Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sunday, April 7, 2024

How to Transform Pre Pesach Stress into Eustress

Pesach is a special time. We are surrounded by family members, and bask in the warm glow of the Yontif. We commemorate how Hashem lifted us up out of Egypt and into His embrace. The love Hashem has for us and that we have for Him permeates the Yontif.

Getting ready for Pesach though, can be very challenging and at times stressful. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn our stress into eustress. Eustress is beneficial stress that occurs when we go out of our comfort zone and take on a challenge. Try these strategies drawn from my life coaching practice to get ready for Pesach.

1. Stay focused. Make a list of what needs to get done and schedule it into specific time slots on your calendar. By spreading out the tasks, you make it more manageable. Avoid frequently checking the news which will stress you and deplete your energies. Instead, once or twice a day, for 5-10 minutes you can check the news to stay up to date, or tell a friend or family member to update you if they hear anything. 

2. Take breaks. Preparing for Pesach is a marathon and not a sprint, so schedule periodic breaks of a set duration. This way, you won’t get burned out but you also won’t get sidetracked during a break. Take a daily brisk walk (preferably in nature and/or with a friend), eat a healthy diet with adequate protein, and if needed, call family or friends for encouragement or advice.

3. Delegate. Yes, you will likely do a better job if you do it yourself, but your time and energy are limited and you want to use them wisely. If there are tasks that can be delegated to others, do that. Make sure to explain clearly what needs to get done and by when. When possible, give them some leeway in how to do it. Be hearty in your praise and sparing in your criticism (if they can’t correct a mistake, instead of dwelling on it, make a note of what to tell them to do differently next year).

4. Ask your Rov. Sometimes, people confuse getting ready for Pesach with spring cleaning which makes getting ready for the Yontif unduly stressful. When in doubt, speak to your Rov about what are the requirements, what are chumras and what is just spring cleaning that can be done after the Yontif.

5. Make it fun. Yes, getting ready for Pesach is serious business. But when possible, try to inject some fun and excitement, especially for the children. You want to instill happy memories of the Yontif, and not memories of yelling and tension. Think of ways of turning preparing for Pesach into an exciting challenge with goals to achieve. You can pick a small reward if a goal is met and celebrate your achievements. You can turn on some upbeat music when cleaning the house to help you and your family get into the right frame of mind. Visualize yourself successfully getting ready for Pesach and use positive self-talk to encourage yourself (and family members). Turning an activity that initially feels overwhelming into a manageable, exciting challenge to overcome, is a key way of turning negative stress into positive eustress.

6. Take a time-out. If you feel your stress levels rising and you’re about to say something you may regret, stop for a moment and go outside for a breather (or at least into another room). Words said in anger are often regretted. Once hurtful words leave your mouth, it is very hard to undo the damage. When stressed or irritable, try the physiologic sigh. This breathing technique involves two inhales followed by an extended exhale. Take in a regular inhale through the nose and then inhale again to get in even more air. Then slowly exhale through the mouth with a sigh as the air effortlessly leaves your lungs. As you exhale and sigh, allow your body to let go of tension. Try 1-3 rounds of this breathing technique.

7. Get adequate sleep. When we are sleep deprived, our energy and mood plummets and our stress levels increase. Yes, it’s normal to have some late nights getting ready for Pesach, but try to keep your sleep schedule as consistent as possible. Set an alarm for 1 hour before bed and when you hear the alarm, put away your phone and computer and get ready for bed. Have a winddown routine to help you ease into sleep, such as a relaxing tea, a warm shower, journaling (writing down your challenges and things you’re grateful for), or reading a light book.

8. Think about others.
Remember those who are less fortunate and do what you can to relieve their burden. Give generously to Pesach campaigns to help the needy buy food for Pesach. If there’s someone you know in your community who may be having difficulty getting ready for Pesach, someone ill, a single parent, or someone who lives alone, give them a call to see how they’re doing. Maybe there is some way you can be of assistance that’s very doable or perhaps you can invite them for a meal. At the very least, your call will let them know that you care.

9. Expect (and ask for) Siyata Dishmaya. You probably remember getting ready for Pesach one year and thinking, “I don’t know how we’re going to do it this year” but in the end it worked out. Looking back, you may not even be able to explain how it all came together; that’s called Siyata Dishmaya. Hashem gave you the extra boost you needed to get over the finish line. Do your part and daven to Hashem to help you again this year.

