Tag Archives: mental health

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

Train to Handle Problems Before They Arise

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Emor – Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Practicing to Defeat G-d’s Plan?

Angles and dangles constitute one of the more bizarre exercises onboard a Navy ship. At first, they applied to a submarine’s seaworthiness, tested by diving and surfacing at 30-degree angles. A surface ship maneuvers through high-speed turns until the deck leans over close to the point of capsizing. All crewmembers not working the ship stay in their bunks to avoid injury.

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

On its face, putting a ship in such danger as training seems crazy. What if the quartermaster (the sailor who steers the ship) makes a mistake and capsizes it? But the crew needs to gain experience conning the ship. Better to get it under controlled circumstances than in the eye of a hurricane.

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Practicing allows the crew to face hazards with confidence. The more they feel in control, the better they’ll perform. So it may sound contradictory that the Talmud says sailors are pious. Most acknowledge the Almighty controls events.

Compassion: Nature or Nurtured?

As the seminal act of creating, having a child joins us to G-d. Producing a new life comes as close to a Divine act as anything we’ll ever do. But, birth is only the beginning. We see in Parsha Emor:

“…G-d’s festivals that you will appoint as holy assemblies…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha details the standards of purity for a Kohen who serves in the Temple. Then it gives the requirements of an animal for the sacrificial service. The various festivals are proclaimed. It discusses the pure olive oil for the menorah and loaves of bread, known as the showbread, for the table. The parsha ends with the story of a man who blasphemed.

When our children turn five we send them to school. We adjust from controlling their development to sharing that responsibility. Now teachers, principals, and their fellow students have a hand in whom they become. Yet we keep authority to direct their lives.

The Almighty created human beings to have as partners in fulfilling creation. Making us responsible for determining when festivals begin did more than putting us in charge of the calendar. He gave us partial control over time.

Two days before Passover is a regular day. The day before has a medium level of sanctity. Passover itself is a sacred time. When we set the calendar we help fill the world with holiness. G-d wants us to bring the spirituality of heaven to earth. Like teachers helping us fulfill our aspirations for our children. When we develop holiness, we fulfill the Almighty’s aspirations for the world.

Executing this vital task takes practice. Sailors train to conquer hurricanes – physical challenges in this world. Greater competence moves them closer to the Creator. The same applies to the mental and spiritual challenges we face.

The Almighty sends emotional tempests so we can practice overcoming them. Recognize that as you gain greater skill in the physical ∞ mental ∞ spiritual realms, you also move closer to G-d. Use this as motivation to keep pursuing your goal.

How do you train for emotional and spiritual resilience?

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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. 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!

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength?

How to Link Your Mind and Spirit

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tazria-Metzora – Leviticus 12:1-15:33

General George Patton trained his men in many principles of resilience. Among them, he drilled,

“Never let the body tell the mind what to do… The body is not tired if the mind is not tired.”

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength

Patton Became an Outstanding Warrior Because He Knew How to Build Mental and Spiritual Resilience.

The Source of Mental Toughness

Patton led soldiers through the scorching heat of the North African desert. He commanded them to victory through the freezing cold winter of 1944 in the Ardennes. The grit his men exhibited amazed even the likes of General Eisenhower.

At the same time, he learned the mind needed to govern more than physical stamina. Once, as a new second lieutenant, he damned one of his men for moving too slowly. Later that day he concluded he’d been wrong to curse him. So he got all his men together and apologized to the soldier.

He never conquered his rash tongue. Because of this and other shortcomings, Patton continually strove to toughen his spirit. He recognized the unquestionable link between spiritual strength and mental durability.

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He used the Bible to develop his spirit. Because of his dyslexia, as a child, he memorized many verses. Legend has it he once corrected Cardinal Francis Spellman’s quotation of Scripture. Patton voiced profanity to motivate his soldiers. But they knew he considered himself accountable to G-d on a daily basis.

How Mind and Spirit Support Each Other

As such, Patton didn’t have to worry about a tzaraas as described in Parshas Tazria:

“If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eis, or a sapachas, or a baheres, and it will become a tzaraas affliction on the skin of his flesh….” (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha is a double reading. The first, Tzaria tells about a woman becoming tahor (spiritually purified) after giving birth. Next, it explains how to verify when a person has a tzaraas, baheres or s’eis affliction on his body. Then it covers a tzaraas affliction on a garment.

