Category Archives: Resilience

Here is the Method that Will Help You Reach Your Goals

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayeitzei – Genesis 28:10-32:3

Periodically, Melanie argues we should leave Los Angeles. The cost of living and taxes are outrageous. Despite building a light rail system, traffic gets worse each year. Materialism pervades everywhere. But the conversation bogs down because we can’t just leave L.A. We have to go somewhere else. Until we have the clarity Jacob gets in Parshas Vayeitzei, I guess we’ll stay put:

“And Jacob went out from Beer-Sheba, and he went to Haran.” (Beresheis/Genesis 28:10)

Here Is the Method that Will Help You Reach Your Goals

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Jacob fleeing to his uncle Laban’s house. On the way there he has an encounter with G-d. Jacob meets Rachel and falls in love. He agrees to work seven years so he can marry her. The morning after his wedding he finds himself married to Leah. So he agrees to work another seven years to marry Rachel.

Next Jacob and his wives have eleven sons, who become leaders of the tribes, and one daughter.  Jacob and Laban make a new work contract. But eventually, the discord between them becomes so great Jacob flees with his household. At the end of the parsha, Laban and Jacob reach détente.

Know Why You’re Going

We know from the previous parsha that Isaac was living in Beer-Sheba. The Torah tells us Jacob went to Haran. But it also says he went out from Beer-Sheba. Umm, duh. He couldn’t have gotten to Haran without leaving Beer-Sheba. The Torah doesn’t waste words, so why does it tell us this?

Jacob needed to follow two directives. Rebecca told him to get away from the danger of Esau wanting to kill him. And Isaac instructed him to marry one of Laban’s daughters. Jacob performed both duties. By leaving Beer-Sheba, he did what his mother commanded him. And by going to Haran he did as his father commanded.

Okay, so Jacob obeyed his parents. But the 10 Commandments will make it clear we have to do that. Again there’s that repetition problem.

Rebecca’s and Isaac’s directives converged into one large goal. They wanted to ensure Jacob was fit to fulfill what G-d had in mind. If Esau killed him, he could not physically assume the mantle of leadership from Isaac. If he chose the wrong wife, he would not be fit mentally and spiritually to lead.

Give Yourself Two Motives to Reach Your Goals

Every worthwhile goal has two parts to it:

  1. Moving toward something
  2. Giving something up.

While he had to escape from his brother, the task set by his father gave Jacob direction. He could move toward finding a wife. But striking out on a new path is difficult. Esau forced him to give up his former life. Both gave Jacob the incentive to persevere.

Any goal you set must fit into your larger life’s purpose. If you find yourself not reaching a goal, examine whether it aligns with the person you want to become. Does it help you fulfill your mission?

Sometimes a goal lights up your soul but isn’t in alignment with your purpose. Do you still have passion for your purpose and mission? Yes. Change your goals. No. Alter your mission and purpose.

Jacob’s example can motivate you to get a job you love, improve your marriage, or reinvigorate your relationship with G-d. Have a passionate why, a positive motivation, and a powerful incentive to leave behind the part of yourself that previously held you back.

Question – Can you identify a goal that does not have these two components?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

4 Things You Need to Do to Be Happier

3 minutes to read

Some days I feel bombarded. It seems like everyone needs me to make a decision. Can we get another dog? Can we go to Knott’s Berry Farm this weekend? Can we have pizza for dinner tomorrow night? May I go to my friend’s house? No, no, no, yes. That should keep them satisfied for a few minutes. But it will start again soon, you know what I mean?

4 Things You Need to Do to Be Happier

 The Connection Between Choice and Happiness

When someone asks me a question I feel obligated to give it due consideration before answering. Then there’s all the decision that I initiate. Some days I barely make it to bedtime before collapsing. Others, well let’s just say it’s not pretty when I hit decision fatigue before my day is over.

Barry Schwartz, in his eye-opening book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, puts his finger on one of the central challenges of life. For much of human history, lack of choice has made people miserable. So it would seem the more choices we have the happier we’ll be. Turns out that too many choices decrease happiness.

Professor Schwartz identifies two tendencies: maximizing and satisficing. Maximizers strive for the best. Satisficers seek to meet self-defined criteria. When they do, they make the decision.

Wanting the best becomes ever more elusive as the number of choices increases. When you have three of four options, deciding on the best one can be straightforward. But when you have twenty, fifty, or even a hundred, comparison becomes impossible. Still, you have to make a choice. Whatever you do choose will leave you unhappy since you’ll have the niggling feeling something better is out there.

Satisficers tend to be happier because when their criteria are met they can move on without regret.

Limiting Choice to Be Happier

Understanding how choice affects happiness will help you to be happier. By reducing the number of choices you have to make you’ll reduce decision fatigue and leave more time for activities that increase happiness. Counterintuitively,

You can make choices on four levels:

Ignore. Some areas just don’t need your attention at all. I used to vote the proxies for every stock I own. But rarely is an issue decided against what the board recommends. Now I ignore them. Try ignoring a trivial choice that takes up too much time relative to the benefit you get. Then ignore one more.

