Tag Archives: positive habits

Give Compliments Like a Devotee

“. . . and they said, ‘good is the land that G-d gives to us.’” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:25). Who is the “they” that said this? Was it Joshua and Caleb or the other ten spies? Why would it make a difference?

Give Compliments Like a Devotee

The parsha for this Sabbath is Devarim, beginning the fifth and final book of the Torah. It is known as Mishneh Torah, which means either repetition or review of the Torah or explanation of the Torah.

The Israelites heard the previous four books of the Torah directly from G-d who spoke through Moses’s throat. But Moses received Devarim from G-d in the way that other Prophets received their messages from G-d, then at a later date conveyed the message to the people.

A few weeks ago the submarine I was riding had a small casualty. Several sailors reacted quickly and solved the problem. Later that evening the Executive Officer praised the crew over the intercom then said, “I wish you would do it this well during drills.” He nullified his compliment with criticism.

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Back to the questions. Rashi gives the obvious answer. Since the words are praising the Land, Joshua and Caleb must have said them. But the Chasam Sofer disagrees. He points out that the other ten spies could have said them since they initially made a positive statement about the land then preceded to undermine it by declaring it was so good the giants living there would never give it up.

How often do you spoil positive reinforcement by tagging on recriminations or implying that it happens too infrequently? Think about the last time this happened to you. Did you remember the compliment or the condemnation? It was the latter, was it not?

If an act is worthy of praise give it its due, publicly if possible. Leave fault-finding for another day and do it privately. By contrast, if you receive a back-handed compliment do your best to forget the negative and retain the positive.

Question – How do you make sure your compliments are purely positive?

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Why Faith Fortifies Mental Fitness

Where would you be without faith? While usually associated with the religious realm, faith is important to all aspects of your life. It has played a pivotal role most of history’s great events and accomplishments.

Why Faith Fortifies Mental Fitness

Consider: When General Eisenhower decided to go forward on D-Day, he was not sure the Normandy invasion would be successful. He even wrote a short press release accepting full blame for its failure. Yet despite his unease he had faith in his men. More importantly, they knew this was the case. Who can say but that this knowledge was what impelled them to succeed.

Consider: Successes and failures in space travel meant the Apollo 11 astronauts could not be sure they would get to the moon or once there be able to return to Earth. Despite the exertions and confidence of the scientists and technicians working on the moonshot, blasting off atop the Saturn V rocket was an act of faith by Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. Perhaps it was their faith in the support personnel that made their flight successful. Surely Lovell’s, Swigert’s, and Haise’s faith in the people manning Houston Control was central to their safe return after the Apollo 13 mishap.

Note that faith is not the absence of doubt. Just like bravery is acting despite being afraid, faith is moving forward in the face of uncertainty. Often faith means going ahead, despite knowing there will be problems and missteps along your chosen path, holding the belief that you and/or your team will somehow be able to overcome the obstacles.

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Faith aligns your mind and spirit with your physical actions. You are much more likely to attain your objective when all aspects of your being move in concert.

A great marriage, a thriving business, or sublime spiritual fitness all take a huge amount of effort. Yet even if you work tirelessly, there is no way of knowing in advance that you will be successful. At some point, you must take a leap of faith. Having made the jump, despite setbacks, each day renew your belief that you will achieve that for which you strive.

Here are some tips for building up your faith.

Most people do not want to disappoint someone who believes in them. As noted above, your faith in others dramatically enhances the chances they will realize their goal.

Can faith move mountains? Perhaps not by itself. But if you are certain that your team can do it, and they feel your conviction, it is entirely possible to re-sculpt the planet.

Question – How do you build up faith in yourself?

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If You Do Not Set Your Self-Image Now – Someone Else May

As long as you think that the cause of your problem is out there, as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering, the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim that you are suffering in paradise. - Byron Katie

While the navy is not Shangri-La, a lot of sailors are needlessly suffering. They have convinced themselves they are helpless in the face of persecution by the navy or another sailor. Strangely enough, often the real victims do not perceive themselves as such and lead happier lives. What is going on here?If You Do Not Set Your Self-Image Now – Someone Else May

For the first couple of years I was in the real estate business I resented having to ask rich people to hire my company to manage their property. I had been taught that anyone who was wealthy had cheated or stolen their way to prosperity. Worse, they were out to victimize me. Yet how was I going to make any money if I feared and despised the people who had property and needed someone like me to handle it?

My conflict was solved when I started meeting wealthy people involved with a local charity. Imagine my surprise when I found they were polite, kind, generous, and interested in working with me. Fortunately, I realized that the problem was my victimhood attitude. When I altered my outlook my business prospered.

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This is not to minimize your suffering if you have been assaulted or otherwise brutalized. Your recovery may require that you acknowledge having been victimized. However, it will be counterproductive to label yourself as a victim, as if this is a permanent state.

