Tag Archives: bad habits

How to Break Free From a Bad Habit

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eira – Exodus 6:2-9:35

We are all slaves to our habits. Of course, if they’re good we don’t notice our bondage. But conquering a bad habit makes us feel every shackle. Parshas Va’eira gives a four-step process for breaking the chains of a bad habit:

“…I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will rescue you from serving them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great judgments. And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be a G-d to you…” (Shemos/Exodus 6:6-7)

How to Break Free from a Bad Habit

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with G-d reassuring Moses that the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be fulfilled. Nonetheless, twice Moses tries to get G-d to release him from leading the Israelites. The rest of the parsha describes the first seven plagues that G-d brought on Egypt as He brings about the Exodus.

Freeing the Children of Israel

The Almighty used a four-step process to free the Israelites:

  1. I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.
  2. I will rescue you from serving them.
  3. I will redeem you.
  4. I will take you to Me for a people.

Doesn’t it seem a little strange G-d uses such an elaborate method? Wouldn’t it be simpler if He said, “I’m going to take you out of Egypt and give you the Ten Commandments!” But the Almighty knew that a nation of lowly slaves, who made bricks from mud and straw, could not suddenly rise to the level of being a free people ready to receive the word of G-d at Mount Sinai.

So He redeemed them in phases:

  1. G-d freed the Israelites from harsh labor, however, they were still under Egyptian rule.
  2. G-d released them from all obligations to the Egyptians.
  3. G-d gave them the status of complete freedom.
  4. G-d brought them to their ultimate purpose as His people.

By bringing about the redemption in stages the Almighty saw to it that the Israelites were prepared for their new life ahead.

Freeing Yourself from a Bad Habit

The process of freeing yourself from a bad habit mirrors how G-d rescued the Children of Israel:

  1. Take yourself out from under the burden of the habit – Make a firm decision to break the habit.
  2. Rescue yourself from serving it – Undo the behavior. Charles Duhigg details the best way in his book The Power of Habit.
  3. Redeem yourself – Re-create your self-image as someone no longer burdened by the bad habit.
  4. Take yourself to the Almighty – Recognize your newfound freedom allows you to serve G-d more freely and deeply, which is your ultimate purpose.

By conquering your bad habit in stages you create the best chance of freeing yourself for good.

The Israelites experienced victories and setbacks in the wilderness but focused on their goal and eventually arrived at the Promised Land. You may certainly have reversals along the way to breaking free from a bad habit. But sticking with the process and focusing on your goal will get you to the promised land: greater freedom to live your life, not as a slave to bad habits, but as you intend.

What bad habit will you break this year? Please leave a 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 here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Decide When You’ll Embrace Change

I became an Uber fan last week. My wife used it to go to a banquet a few days before and loved it. The ease and economy of Uber is irresistible. The hardest part was downloading the app and getting it set up, which took about 15 minutes. Unlike the times I’ve taken taxis, the driver showed up on time (the app tracked her arrival), she was friendly, her car was clean, and she drove me to me destination quickly.

How to Decide When You'll Embrace Change

I learned that Uber is controversial here in Los Angeles. The city council has considered banning it and airports trip are prohibited. Regrettably, the ugly history of licensing continues. Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, in their massive tome Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, show how over the centuries licensing has been used to exclude certain groups of people, including the Irish, blacks, and women, from various trades and professions.

Of course not every butcher, baker, cartman, and physician supported such exclusivity. Some overcame their financial self-interest and refused to fall prey to prejudice by remaining true to their values. They benefitted from the virtues of democracy and felt other should too.

So what does the plight of Uber have to do with personal development?

Articles extolling the virtues of change abound.   Earlier this year I wrote about how you shouldn’t fear change. I’ve also written about how not all change is good and that it should enhance your life.

So when should you embrace change and when should you shun it?

This is not an easy question to answer. Some guidelines will help:

  1. If you have a destructive habit such as overeating, not exercising, or spending more money than you earn you need to change it. The sooner the better.
  2. If your behavior is damaging a relationship, change it. A poor communication style must be improved. If you aren’t regularly and positively expressing connection to your spouse or children now is the time to do so.
  3. If the way you do something is unproductive or inefficient you probably should change it. Do you regularly use electronic devices before going to sleep or have an inconsistent bedtime? You’re sapping your productivity. In contrast, using Uber will help you be more efficient. (If you want a free ride use my code, kevinb5383ue. Full disclosure: If you use it I’ll get a free ride too.)

Should you change your values? As the example about licensees in New York City shows, typically the harder and better decision is to hold onto your values. Especially if the impetus for change is coming from outside yourself or from an untrustworthy source.

However, there may be times when you need to consider adjusting your values. If your worldview impedes your growth you should examine alterations. But before you change your values, recognize by altering your foundation you subject yourself to the law of unintended consequences. You will have an adjustment period while you work through all the dimensions of this change.

For more than a century society has urged embracing change, essentially for its own sake. As an Intentionalist, you decide when to Uber up.

How do you decide whether to change? Please comment below.

3 Reasons You Should Not Abstain

Have you been following the news about sugar lately? Even the health press has declared it as bad as smoking. Many people I know are swearing it off.

