following months, most of them through snow.

That was our first winter in Canada after living in a much warmer climate in Southern Africa for all our lives.

Now we are much better organised, we have a tractor with a loader bucket to cart the wood through the snow to get it into the basement. The tractor pulls dead trees out of the bush and back to the yard  or allows us to collect trees from further afield on a wagon. Fortunately the tractor has a cab (and a heater), it makes clearing snow much easier and quicker than doing it by hand.

Many people ask me if I enjoy all the hours I spend cutting and splitting wood. I have not kept track of exactly how many hours I have spent on this project this year, but it would be over 200, mainly on Sundays. There are other things I enjoy more, but  I do enjoy the exercise and spending time outdoors. It is also satisfying to do some hard physical work as a change to sitting at my desk.

Part of the wood operation teaches me to focus exclusively on the task at hand, chain saws can be dangerous so a high degree of concentration is required when using them. Using a hydraulic splitter is a bit safer, I still have all my fingers and toes so it must be fairly safe. Operating the splitter does allow some quality thinking time away from the distractions of phones and computers.

What I do enjoy is not having to spend thousands of dollars on oil or hundreds on buying wood. Most enjoyable of all is seeing that wood pile grow a bit more every week and finally when (in my case) that 4th stack of cut and split wood is filled.

Each year, my woodcutting project provides me with some very effective lessons for a rewarding  life and a successful business:

  • Goals – I know what my target is.
  • Commitment and discipline – I must do a few hours each week whether I feel like it or not.
  • Planning and organising I must calculate how many trees I need and where to get them.
  • Scheduling – I must spread the work out over a long period so that I can fit it into an already busy schedule.
  • Taking care of the basics, sharpening of chains, equipment maintenance.
  •  Personal safety – using the right equipment and tools.
  • Focusing – falling trees can kill, chain saws can mutilate.
  • Exercise – lifting logs, using a chain saw, stacking wood are all good exercise.
  • Consequences – there will be a significant cost to purchase oil or wood if I do not accomplish my goal.
  • Taking action – until I pull the chain saw starter cord or turn the key in the tractor, nothing happens.

The most important lessons of all are:

  • A huge seemingly impossible goal is not as formidable  when it is broken down into mini goals or small steps.
  • Perseverance – steady, relentless action will eventually get the job done, the goal achieved.
Life has lessons for us everywhere, we just need to be aware and learn from them, it is amazing what simple mundane tasks can teach us and how we can then build on these to become successful in all areas of our lives.

What projects do you learn from? What activities give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction? Leave your comments below.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

Peter Wright



Need help setting goals? Try this:  Goals on Track


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