Here is the reality: there are nasty people in our society. I had the misfortune to be hired by a couple of them. Two of the happiest days of my life were when I fired them. They tried to bully my staff and me. But having previously decided I would not be a victim in the end they failed.

There are two important questions for you to answer about yourself:

  1. Do I perceive myself as a victim?
  2. Will I allow myself to be victimized?

If you do not perceive yourself as a victim them someone will be hard pressed to persecute you. The reverse is also true. In many cases, perception will create reality.

Undoubtedly there are criminals, bigots, and jerks who will take advantage of you. Will you let them define who you are or deny them the satisfaction?

Question – Are there situations where victimhood is permanent?

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You’re Never Too Spiritual to Count Yourself Out

“But the Tribe of Levi you will not count and their census you will not do among the Children of Israel” (Bamidbar/Numbers 1:49). G-d tells Moses that the Levites will not be included in the census he takes of the Israelites. Why are they excluded?

You’re Never Too Spiritual to Count Yourself Out

This coming Sabbath we begin the fourth book of the Torah with Parshas Bamidbar.  It starts with G-d commanding Moses to take a census of the Children of Israel: first of the Twelve Tribes and then a separate one of the Levites.  Next G-d gives the arrangement of the Tribes into four camps that will travel with and encamp around the Aron, the Holy Ark. Then the Levites are appointed to the service of the Tabernacle in place of the firstborn, giving us the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, the redemption of the firstborn, still done today.

Our intrepid commentator Rashi gives a thought about why the Levites were excluded. He notes G-d left them out of the census because they would be not be included in those who were decreed to die in the Wilderness since they did not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf. The strange thing is the judgment to die in the wilderness resulted from accepting the negative report about the Land of Israel given by the spies. The Levites did commit that sin. The Sifsai Chachomim, a collection of commentaries on Rashi’s insights, resolves this conflict by noting that the decree applied to those who were guilty of both sins. Since the Levites did not take part in the sin of the Golden Calf, they were spared.

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From this distinction, Rabbi Baruch Sorotzkin derives a valuable lesson. Even though the Levites were elevated enough to refrain from participating in the Golden Calf incident, they still succumbed to the sin of believing Loshon hora, literally evil language, about the Land of Israel.

If people on such a spiritually elevated plane fell prey to this sin, how much more so may we? Though we justify listening to gossip by saying we will not believe it, too often we pass it along thereby enticing others to pay credence to it even if we do not. Better that we should ask the person to refrain from saying negative things and if not, walk away

Question – How do you deal with gossip?

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5 Questions that Self Motivate

Why did I do that? Undoubtedly you have asked yourself this question. Probably when you made a bonehead mistake. Did you know you hit upon the most important question you can ask yourself for living an intentional life?

5 Questions that Self Motivate

As I strive to be more purposeful, I find that I must continually probe my actions, thoughts, and feelings. Last week I was tasked with making some arrangements. I dutifully identified the people with whom I needed to speak, obtained their contact information, checked the time difference between our locations, and figured out the proper time to call them. Returning to my office late that afternoon to make the calls, and finding my colleagues had already left and locked up, I realized I did not have my keys. Knowing I had to work late tomorrow anyway, I decided to postpone the calls by a day.

A perfectly reasonable decision, is it not?

What if I add that it would have taken less than 15 minutes to retrieve my keys? Did I forget to mention I find it difficult to call strangers and ask them to do things I dislike doing?

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Understanding your actions or inactions, thoughts, and feelings is the first step to better self-motivation. Here are the variations on “why did I do that” that will help you:

  1. Why am I so motivated to do certain things? Of course, you like the activity, but why? What thoughts or images does it create in your mind? How does it impact your emotions? What aspects of it can be brought to jobs you detest?
  2. Why do I avoid some tasks like the plague? Do not settle for the rationalization you use to wriggle out of an assignment, look more deeply. What negative associations does it raise? Which disturbing feelings does it evoke? How can you counteract these detrimental influences?
  3. Why did I just act that way? You probably did not mean to speak condescendingly. Were you even aware of it? Most difficult to control are the behaviors to which you are habituated. You need to be especially attuned to other people’s reactions.
  4. Why am I having such thoughts about this person or task? Specifically, what do you find mentally engaging or repulsive? What connections to the past is your mind making? You cannot control your thoughts so they give you a window into your motivations.
  5. What am I feeling right now? Why? How come you are feeling blue? Was it brought on by an activity or something you heard like a song? While sometimes inexplicable, often emotions are triggered. When you better understand them, you improve your responses so as to reduce their negative impact and bring yourself to a more positive state of mind.

If some of your answers do not surprise you perhaps you are not being sufficiently honest with yourself.

Indeed, it subjects you to repeated mistakes, debilitating thoughts, and the vicissitudes of emotional swings. When you examine your life, you become an active participant in truly directing it.

Question – What questions do you ask yourself to be more self-motivated?

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