Parshas Metzora discusses how a metzora, someone with tzaraas, and a house with tzaraas become tahor. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

A metzora suffered physical pain due to a variety of misbehaviors. Most common, he gossiped or maligned a friend. Contracting tzaraas came after repeated refusals to acknowledge his sin and make amends. It may feel weak to apologize when you don’t mean to hurt someone. But each time you don’t you weaken your spirit.

At the same time, you crowd your mind with an unpleasant, unresolved interaction. Refusing to hold yourself accountable causes a build-up of bad feelings. Your mind won’t let go of these events. You become captive to unpleasant memories.

As well, you have no recourse when someone does the same thing to you. How can you insist on an apology when you refuse to make amends for the same wrongdoing?

Though imperfect, Patton stands as a model for building mental resilience:

  1. Uncompromising introspection helped him confront his shortcomings.
  2. He took steps to resolve them.
  3. This freed him to pursue his quest for greatness on the battlefield.

By making periodic accountings of your behavior, you can identify when you fall short. Next, you can take steps to resolve the issue. Having done so, you can move forward freed from regret or guilt. Your mind now has room to focus on tasks designed to reach your goals rather than on recycling unpleasant dealings.

Gossiping may seem harmless. But how did you feel last time you found someone had told a falsehood about you? We know we shouldn’t tell tales. But stopping is hard. Using Patton’s three-step process will help you conquer your shortfalls. In doing so you’ll liberate your mind and spirit. Unburdened, they provide you with the mental and spiritual strength necessary to reach your goals.

What stops you from taking steps to resolve mistakes you’ve made?

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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. 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!

How to Unlock Hope When You Need It Most

The Value Focus Will Add to Your Job-Hunt

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Mishpatim - Exodus 21:1-24:18

Let’s face it, life can be discouraging. Sometimes you lose heart. Your job-hunt has lasted too long. Or your marriage has deteriorated so that you feel disconnected from your spouse. Whatever plagues you, anger and disappointment scatter your thinking. If only you could unlock hope when you need it. Then you could proceed with confidence. Right? Parshas Mishpatim has the answer:

“…and he heals he will heal.” (Shemos/Exodus 21:19).

How to Unlock Hope When You Need It Most

In this Sabbath's parsha, G-d gives 53 mitzvahs to guide the conduct of the Israelites. Twenty-three are positive things they can do to get closer to G-d. Thirty are negative things that will damage their relationship with Him. The mitzvahs cover a broad range of institutions, crimes, activities, and celebrations. Toward the end of Mishpatim, G-d promises to lead the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel and conquer their enemies.

Find a Partner in Your Struggles

Bob and Jim get into a fight. Bob hits Jim with a stone or his fist. He hurts him doesn’t kill him. Bob pays Jim for lost wages and medical expenses. All this is normal. Then the Torah says someone will heal Jim and repeats he will heal him. We already know Jim didn’t die. So of course he got better.

Still, the Torah says twice that he’ll be healed. The repetition appears to have no purpose.

The first “He heals” might be interpreted as “G-d heals.” Perhaps you must rely ONLY on the Almighty if you are sick or injured. But if the first “he heals” refers to G-d, the second one must allude to someone else. The Talmud says the doctor is the second “he heals.” So healing comes from a partnership between G-d and a doctor.

The verse also teaches doctors heal, but they don’t control whether a patient recovers. The pairing of G-d and a human healer means no matter how great the physician, the Almighty makes the final decision. As partners, the doctor uses his knowledge, skill, and experience toward a goal. G-d decides the results.

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The Almighty has the same partnership with you.

Unlock Hope on Demand

Good doctors know even with the best treatment, some patients die. They don’t control the outcome. Despite this reality, they go to extraordinary lengths to ensure their patients live. At the same time, most doctors compartmentalize disappointment. They shield themselves from the unpredictable aspects of their work. So they can always unlock hope.

