Tag Archives: mental health

How to Face Transitions with Confidence

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Devarim – Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22

Transitions can be some of the scariest times in our lives. Do you get a queasy feeling remembering ones you’ve made? When we left NAS Lemoore and the military to return to Los Angeles and civilian life, my family and I were going back to friends and a place we knew well. Should have been a piece of cake. Parshas Devraim explains why it wasn’t:

“Hashem Your G-d gave to you this land for a possession, armed shall you cross over before your brethren the Children of Israel, all people of accomplishment.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:18)

How to Face Transitions with Confidence

This Sabbath’s parshas begins the fifth and final book of the Torah. Deuteronomy (Devarim in Hebrew) is known as Mishneh Torah, meaning repetition, review, or explanation of the Torah. The Children of Israel heard the previous four books of the Torah directly from G-d who spoke through Moses’s throat. But Moses received Deuteronomy from G-d in the way other Prophets received their messages from the Almighty, then at a later date conveyed it to the Israelites.

For the previous forty years the Israelites, with Moses as their leader, led a wondrous existence. In their travels G-d led them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. They ate manna, a food that some sources say tasted like every person’s favorite food. Kings Og and Bashan were defeated despite their greater strength. In short, G-d surrounded the people with miracles.

In the verse above, Moses appoints the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and half of Manasseh as the vanguard in the conquest of the land of Israel. The Israelites are on the brink of tremendous changes in their day-to-day lives. They won’t be living in their safe cocoon any longer. In the land they will live among idolaters who have brutal and immoral rituals like infanticide. The people will have to adopt agrarian practices rather than being nomadic shepherds. And they will live without the strong, sure, guiding hand of Moses.

Transitions may paralyze you from fear or prevent your adapting to new circumstances. A different life requires a new outlook along with the realization that you’ll bring previous challenges into this new environment. You don't negate the need to overcome your internal roadblocks even with a big change, such as moving or leaving military for civilian life.

Moses knew the challenges the Children of Israel would face. So he tells them to arm themselves for the change ahead and reminds them they are all accomplished people. Then, he reviews their travels through the wilderness, not as some sort of pre-Travel Channel travelogue but as a reminder and gentle rebuke of all the mistakes they made during the forty years.

The story of Devarim is about the Israelites learning how to apply the Torah’s values to a new life. It reminds you to arm yourself for the coming challenges by remembering past accomplishments. But you mustn’t fool yourself into thinking that old problems will disappear. While a change of job may rid you of a heinous boss or moving may take you to a more prosperous locality, you will still need to conquer personal challenges: insufficient discipline, a negative attitude, or lack of faith in yourself.

So often the fear you’re feeling isn’t the fear of the unknown, it’s the shock that despite having made such a big change you’re still have to overcome your same internal barriers.

Last time you made a transition, what was the most difficult part? 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 Stop Working Too Much

Friends I haven’t seen in a long time usually ask what it’s like being in the Navy. Amid stories about Okinawa and an aircraft carrier, how my wife and daughter handle military life comes up. You know how tough families have it. At times my daughter didn’t see me for a week. I was out of the house before she woke up and didn't get home until after she went to bed. Of course, you don’t have to be in the military to be absorbed by work.

How to Stop Working Too Much?

Despite Surveys, Americans Work Too Much

A recent article in fastcompany.com carried the sub-headline, “A New National Study Finds Americans Work Reasonable Hours and Get Enough Sleep, Even if We Often Think Otherwise.” Based on the 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey, the article said, “The average full-time work week comes out at just a bit shy of 42 hours.”

Call me skeptical. But the data gathered is based on people’s recollections of how they spent the previous day. Do you remember the precise amount of time you spent sleeping, grooming, preparing meals and snacks, eating and drinking, driving to work, and working at your main job yesterday? Me either. The Internet and cell phones make us more productive. But they allow work to intrude into other activities. I suspect this didn't get factored in. The survey probably underreports work time by at least 10% to 20%.

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Set Boundaries to Help You Stop Working

Juggling navy duties, civilian work, and a 2-1/2 hour daily commute the past year, I’ve learned a few simple rules to reduce my working time:

  1. When told to take on another project or task, decline it. If that’s impractical, agree to “see that it gets handled” rather than “do it myself.”
  2. Delegate or rid yourself of all tasks except those only you can do. It may not be as hard as you think. Often coworkers would love to tackle something on your to-do list because it’s more interesting than their regular duties. Other tasks can sit uncompleted and no one will notice.
  3. Take care of loose ends before leaving work or on the drive home. Normal home cell phone mode should be off (or muted if you have to respond to emergencies), especially during meals.
  4. When you get home, leave your work in the car, mentally that is. No sense tempting fate by leaving your computer where it might get stolen.
  5. If you have to work at home, have a set place and time for doing so. You can complete your tasks more quickly without interruptions.

While the 40-hour workweek is much maligned, I think it makes a lot of sense. With only 168 hours in a week, at least 49 of which should be spent sleeping, working 40 hours takes up a third of your waking hours. Wouldn’t it be nice to confine them to 9 to 5? But there’s no use pining for what once was.

Hopefully, you’re not intent on having your tombstone read, “Worked Massive Numbers of Hours.” (If you are, please contact me immediately!) By learning to restrict your work you’ll find much more worthy words to place on it, and most likely have many more years before they have to be placed.

How many hours a week do you work? 

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

How to Free Yourself on Independence Day

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Memories of picnics on the bluffs of Santa Barbara followed by fireworks and evocations of history resonate deeply. Nowadays, I gather friends at my home where we read the Declaration of Independence and have a barbecue. But aside from celebrating the rebirth of representative government on the world stage, this 4th of July can have deep personal significance for you.