10. Be mindful. While rushing around, getting ready for the Yontif, take a moment to be mindful of the purifying and elevating effects of getting ready for Pesach. With the right mindset, it truly is a ruchniusdic experience. Remind yourself that you are putting in all this effort because that’s what Hashem asked you to do. Through your actions you show your love for Hashem and your devotion to Him.

In addition to preparing physically for Pesach, also prepare ruchnius wise, by learning the halachos and thoughts to share at the seder and during the Yontif meals. If possible, pick up a new sefer about the Yontif to share with the family.
Rav Shimshon Pincus tz’l said that it was the extra effort he put one year into getting ready for Pesach that triggered within him an extra feeling of closeness to Hashem. This became the catalyst for a life of continuous growth in ruchnius. May the extra effort you put this year into preparing for Pesach be your catalyst for a life of continuous growth in ruchnius.

To contact Yaakov for life coaching, see here

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Plan B to Reduce Your Stress: What to do when stress management articles haven’t helped you

Have you ever read an article on stress reduction and as you were reading it, you felt your stress melting away?

Probably not. Reducing our stress takes action and often reading an article is not enough. Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” To feel less stressed, we need to make a change in our life.

Choose one small change that you will make most days of the week. Just making one or two small changes may be enough to start feeling more calm and relaxed.

In addition to the areas discussed below, limiting or taking a break from reading the news or social media, can also reduce your stress and improve your mental health.

1. Get sufficient sleep. Sufficient sleep is a great stress reducer and energizer. In my life coaching practice, sleep is often the first issue I address with clients. All the other interventions will work better and faster once a person is getting sufficient quality sleep. Light has a powerful effect on enhancing or damaging our sleep. Soon after waking up, go outside and get some natural sunlight and in the evening reduce your exposure to blue light on your phone and computer. Have a consistent bedtime. Set an alarm on your phone for 1 hour before bed and label the alarm “Shut phone and computer and be in bed by X.” When you hear the alarm, put away your phone and computer and get ready for bed. Leave your phone outside your bedroom and use a regular alarm clock to get up. Have a winddown routine to help you ease into sleep, such as a relaxing tea, a warm shower or bath, journaling, meditating, or reading a light book.

2. Eat healthy. Eat a whole foods diet, focusing on whole grains, healthy proteins and fats, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Limit sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains (white flour) to special occasions. Keep the portion size moderate, make sure you are getting adequate protein, eat slowly and enjoy the food. Stop eating 3 hours before bed, as eating later can negatively impact the quality of your sleep.

3. Meditate. There are many forms of meditation. One technique is called breath counting, where you silently count after each exhale, from 1 to 10 and then back to 1. Another technique is called the physiologic sigh and it involves two inhales followed by an extended exhale. Take in a regular inhale through the nose and then inhale again to get in even more air. Then slowly exhale through the mouth with a sigh as the air effortlessly leaves your lungs. As you exhale and sigh, allow your body to let go of tension. Throughout the day, whenever you feel stressed or irritable, try 1-3 rounds of this breathing technique.

4. Get social support. Social support reduces our stress levels. Every day, at least for 5 minutes, have a meaningful conversation with someone. If that is not possible, then at least once or twice a week have a conversation about how your week went. You can schedule with a friend or family member a set time each week that you will call or meet. Look for ways to meet new friends or reconnect with old ones. You do not need to have many friends, but a few close ones that you can share your challenges and triumphs with will make life more enjoyable and enhance your health. If you find it difficult to get enough social support, consider therapy and/or spending time with senior citizens.

5. Address but don’t wallow in your challenges. List your top 3-6 stressors. For each one, make a game plan on how you will address it. Preferably, ask others for advice. (Some examples of what your game plan may look like: breaking stressful tasks into doable steps and scheduling them into your calendar, asking for help with a task, saying no more often to requests for your time, removing non essentials from your todo list, realizing that not everything needs to be done perfectly and good enough is often enough, prioritizing tasks in order of importance, and scheduling “me time” to do hobbies or activities you enjoy.) Each week, schedule into your calendar what you will do that week to address your challenges. Periodically, assess how your plan is going and if need be, ask for more advice. Don’t ruminate on your challenges. Instead, designate 15-20 minutes a day to journal about your difficulties. In addition, spend 5-10 minutes, preferably in the morning, journaling about 3 things for which you are grateful. Try to feel feelings of gratitude for each one.

