Keep Trying

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Recipe for a Wonderful Year

This is the time of year when millions of people around the world take a long hard look at their lives and try to effect change. Last week, I postulated that the road to excellence is build on the steps of clarifying outcome, establishing effective processes and measuring progress. Let's see if we can apply these steps to help build a wonderful new year.

Looking deeper into our lives often leads to trying to make sense of the world and our place in it. Making the logical assumption that our complex world has a Creator, we might ask why was man created, what outcome was intended? In Creating Your World Anew, Marshall Roth quotes Luzzato's kabbalistic work, "The Way of G-d" and provides some insight to this question:

G-d created the world in order to give to us. As such, He wants us to have every good in the world. But there is a catch. The greatest gift is to give someone independence. So G-d created us with "free will" -- the ability to independently choose reality or deny it. If we choose properly, then we merit to receive the greatest pleasure available -- being close with G-d.

The outcome we are trying to achieve is to make the right choices to merit receiving the greatest pleasure available. The next step is providing the processes that will help us make lasting effective change. We know how hard change is and we are well aware that we often find ourselves making the same committments each year. In Three Steps to Genuine Change, Tzipporah Heller gives us tools to free ourselves from the prison we've erected around ourselves:

In the course of our lives, we close doors to higher and deeper selves and sometimes forget that we, too, are more than earners, spenders, and travelers through life. Our thoughtless enslavement to mindless routine can leave us without much of a relationship to our souls. In a materialistic society, it is all too easy to view others as competitors. As toddlers we observed that when you have three cookies and give one away, all you have left are two. From that point onward we are afraid to give.

The problem is that the soul, unlike the body, thrives on giving, and on the love that is its offspring.

The last step is providing a means to measure our progress. Shraga Simmons has provided us with a Growth Worksheet with questions to ask ourselves in three areas to measure our progress. Read the whole worksheet, but here are some examples:

Do I regularly waste time?
Do I readily admit when I'm wrong?
To what extent do I rationalize my mistakes?
Is there any mistake that I commit habitually to the point where it no longer bothers me?
How could I spend one hour each week pursuing wisdom?

In general, do I view events in my life as random occurrences, or as powerful spiritual messages?
Do I spend time appreciating the beauty of nature?
Do I ever compromise my human values for the sake of monetary gain? For career advancement? For acceptance by others?
In the past, why have I not stuck to my goals?
How could I spend one hour each week nourishing my soul?

How often do I put my own needs on hold in order to help others?
Do I give tzedakah (charity) regularly? Do I give gladly or begrudgingly? Am I careful about selecting the best recipient?
Do I volunteer my time and resources to help others in need? Do I make that an important part of my week?
Do I lose patience with others and get angry? Can I identify those situations where I'm most likely to get angry?
How could I spend one hour each week giving selflessly to others?

Rosh Hoshana is a holiday for the entire world as it celebrates the creation of man and women. May everybody be blessed with a healthy, happy and meaningful New Year.