3 Reasons You Should Not Abstain

Image from iStockPhoto.com

Indulge me for a moment. This means no:

  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate
  • Cake
  • Cookies
  • Wine
  • Liquor

Besides toothpaste, have I missed anything?

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These are the obvious foods. Sugar is an ingredient in many others. Aside from the health benefits of wine and chocolate, I find a great deal of emotional satisfaction from having a dish of fantastically creamy ice cream or a nicely chilled martini.

Abstain or Indulge?

Undoubtedly it's the case that many people eat too much sugar. However, unless you have a serious health condition that warrants it, you shouldn't abstain. Consider its adverse effects:

  1. Indulgence and abstention are the same. They both indicate a person has insufficient self-control. If you abstain from cookies because when you eat one you eat the whole bag you're avoiding the trigger not demonstrating willpower. Self-control means you decide how many cookies you'll eat despite your urge to do otherwise.
  2. Abstention is rarely a long-term solution. Alcoholics can attest to the difficulty of renouncing liquor. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter 50% relapse into drinking. Most often abstention works only after a serious accident or the onset of health problems.
  3. Abstention creates stress. When you abstain as the cure for overindulgence you are constantly under the pressure of suppressing your desire. Backsliding often leads to self-condemnation. In the end, you have traded the stress caused by a negative behavior with a different stress source.

The better response is to:

Use your aspiration to a healthier life as the catalyst for greater self-discipline.

Running 45 to 50 minutes burns the 600 calories contained in half of a pint container of Haagen Dazs. Use the ice cream as a reward for stepping up your exercise program.

Instead of buying a regular bag of Oreo cookies, get the 100-calorie packs. Commit to eating just one package per day.

Make a ritual of drinking a glass of wine, perhaps with your spouse or a friend with whom you can be mutually accountable.

With all of the delights in this life, why restrict yourself? As I wrote several months ago, moderation is the key. While lack of restraint is destructive, abstinence is not the answer.

In which situations do you think abstention is the only choice?

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

How to Make a Bad Habit Good

How to Improve Your Relationship with Your Spouse and Kids

1 minute to read

Have you ever met someone who has an infuriating habit? Perhaps worse, does your spouse or one of your children have such a habit? I don't mean something that annoys you but one that really sets you on edge. Did you analyze why it aggravates you? You may be surprised.

How to Make a Bad Habit Good

Why Does the Habit Infuriate You?

I have had a friend for many years who is a profuse thanker. When I would give her something to drink she would say thank you three, four, even five times. Occasionally I found myself commenting that once was sufficient. I started to get angry about the excessive thank yous.

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What to Do About It

One day I decided to explore why her habit made me so angry. I came up with several conclusions:

  1. Unquestionably, her thanks are sincere.
  2. She intends to improve friendships through expressing gratitude.
  3. Her habit upsets me because she is better at being thankful than I am.

The last point surprised me. I was disappointed in myself that I had created so much negativity by being jealous. The lesson:

Question – When you reacted negatively toward someone did you ever find it was for the wrong reason?

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

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

“And came Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and said to him: so said G-d, G-d of the Hebrews, until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me?” (Shemos/Exodus 10:3)

Seven plagues befell Egypt yet Pharaoh refused to let the Children of Israel go. Why?

This coming Sabbath we read Parshas Bo. It continues from Parshas Va’eira with the final three plagues that eventually led to Pharaoh telling the Jewish people to get out of Egypt.

The Children of Israel are told Nissan will be the first month of the year. The commandment of the Passover Offering, the Pesach, is given. The time for the Exodus arrives and the conditions under which the Children of Israel left are described. The parsha ends with G-d giving the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.

I do not know about you, but when everything starts going wrong in my life: back injury, bronchitis, dropping and breaking my computer, and a car accident, eventually I ask the question: What is G-d trying to tell me? So it seems inconceivable that after blood, frogs, lice, hoards of wild beasts, pestilence, boils, and hail that Pharaoh remained stubborn. Rabeinu Bachya, commenting on this idea, notes that G-d wants a person to submit his will to His will and this takes humility. Pharaoh was an extremely arrogant person and refused to humble himself, thereby causing his own downfall.

Many people suffer for their arrogance. Minor affronts loom so large for such people they retaliate. For the person who has internalized humility, such things are like water on a duck’s back, they roll off unnoticed. One who is arrogant insists on winning every disagreement and rarely if ever apologizes for giving offense. The humble person asks forgiveness even for an unintended slight or wrong. Who has the better quality of life?

Recently I read Alan Axelrod’s biography on General George Patton. Much of what I know about Patton comes from the eponymous 1970 movie. Axelrod relates an incident when Patton was a young 2nd Lieutenant during which he used the word damn to curse a soldier who had not done a job properly. Shortly thereafter, thinking the better of it, he gathered all of the people who might have heard the curse and apologized to the soldier. He voluntarily, publicly, and evidently sincerely apologized for the infamous slapping incidents. A profound believer in G-d, Patton worked all his life to restrain his arrogance. This was the first of many instances through which he won the respect and fealty of his men.

When you allow your arrogance to gain the upper hand, any perceived retention of righteousness is more than offset by the injustices almost inevitably committed.

Question – What techniques do you suggest for curbing arrogance? Please leave a comment below.

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