6. Do acts of kindness. When we feel that we made a difference in someone’s life, besides being a mitzvah, it also reduces our stress and enhances our mood. Every day, look for ways to help others. It can be as simple as giving a warm greeting, encouragement or a sincere compliment.

7. Exercise. Go for a brisk walk every day, preferably in nature. If you go walking with someone else, even better. If possible, also engage in more vigorous cardiovascular exercise. Sports can be both great exercise and a great stress reducer. In addition, it is very important to strengthen your body by lifting weights and/or doing bodyweight exercises.

8. Pray. God can help us with all our concerns and worries. As King David said (Psalms 55:23), “Cast your burden on God, and He will sustain you…” Prayer includes using a prayer book (siddur), reciting Psalms, as well as talking to God in your own language and unburdening yourself to Him. He wants to hear from you. Prayer can help strengthen our faith that God runs the world and our lives; that every challenge is there for our highest good and to help us fulfill our life’s purpose. The next time you are stressed about something, say to yourself, “This is from God for my eternal benefit. Overcoming and growing from this challenge is part of my life's purpose. God is with me, giving me the strength and courage I need to triumph. I will do my best and God will take care of the rest.” You can also turn to God and say to Him, “God, I know this is from You for my highest good. Please strengthen me and help me overcome this challenge.”

Make a daily checklist, listing the different days of the week horizontally across the top of the page and vertically, on the side of the page, list the activities related to the above 8 areas that you will do on a daily basis. Start with just one change and build from there. Each time you do the activity, check it off the list. You can also enlist the help of a peer coach (friend or relative) and during a weekly check in, hold each other accountable and give each other encouragement. For stress that does not respond to the above, consider a life coach or a therapist, depending on the severity of the issue.

As you will discover, engaging in these activities not only helps reduce your stress, they can also enhance your mood and energy levels.

To contact Yaakov for life coaching, click here 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Coping with the War in Israel: A 3 Prong Approach

Israel is engaged in a war with a barbaric enemy. Our hearts ache for our brothers and sisters in Israel. Many of us have increased anxiety and insomnia during this difficult time. How can we help our Israeli brethren while still maintaining our emotional health?

Here is a 3 prong approach:

1. Stay up to date in a healthy way.
2. Maintain your emotional health.
3. Help Israel.

1. Stay up to date in a healthy way. We all want to know the latest news in Israel, but moderation is key; do not keep checking the news throughout the day. Check the news during a specific time, preferably in the morning, or when you get home, but away from bedtime. When checking the news, keep it brief and do not dwell on it. Avoid news sources that feature traumatic videos or images. (Many will benefit by checking the news even less often. In that case, ask a family member or friend to keep you updated when there’s good news or any news you need to know.)

2. Maintain your emotional health. You are better able to help Israel and take care of yourself and your family if you stay emotionally healthy. The number one thing you can do for your emotional health during this time is to limit your exposure to news and other sources of distressing reports from the war. The more anxious you feel, the more you need to set limits to protect your emotional health. Reading and especially viewing upsetting news activates your sympathetic nervous system and puts your body into fight or flight mode. An upregulated nervous system can be life saving when you need to fight an enemy or run away. But chronic activation of the nervous system depletes the body.

It is healthy to spend some time talking and thinking about what is going on in Israel. When you do this, allow yourself to feel your emotions and accept whatever you are feeling. Crying is not a sign of weakness and not crying is not a sign of callousness. The rest of the day, keep busy with productive activities and stay focused on what needs to get done. When you find your mind worrying about what is going on in Israel, say a short tefillah and then bring your focus back to the task at hand.

To the extent you are able, volunteer and get involved in acts of kindness, both locally and for those in Israel. Often during war and trauma, we feel helpless. The side benefit of doing acts of kindness is that you will feel empowered by making a difference in the lives of others.