How to Free Yourself on Independence Day

All of us are oppressed by something. It may be:

  • Fear: Letting go of the past to embrace a better present and future is a scary prospect. Even if your past is less than wonderful, it’s familiar. Change leads to growth and new opportunities. Are you living the exact life you want?
  • Victimhood: You may be a victim, in which case you need help and time to heal. But too often victimhood is used as an excuse for inadequate self-discipline. Is it really Hagen Daz’s fault?
  • Overcommitting: There’s lots of reasons you say yes too often: Good intentions, maintaining a relationship, belief that you can do it all. Do you really want to keep living this way? Would the world end if you said no sometimes?
  • People Pleasing: Related to overcommitting, consistently placing other’s needs ahead of you own will eventually destroy your ability to help anyone. You’re a person too. Why aren’t you making self-care a priority?
  • Procrastinating: If you’re putting off doing tasks you should not be doing in the first place, GREAT! But, if essential tasks remain neglected day after day, you’re paying a terrible price. What prevents your being motivated?
  • Failure: Talk to anyone who has done anything and you’ll find they failed. And while they may not broadcast it, most highly successful people have failed a lot. Coming up short is a part of life. Why do you want to make it permanent by allowing it to halt further progress?

My list isn’t complete. Take some time this week to figure out what burdens you. Perhaps you have several. Choose the one most easily overcome. Then, on Independence Day, declare your freedom from it. Commit to negating its influence on your life. Paste a big note on you bathroom mirror saying:

I am free from [burden]. It no longer tyrannizes my life.

Every time you see your sign, read it out loud. Congratulations, 4th of July has just become your personal independence day too!

How will you celebrate Independence Day? Please comment below.

How to Deal with Injustice

Periodically I find myself experiencing Don Quixote moments. If you’re not familiar with the title character of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, he inspired Man of La Mancha, the great 1965 musical in which The Impossible Dream is sung. Don Quixote, who jousts with windmills, longs to “right the unrightable wrong . . . no matter how hopeless.” He’d find innumerable opportunities for such futility in the navy’s bureaucracy.

How to Deal with Injustice

Hindsight often exposes the folly of many of my fights. When someone does something unjust or malicious my default is to expose the perpetrator and have him punished. After all, if he gets away with such behavior it will encourage him to do it again. But such battles take a great deal of physical and mental energy. The resulting frustration inevitably spills over into other areas of my life, impacting my spiritual wellbeing.

Reality check: Even if the person is held accountable, I’ve made an enemy for life, one who will revel in having justification for further odious acts.

Balance is key here.

My running partner and I discussed proportionality last week. Response to a provocation must be in line with the larger strategic goal not the individual incursion. So too in your life. Before you level the 16” guns, is the campaign on which you’re planning to expend so much energy worth it in light of your personal mission and goals?

I’m not going to change the stagnant and insidious nature of navy bureaucracy any more than I am going to transform human nature. There will always be people who play petty power games corrosive to morale that detract from meeting the mission. My best course of action is to navigate around them. I’ll leave it for G-d to decide the appropriate punishment.

How do you bring this type of balance into your life?

  1. Be crystal clear about your personal mission
  2. Be equally clear about the goals that support your mission
  3. When faced with an obstacle, only confront it if it serves your mission and goals

This may sound selfish, but if your mission is sound then undoubtedly you are serving humanity in your own way.

I can understand Don Quixote’s attraction to hopeless causes. Unexpected victory in such a fight powerfully supports the belief that justice will prevail. Occasionally it’s necessary to sharpen my lance and take the field against an unconquerable enemy, if only to preserve my peace of mind. I suspect you feel the same way. If so, fight a battle that even though you lose it, will give you a lesson you can use in more winnable fights.

In the meantime, save your physical, mental, and spiritual energy for those you love and who love and respect you. Your white charger won’t mind resting in his stall a while longer, unburdened by heavy armor.

What hopeless cause must you fight for? Please comment below.

When Doing Nothing is the Most Productive

Have you ever kept an onion so long it grew green shoots? A few months ago I had one that sprouted stems a foot long. Rather than throwing it away I decided to plant it. Since potting it I’ve done nothing but water it periodically. About a week ago while leaving the house I noticed what looked like a seedpod had grown at the top of a three-foot high stalk. Coming home one evening the pod had blossomed into tiny, delicate white flowers. They are exquisite.

When Doing Nothing is the Most Productive

So often when something starts to go wrong or crisis strikes I feel compelled to immediately respond. Massive intervention before things get worse seems like the only prudent course of action. But of late, I’ve held myself back. Not the kind of procrastination where I'm avoiding dealing with an issue or am paralyzed by indecision. I intentionally take time to study and consider alternatives and at times consult with a friend or trusted advisor.

In doing so I’ve spared myself considerable emotional turmoil.

Some of the questions I ask myself before responding to a challenge are:

  1. Is there really a problem here?
  2. What is the challenge and what are its roots?
  3. Is it as big as I think it is? Put another way, will it make any difference a week, month, or year from now?
  4. If I get overly caught up in dealing with the issue, what other things will I be prevented from doing?
  5. Can I have a positive impact on the resolution?
  6. Will it distract me from the priorities in my life?

Living an intentional life might lead you to think you must intervene anytime something happens that isn't in line with your plans. But maybe this alternative path will get you where you want to go just as well as the original. Or maybe it will take you to a better place.

While neglecting a significant relationship challenge or the need to change a negative habit is rarely if ever productive, most of life’s challenges are not at that level. Benign neglect can often solve minor problems as well as intervention can and with a smaller investment of time and emotion.

Consider letting the onion slide. Maybe it will bloom into a beautiful white flower on its own.

What are your criteria for deciding to intervene in a problem? Please comment below.

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