Tag Archives: balance

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?

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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!

How to Keep Your Spirit in Balance

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Metzora – Leviticus 14:1-15:33

Self-improvement is hard. First you have to figure out what needs fixing. Then, you have to find a system that will deliver results. Because it’s intangible, spiritual improvement is the most difficult. I almost pine for the old days described in this week’s parsha, Metzora:

This will be the law of the metzora on the day of his spiritual purification. (Vayikra/Leviticus 14:2)

How to Keep Your Spirit in Balance

This Sabbath's parsha tells how a metzora, someone with tzaraas (a spiritual disease contracted because a person’s life is out of balance), and a house with a tzaraas become tahor, spiritually purified. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

The Plague of Spiritual Imbalance

The Kabbalah, a compendium of Jewish mysticism, says tzaraas comes from life being out of balance. An hormonal imbalance causes acne during puberty. It shows up in skin becoming swollen, red, and even pus-filled. So too, a metzora’s spirit is out of equilibrium. It reveals its presence through a leprous-like affliction.

In time, a young person’s body adjusts to the increased hormonal output. Balance returns and the acne goes away. Hopefully it leaves no permanent scars. A metzora experiences a sudden increase holiness. While this is a great thing, it takes time for the person to adjust. Over time the person will rise up to the new level of sanctity and regain spiritual balance. In the meantime, tzaraas serves as a reminder that further work is necessary.

So, the loss of the ability to contract tzaraas is a mixed blessing. It is embarrassing for a person’s shortcomings to be displayed in public. But, he misses out on a tangible motivation to elevate himself.

The Modern Day Alternative

Most people have a default mode for handling life. Is yours one of these?

  • Chesed– Loving-kindness
  • Gevurah– Justice and Discipline
  • Tiferes– Harmony and Compassion
  • Netzach– Endurance
  • Hod – Humility
  • Yesod– Bonding
  • Malchus– Sovereignty and Leadership

In addition to your primary mode, you are probably pretty good at using a couple of the others in this list. The challenge comes when you’re presented with an issue that cannot be handled within your existing frame of reference. Perhaps you tried solving a problem but it blew up in your face instead. Or you’re procrastinating because you do not know how to approach it.

You need to stop trying to force people to enter your world rather than gaining the skills to enter theirs. When you recognize other people’s modes, you have a valuable tool for problem solving. And you’ll avoid hurricanes while navigating through life.

Each year, beginning on the send day of Passover, the Omer is counted. By following it, you have the chance to practice understanding many approaches to life and experience their nuances. Such training prepares you for higher levels of holiness. You enhance your ability to build relationships with other people and the Almighty.

Like any new skill, you must be intentional to grasp it and make it an integral part of yourself. Each night the count introduces you to a new concept that your minds can ponder while asleep. Then you can explore it the next day through deliberate acts according to the day’s theme.

You can get my free 49 Days to Refine Your Character tool by signing up for my email list. Enjoy the benefits of expanding your repertoire for creating successful relationships!

How do develop your spirit? 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!

How to Live a Balanced Life – Really

I am a big fan of living a balanced life. But what does this mean? Numerous articles and blog posts opine on balance but none describe what it looks like. Knowing it takes physical, mental, and spiritual resilience to achieve overall fitness, does that mean you should spend eight hours a day on each one? Or should time spent on each be apportioned evenly on a weekly or monthly basis?

Find the balance points in your life

Image from iStockPhoto.com

Achieving and maintaining fitness in the physical realm is going to take the bulk of your time. You need to sleep seven to eight hours a day. When you add eating, exercising, and working, this one realm consumes at least one-half of your life.

Having worked with service members and civilians struggling to attain balance, I am convinced time is only one factor. But because it is easily quantified, people default to it as the standard for measuring balance. But other factors influence whether the time you spend is appropriate within the context of competing priorities that support a balanced life.

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Here are some balance points to consider:

  1. Stage of Life. Creating a primary relationship requires more time creating than maintaining it. Young children need more attention than adult ones do. Building a business or career typically consumes more time in the early years. How you define balance changes as your life progresses.
  2. Skill Level. Being adept at sustaining interpersonal relationships makes them less demanding than pursuing an objective, such as healthful lifestyle habits, at which you may be less proficient. Devoting more time to developing certain skills and habits is a long-term investment in life balance.
  3. Age and Degree of Maturity. Fashionable as it is to discount these factors, young people tend to need more time to sort through challenges and issues simply because they have less experience. Greater energy does not compensate. Gaining spiritual resilience challenges young service members far more so than their seniors. Many would gain greater life balance by devoting considerable time to strengthening their spirituality.
  4. Intensity. For some pursuits, the more vigorously you engage in them the less you need in conjunction with other tasks. It takes less time running than walking to maintain fitness. But beware of applying this to all things. Notions such as quality time, rather than quantity time, do not support bonded relationships.
  5. Essentialness. Balance requires accommodating those aspects of life crucial to your wellbeing and achievement of your goals. It is not unusual to convince yourself that certain task or interests are crucial when a more critical analysis would show them to be less important. Running a marathon may give you an enormous sense of accomplishment. But if you get enough exercise and your marriage is suffering, striving for life balance necessitates finding fulfillment by devoting time to improving your marriage rather than additional physical training.