To replenish your emotional reserves, do activities that reduce stress: exercise regularly, both aerobic and muscle strengthening. Go for daily walks. Walking in nature is especially calming. It is helpful to talk to friends and family about the stresses in your life. Especially those who don’t have sufficient social support, write daily in a journal about your challenges and how you are feeling. Also keep a gratitude journal where you write down a few things each day you are grateful for and why. Try to bring up feelings of gratitude as you write about each one.

Here are two breathing techniques that can help calm the sympathetic nervous system. The first one is called the physiologic sigh. This breathing technique was popularized by neuroscientist Andrew Huberman. It involves two inhales followed by an extended exhale. Take in a regular inhale through the nose and then inhale again to get in even more air. Then slowly exhale through the mouth with a sigh as the air effortlessly leaves your lungs. As you exhale and sigh, allow your body to let go of tension. Throughout the day, whenever you feel stressed or irritable (and may say something you later regret), try 1-3 rounds of this breathing technique.

The second technique is a form of meditation called breath counting. Breathing calmly and easily, mentally count after each exhale, starting from one and going up to ten and then back to one. If you lose count, start again from 1. Do this for 5-20 minutes once or twice a day. The more you meditate, the better you will get at staying focused on your breathing and allowing your body to shift into a state of relaxation and healing. Try this technique for at least 3 days and see if you find it beneficial. 

Key for emotional health is sufficient sleep. Think about what has helped your sleep in the past. Have a winddown routine, e.g., prayer, reading a light book, writing in a journal, listening to calming music, dimming the lights, shutting off your computer and phone, drinking a hot cup of tea/milk or taking a warm bath or shower.

If you still have trouble sleeping, there are other techniques that may be helpful as well as dietary supplements or speaking to your doctor. 

Avoid the trap of self-medicating through food, alcohol and other substances. While they may provide short-term relief, they create additional problems.

There is no shame in asking for help. If you find your emotional health deteriorating or that you are engaging in unhealthy self-soothing behaviors, make an appointment with a mental health professional.

Periodically, check in with yourself and your loved ones. How are you feeling? How are you sleeping? Are you able to stay focused on daily tasks? If any of these are issues, make a plan to address it.

3. Help Israel. We can help materially, politically and spiritually. Materially, donate to organizations that are helping Israelis during this difficult time. Be as generous as you can. Communities are also organizing drives to send items to Israel. If you are active on social media, use that to help educate people about the struggle Israel is facing as well as the worldwide increase in antisemitism. Support Israel politically by contacting your politicians and letting them know that you stand with Israel. An easy way to do that is through AIPAC using the link here

6 ways to help Israel spiritually:

1. Increase your Torah study (find an author or podcast on Jewish thought that you like and read or listen to them daily, even if only for a few minutes).

2. Recite Psalms (there are a number of great English translations to help you understand what you are saying).

3. Look for opportunities to do acts of kindness. For example, call someone up who does not have much social support and see how they are doing, e.g., someone living alone or a single parent. Show you care and be a listening ear.

4. Pick one mitzvah to strengthen your observance of or to start observing, at least for the duration of the war.

5. Be extra careful to avoid gossip (lashon hara).

6. Is there anyone you have mistreated emotionally or financially? Is there anyone from whom you are estranged and bear at least some responsibility for that? Now is the time to reach out and try, when appropriate, to repair the relationship and to make amends for past mistakes.

These are unprecedented times. We cannot allow ourselves to live through this crisis and not be changed by it.

Times of war can help you get your priorities straight; to realize what is truly important in life and what are just distractions. Times of war can help you tap into your talents and abilities to help others and achieve your unique personal greatness.

God wants us to live refined, elevated lives. We saw the barbaric acts of those who are the polar opposite of refined living. That must spur us to live even more elevated lives: more Torah, more prayer, more kindness!

What will you do, at least for the duration of the war, as a merit for the Jewish People?

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

What’s Holding You Back from Living Your Best Life?

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is how can I make the most out of my life?

We all have things we want to achieve in life. The question is will we be successful?

Ultimately that is up to God, but we have to do our part. If you look around you, some people are progressing and achieving goals, while others are not. What separates those who live successful lives from those who do not?

Eight key areas often determine how successful we will be. Underachievers stumble in at least one of them and overachievers excel in many of them.