Habituate.   By creating good habits you’ll be happier. Your health is a prime candidate for developing good habits. Have a set bedtime and wake-up time. Schedule regular times and routines for exercising. Focus your diet on healthy foods. This will improve your nutrition while cutting down on the time and number of decisions you have to make when shopping. Set regular visits to the dentist and an annual checkup. Set reminders on your cellphone and when pinged just do them.

Satisfice. Learn to accept good enough as the standard in most areas of your life. Do you actually need the best cellphone? Must you have the best body or children? Heretical! I know, especially for a Californian. But wouldn’t you and your family be happier?

Maximize. You don’t have to give up maximizing altogether. Save it for one or two of your passions. I maximize in my work and relationships. I want the best relationships I can have with my wife and daughter. So I do my best not to insist they be the best. When we argue you can bet I’ve violated this principle.

Combine Ignore ← Habituate ← Satisfice ← Maximize with the Three Pillars of Fitness.

Physical Realm → Health ∞ Finances ∞ Play

Mental Realm → Intellectual Challenge ∞ Social Engagement ∞ Emotional Soundness

Spiritual Realm → Family ∞ Life Purpose ∞ G-d

For each domain within each realm, examine what you need to do. Then decide whether you’ll ignore, habituate, satisfice, or maximize in that area. If you think you satisfice, try habituating a choice. You may be surprised how much you maximize. Being aware of this tendency will help you control the urge.

Living intentionally doesn’t require your making hundreds of decisions.

If you want to be happier, focus on deciding when you’ll exercise choice. Bringing clarity to when you choose will ease decision fatigue and give you more time to spend with who and what you really love.

Where do you unnecessarily maximize?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

How to Stand Out When Comparing Yourself to Others

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Noach – Genesis 6:9-11-32

You hear it all the time. Don’t compare yourself to others. Such advice sounds so good. “You’re unique.” “The only real contest is the one you have with yourself.” Yeah, yeah, talk to the hand. If you’re a competitive person, winning matters. So you have to measure yourself against others so you know whether you'll stand out. Parshas Noach explains how to do so effectively:

“…Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations.” (Genesis/Bereishis 6:9)

How to Stand Out When Comparing Yourself to Others

The parsha for this Sabbath is Noach. G-d chooses Noah to save humans, animals, birds, and creeping things from destruction in the flood. Rain falls for 40 days and nights. The waters churn for another 150 days. After they recede, Noah brings an offering to G-d. Then he degrades himself by planting a vineyard and getting drunk on wine. As a result, we learn the true characters of his sons.

Next, the parsha lists Noah’s descendants who formed the 70 nations. Then, as a result of building the tower of Babel, the Almighty disperses the nations. It ends by recording the ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

Is Noah Praiseworthy or Not?

Does the Torah give a favorable account of Noah? If you’re not sure, never fear. Bible commentators have argued about it for millennia. Some view Noah’s righteousness as praiseworthy. Even if he had been in a generation of virtuous people he would have been among the greatest. Others conclude if Noah had lived during the generation of Abraham he would have been insignificant.

After thousands of years, wouldn’t you think that we’d have a definitive verdict about Noah? Why the ambiguity?

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God wants it that way. He has plan for how you should compare yourself to other people.

Comparing Versus Learning

When you base your standard of performance on others, the yardstick constantly changes. You’re subjected to what society and history think in the moment.  You may look great if your contemporaries or successors were lousy people. But if they’re stellar performers, you may look bad. There goes your self-esteem.

Instead use an unchanging standard, God and His Torah. That way you have a lofty goal to aim at. You’ll always have room for self-improvement. Each day, note your progress. How did you behave or perform better today than you did yesterday?

Make no mistake. Competition is good. But when people think their performance or behavior is superior to others, they tend to get conceited. Or they feel defeated when they do not measure up. Both are counterproductive to steady improvement.

When comparing yourself to others, look for an admirable trait or the kind of success you desire. ‘Examine how the person got it. Then copy what he did. At the same time, keep in mind others are comparing themselves to you. What kind of example are you? Knowing people model your behavior can motivate you to improve.

The disagreement about Noah’s character points out a key choice you need to make. Are you striving to be better than the people around you? Or are you aiming to stand out because the quality of your character transcends the generations?

In such a competitive society like ours, how do you capitalize on its benefits while maintaining your integrity?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Warning: You’ll See Greater Prospects in Your Life

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vezos Haberachah – Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

My daughter finds it difficult to imagine what the future has in store for her. She knows she won’t actually live in Breckindale with Sophie and her friends (Keeper of the Lost Cities for the uninitiated). And I think she realizes she won’t actually become a telepath. But excluding such fantasies doesn’t help define an aspirational yet achievable future. She shares such impaired vision with many veterans. Do you see the vast potential in your post-military life? Parshas Vezos Haberachah makes clear just how far you can go:

“…his eye had not dimmed, and his vigor had not diminished” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 34:7)

Warning: You’ll See Greater Prospects in Your Life

This week’s parsha, read on Simchas Torah, completes the cycle of readings for the year. In it, Moses blesses each of the tribes individually then the Children of Israel as a group. It ends with his death and praise for the person he became.