You can follow this model. Rather than judging your success based on the outcome, focus on the process. Go to extraordinary lengths in carrying out each step of your job-hunt. Use your knowledge, skills, and experience toward a goal. Leave the result to the Almighty.

Think about how successful the partnership between G-d and doctors has been. Average life span increased 60% from 1900 to 2000. Physicians got better and better at giving medical care. The Almighty granted them greater success.

Rather than getting discouraged, focus on what you can control. You decide what to do, why, and how hard to work at it. Refine your course of action. Learn about the only 5 steps you need to take to get a high-paying job. Direct all your energy toward improving each step you take. Always look for better ways to use your time and skills. When you get in the habit of finding another new way to pursue your goal, you’ll unlock hope whenever you need it.

Question – What job-hunting step can you improve on now?

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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.

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

How to Make Sure You’ll Love Your Job

7 Connections Between Your Happiness & Company Culture

3 minutes to read

I love the stories my father told me about his time in the navy during the 1950s. One of my favorites is about when he and his shipmates walked into a bar and found some Marines there. They exchanged taunts. The Marines called them swabbies. They called the Marines jarheads. A fight broke out. But in the midst of the brawl some soldiers came into the bar. All of a sudden the swabbies and jarheads joined forces against the army.

How to Make Sure You’ll Love Your Job

Reintegration is a Cultural Transition

This story sums up so much about military culture of the 50s. Post World War II, men were primed to fight like their fathers or brothers had. Marines thought the navy was filled with wimps who dropped them off on the shore of an island held by a hostile enemy to do the real fighting. Sailors who had engaged in ship-to-ship combat saw the risk of being sunk and drowned as far more dangerous than land-based combat. Each service branch’s culture defined them.

Like the military, private sector industries and companies have distinct cultures. After World War II, millions of service members returned to civilian life. They made organizational culture in the private sector more like the military than it ever had been before. Over the decades, the similarity has decreased. Besides defense contracting, you won’t find an industry that feels like the military.

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Part of deciding where to focus your job-hunt involves understanding the kind of culture where you’ll fit in. Then you’ll need to find an industry and companies that, as well as possible, match your vision.

Culture Determines If You’ll Love Your Job

Aside from general comfort, culture affects:

  • The length of your workday and week. In general, and especially working up to deployment, you worked until the job got done. But your pay stayed the same regardless. Civilian life has formed different expectations about task completion and compensation.
  • After hours time you’ll have to spend handling work matters and socializing with co-workers. Hours can be long in the private sector. With smart phones, everyone has a “crack-berry.” Going out after work with colleagues and your boss may be the only way to advance your career.
  • Your work environment, employee interaction, and competition among colleagues. Remember mandatory fun days? Some companies make fun an integral part of their culture. At such a place you may wonder why they don’t get to work so they can finish and go home.
  • Interaction with other employees, managers, and senior executives. Regulations and customs dictated dealings with your colleagues and leadership. Though they aren't in writing, most companies have strict protocols. Yet they may require a casual approach that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • The kind of workspace you’ll get and what kind of personal items you may have there. Custom and protocol dictate these issues in the military too. In the private sector, you may have to negotiate them. Surprisingly, getting the wrong office may hamper your advancement in the company.
  • Perks offered by the organization. Break rooms, gyms, and childcare facilities were standard in the military. Not so in the private sector.
  • The training and personal development you’ll get. For the most part, you knew what training benchmarks you had to meet to advance your military career. The matter is much more open in civilian life

You can see that company culture impacts every aspect of you work life. So you’ll need to examine it at three points in your job-hunt:

  1. When deciding which industry and organizations to target.
  2. Before you go to a meeting to discuss a job. (Never go on a job interview.)
  3. Prior to accepting an offer.

If you want to love your job, culture is central. You should practice the four ways of figuring it out:

  1. Research – On and Offline.
  2. Onsite observation.
  3. Talking with people who work in an industry or at a company.
  4. Asking questions during a meeting to discuss a job.

If nothing else, at some point in every meeting the person will ask, "Do you have any questions for me?" This is your invitation to learn as much as possible about a company’s culture.

What do you need to know so you can research company culture more effectively?

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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?

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