Rather than measuring life balance as a function of time, think of it in terms of attaining goals reflective of resilience in the realms of physical, mental, and spiritual resilience. Click on each realm to get an idea of what constitutes fitness.

If you are making progress in all three, it is a fair bet your life is balanced.

What are the balance points in your life?

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

How to Live Better with Less

Nostalgia for simpler times is undoubtedly a part of aging. Yet the burgeoning minimalist movement, which seems to be most active among people younger than me, indicates that on some level life today is uncomfortably complex. Talking about this with my running partner stirred a few thoughts. So picture this: It seems two rabbis were jogging down the street when . . .

How to Live Better with Less

Two weeks ago I said goodbye to beautiful Point Loma and rejoined civilian life. Notable changes include having to decide what to wear each morning, driving my daughter to and from school, and viewing brown grass out my bedroom window instead of the Pacific Ocean. But perhaps the biggest and most difficult to accept is living in our new house in Los Angeles. When I left active duty last year we found a gorgeous 1920’s Spanish bungalow with a separate finished garage that I used for my office and library. Suffice it to say I spent an hour sweeping up rat dropping in the garage of our new house.

Fact is we were fortunate to find it. Supply is short in our neighborhood. And our landlord is terrific (I’d say so even if he didn’t read my blog!) So when my running partner asked how my new house was I felt guilty for complaining about what was essentially a matter of aesthetics. Laughing, he reflected on the idea of

How quickly comforts become necessities

Slap forehead with heel of hand.

For eight months I lived in a hotel room, albeit ten feet from the ocean. Somehow I did without most of the comforts of home: just my navy uniforms, exercise clothes, one set of civvies, about 20 books, and rarely ate hot food. Yet life was enjoyable. I had no expectation of luxury because I was living away from my family on a military base.

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Back home on the weekends and now for good, my life seems drab, enhanced by neither an ocean view nor elegant architecture. Yet I am blessed to have a home that is much more comfortable than navy bachelor housing and pretty much any place I lived in as a kid. More importantly, I have my wonderful wife and precocious daughter and the blessing of comforts that are necessities.

Previously I wrote that managing expectations is a key component to happiness. Surrounded by the affluence and consumerist culture we enjoy in America it is easy to accustom yourself to accepting nothing less than the ideal. Yet the ideal is that unachievable Utopia that keeps you striving.

Happiness = Knowing which comforts are truly necessities

So I will better habituate to counting my blessings, fortunately with the help of the men with whom I have prayed for over 10 years. I will live with my priceless family and without an exquisite house. I will not become accustomed to comforts that are not necessities. And the next time my running partner asks me how I am doing the canvas of my life will be brightly painted.

Hmmmm, I wonder what I’d be writing about if instead of jogging, two rabbis went into a bar . . .

Question – How do you prevent yourself from becoming too expectant of comfort?

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How Downtime Makes You More Productive

Lumberjacks are known for their outsize egos. It seems one day a bunch of them were sitting around telling tall tales about how much wood they had chopped in a day. A little man sat listening to their boasts. After a while he stood up and declared that he would challenge the best among them to a contest. Whoever chopped the most wood in a 24-period would win. The lumberjacks roared with laughter at the thought of this puny man’s proposition. But he persisted. So the match was set to begin at sunup the next day.

How Downtime Makes You More Productive

By mutual consent, the camp foreman was appointed official timekeeper and judge of who won. A few minutes before sunrise the two contestants came walking up, each with an ax slung over his shoulder.

Clang, clang, clang went the sound of the triangle signaling the start. They were off and chopping. From the get go the lumberjack’s ax bit into the wood at a furious pace. He chopped and chopped like a machine. The little man swung his ax steadily. After 50 minutes of chopping he shouldered his ax and walked into his cabin.

Ten minutes later the little man came out again and resumed chopping. The lumberjack sneered at him. His chopping continued unabated the whole time. After another 50 minutes of chopping the little man shouldered his ax and went into his cabin, emerging 10 minutes later to start chopping again.

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Having not let up for a moment, by midday the lumberjack’s pile was clearly larger. He kept chopping at his unrestrained pace while the little man chopped for 50 minutes, went into his cabin for 10 minutes, then began chopping again.

As sunset approached, it was evident that the rate at which the lumberjack enlarged his pile was slowing. He chopped more frantically while the little man never wavered from his 50/10 minutes pace.

By midnight the lumberjack’s lead was shrinking. His arms felt as heavy as lead. At the next morning’s sunrise, when the foreman clanged his triangle signaling the end of the contest everyone could see the little man had won.


The little man replied, “I was resting and sharpening my ax.”

Question – What do you do to sharpen your ax?

Please comment on this question or ask another question below.

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