The Greatest Person of All Time

The Bible is filled with great people. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all vie for the top spot. And don’t forget, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel whose legacy can be seen in a string of outstanding women through to today.

Moses surpassed them all. Adam was the first human created in G-d’s image by the Creator’s own hands. Moses, though born of human parents, earned an eternal radiance reflective of his matchless relationship with the Creator. Noah’s righteousness spared him and his family from the flood. Yet he didn’t even try to save his generation from destruction. Moses saved hundreds of thousands of people from annihilation despite their grave sin of idolatry.

Abraham fed passersby. But he had ready access to ordinary food. Moses fed the Israelites in the wilderness with miraculous manna for 40 years. Isaac merited being an offering to G-d. Moses met the Almighty face-to-face. Jacob overcame an angel in an Earth-based fight. Moses met the angels in their heavenly realm and they trembled.

In every aspect of his character, Moses surpassed every other Biblical personage.

Your Greater Prospects & Current Circumstances Are Unrelated

Nothing in Moses’s upbringing could have foretold his future. He was born at a time when Pharaoh decreed the execution of all male Hebrew babies. Pharaoh’s daughter raised him amidst the depravity of the Egyptian court. As a young man, he exiled himself after committing murder. He had a cleft palate that gave him such an inferiority complex his older brother had to be his spokesman.

Despite all these challenges, Moses became the most outstanding person in human history. He acquired tremendous wealth. He had a loving marriage. His community revered him. He achieved unequaled closeness with G-d. The Torah is also known as the Five Books of Moses. In this guise, it puts every Horatio Alger story to shame.

The Creator tells you the story of Moses to inspire you to follow in his footsteps. No matter how difficult your challenges, you have the potential for greatness. Where do you want to set your aspirations? Wealth? Tight-knit relationships? Soaring spirituality? You can achieve them. Begin by seeing your greater prospects.

What holds you back from seeking out incomparable life? Please comment below.

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Adversity Is the Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ha’azinu – Deuteronomy 32:1-52

My daughter experienced her first major life setback last week. It caught her completely by surprise. Much to her chagrin, I cannot fix what happened. Even worse, I had to make it clear she was completely responsible. I wanted to comfort her. But I knew if I did she would not take valuable lessons to heart. Good thing Parshas Ha’azinu explains why adversity is her best friend:

“…like storms winds upon vegetation and like raindrops on grass.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:2)

Adversity Is the Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

This week’s parsha is the last Sabbath reading of the cycle. Moses teaches the Israelites a redemptive song. In it he calls on heaven and earth to witness all the disasters that will happen if they stray from G-d. He also describes the joy that will come with the final redemption. At the end of the parsha G-d gives Moses his final task.

G-d Wants to Bond with You

Moses spent most of his life tending to the Israelites. Starting decades earlier, he led them out of Egypt. For 40 years he shepherded them through the wilderness. Now, on the border of the Promised Land, he must leave them. He has complete faith in Joshua, their new leader. Yet despite doing his best, the future foretells disaster for his flock.

I can imagine Moses would like to make life easier for the Children of Israel. After all, isn’t that the instinct of every loving parent? But he knows a trouble-free life will mean even greater catastrophe. Hoping against hope, he reminds his people that storm winds are as necessary to life as raindrops.   Resolutely facing adversity builds resilience and an unbreakable bond with G-d.

Seek Out Your Best Friend

You probably think I’m crazy for suggesting you should seek out painful situations. Hear me out. By choosing the challenge you’ll face, you stand a better chance of conquering it.

  • You can prepare. A mountain climber makes sure he has all the required equipment before starting out. Something may break or get lost. He’ll still have to improvise at times. But he doesn’t plan on the fly. He sizes up the challenge, trains for it, and prevails.
  • You can create meaning. By choosing your test, you can select one that resonates deeply. Start with candid self-examination. Determine your vulnerabilities. Pick one. Set your first goal. Visualize the new person you’ll be when you achieve it.
  • You can get G-d’s help. You won't live a carefree life. So you can sit back and let the Almighty decide on the trials you’ll face. Or, you can initiate your own personal development. When you do, G-d will support you. Not by making the experience pain-free. But by guaranteeing it will be worthwhile.

You may need a better job. Your marriage may require renovation. You may have developed unhealthy habits. You hope your life will get better. But, these conditions will only get worse. Choose to face the storm winds on your own terms. At times life is painful. Be intentional about adversity. The more time you spend with it the sooner it will become your best friend.

What keeps you from confronting challenges? Please comment below.

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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