Generally, the things we do on a regular basis define us and determine if our lives are full of meaning and fulfillment. Ironically, often this category gets pushed to the side and we give priority to the errands and distractions which come up each day.
This daily checklist helps us pay attention to the constants in our lives, the things that are always important. Read over this checklist and see which items you already do. Congratulate yourself for engaging in these important activities. Then, choose one that you do not yet do and are motivated to start doing; make it a daily priority (or at least a weekly one). Once that becomes a habit, choose another. Over time, you will be able to check off daily each item on this list (although the time spent on a given item will vary per day).
At the beginning of each day, read over this checklist, preferably out loud, to help you get into the right mindset for the day.
Between us and ourselves:
1. Compliment and encourage myself. What is one of my strengths? What challenges have I overcome? I am amazing! With God’s help, I will overcome my challenges and become a better person. I can do it!
(If you have accomplished anything on this checklist yesterday, that is reason enough to compliment yourself. The importance of focusing on our good qualities and on those of others, is a fundamental teaching of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.)
Each day God gives me the gift of life, He says to me, “I am giving you this day because as your Creator, I know you can use it to reach even higher levels of achievement. Use this day to clean your slate of past mistakes, avoid sinful behavior and take advantage of opportunities to become a better person. If you put in the effort, I will help you become the person you were meant to be.”
(To make the most of each day, schedule in meaningful and productive activities, including those which develop your strengths. Set short and long term goals and work toward them, step by step. As long as you are moving forward, with God’s help, you will achieve your goals. Ask others for advice on how best to pursue your goals. If possible, find a mentor with whom you can check in regularly, to discuss your progress.)
(Find something for which to be grateful, whether a blessing in your life, or a bright side of a painful situation. For your challenges, talk to yourself words of faith, to help you become more accepting. For your difficulties, talk to yourself words of compassion, understanding and encouragement. For more on this topic, see the first three tools in, “6 Tools to Enhance Your Mood.”)
4. Take care of my health. I will do my best to eat healthy, exercise (brisk walking counts), get enough sleep, and have a meaningful conversation with a family member or friend (social support is health and life enhancing).
Between us and our fellow:
5. Do not harm emotionally or financially. I will do my best not to cause harm and I will apologize if I do. I only want to be a force of goodness in people’s lives.
(Emotional harm: Being hyper-critical, yelling at people, ridiculing what they did, making hurtful comments, ignoring them or speaking negatively about them. If you realize you have harmed someone emotionally, as soon as possible, ask for forgiveness.
Financial harm: Being late in agreed upon payments, withholding monies belonging to others, not keeping your word or taking advantage of people. If you realize you have harmed someone financially, as soon as possible, make amends and ask for forgiveness.)
6. Do acts of kindness and treat others well. I will do my best to help others and treat them well. Everyone is special.
(Ways to help others: Volunteering, giving someone emotional or material support, advice, encouragement, or helping someone find a job, a spouse or a needed resource.
Ways to treat others well: Taking an interest in them, being considerate of their needs, and giving them warm greetings, appreciation and compliments.)
Between us and God:
7. Increase my faith in God. I will use my difficulties to come closer to my Creator. When faced with a challenge, I will ask for His help and make reasonable efforts to address the situation. I will remind myself, “This is from God for my eternal benefit. Part of fulfilling my life’s purpose is doing what I can to overcome and grow from this challenge. This will work out in the end; either in this world or in the next. God is with me, giving me the strength and courage I need to triumph.”
(A shorter version, when appropriate, is to say to yourself enthusiastically when faced with a challenge, “It’s going to be great!” You don’t know how or when – in this world or the next – but somehow you will gain from the challenge; it will be a steppingstone to achieving greatness.)
8. Study Torah. I will study God’s Torah during a set time. I thirst for His wisdom.
(There are many areas of the Torah to study, focus on those to which you are most drawn. You can study from a book, read an article, study with a partner, attend a class, or listen to recorded lectures during your commute or while exercising. Even if only for a few minutes, nourish your soul daily with God’s Torah.)
9. Speak to God. I will talk to God and deepen my relationship with Him. I yearn for His closeness.
(Two ways to do this: (1) Recite daily at least one prayer with intention. (2) Talk to God informally: Thank Him for what is going well in your life and ask Him to help you with challenges.)
10. Surrender to God. “God, I surrender to You. Please help me do Your will and fulfill Your Torah. When I lapse, please give me the strength to repent right away and begin again with a fresh start.”
(Observance is not all or nothing; the more you observe, the more you benefit, in both clear and hidden ways. Pick a particular area in which you are motivated to strengthen your observance, and commit to a specific and doable upgrade in observance. For more on surrendering to God, see, “Surrendering to God: 3 steps to transcend your ego.”)
Looking over these 10 items, which one will you start doing today?