God gave us talents and abilities and put within us a natural drive to be productive and utilize those talents and abilities, but there are behaviors or mindsets that can get in the way.

8 common reasons people do not succeed:

1 They don’t ask God for help.
2 They don’t set goals.
3 They don’t ask for advice.
4 They don’t enhance their network.
5 They don’t fix their low energy and lack of focus.
6 They don’t believe in themselves.
7 They fear failure.
8 They give up too early.

8 steps to success:

1. Pray. Yes, we have to put in our best effort, but success ultimately comes from God. As King David says in Psalms (127:1), “...If God does not build the house, its builders labor in vain…” Because success comes from God, engaging in shady dealings or mistreating others to try to get ahead, will not help. In the long run it will cause harm. Have faith that with prayer and reasonable efforts, you will achieve your goals. There are two forms of prayer, formal prayer, from the prayer book or Psalms, and informal prayer where you speak to God in your native language. Do both. Each day, thank God for His blessings, tell Him your challenges and ask for His help.

Diagnostic questions: Do you realize that your efforts will not be successful without God’s help? Do you pray to God every day, asking for help?

2. Write down your goals. First write down your vision of what you want to accomplish, it can be for any or all areas of your life: health, career, finances, relationships, communal work and spirituality. Think big and push the envelope of what you think is possible and then ask yourself, “How can I take it even higher, to the next level?” You want your vision to be as big as possible so you do not put a ceiling on what you can achieve. You will be working step by step toward that vision and can achieve great success even if you never fully reach your vision. Spend time visualizing yourself successfully living your vision. After writing down your vision, your destination, write down specific goals you will need to achieve to reach that destination. Now focus on the first goal you will need to do. Keep that goal and the date by which you will complete it, front and center, where you will see it regularly. Schedule into your calendar the specific steps you will need to do to reach that goal by the timeframe you set. Once you complete that goal, start the next one (some goals can be worked on simultaneously). Even challenging goals can be broken down into manageable steps.

If possible, pick someone, a family member, friend, mentor, therapist or life coach, and each week check in with them about what you commit to do during the coming week to move forward on your goal. Every week, discuss how you did the past week in fulfilling your commitments and choose new or the same goals for the coming week.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. If you find you are not achieving your goals, then cherry pick the most important ones and go full steam ahead on them. Visualize yourself in detail, successfully reaching your goal. Feel the pride and satisfaction you will feel after you achieve your goal. You can pick a reward you will give yourself after you achieve your goal. Set up a daily chart of the activities that will lead you toward your goals to track your progress. It is the activities that you do on a consistent basis, not the one time tasks, that will be the building blocks to your success. Each day, check off on your daily checklist which activities you did. Only keep on your checklist those that you plan to do, not the things that you wish you would do.

If you find that you are not moving forward in the way you would like, contact a life coach. When you are paying someone to help you achieve your goals, your motivation to accomplish those goals as quickly as possible will skyrocket.

Do not live your life on autopilot. Decide what you want to achieve and go get it!

Diagnostic questions: Have you written down your vision of what you want to achieve in life? Have you written down your goals to fulfill that vision and the necessary steps to achieve them? By what date will you take the first step toward achieving your goals? Who will you tell to hold you accountable to your commitment?

3. Seek advice. Speak to people who have achieved similar goals to what you want to achieve or are just wise individuals with life experience. Do what has worked for others. Yes, tailor their advice to your situation and forge your own path, but when you build on the successes of others, you can avoid many of their mistakes. When people don’t ask for help and try to figure it out by themselves, they often make costly rookie errors.

In addition to periodically seeking advice from experts in the field, have a mentor, someone you regularly discuss your goals with who will help you objectively assess how things are going. A common mistake people make is to think that if they keep doing the same thing, eventually it will work out. Years pass and often they are stuck in the same situation. We need someone to help us see what our mistakes are, while there is still time to correct them. It takes effort to find the right mentor. Make a list of possibilities and approach them until you find one who is a good fit. People who are retired or are heading toward retirement often have more time on their hands and are happy to pass on their wisdom.

Diagnostic questions: Who are successful or wise people you can ask for advice? Do you have a mentor? If not, who are some people you can ask to be your mentor and meet with you periodically?

4. Enhance your network. We feed off of the energy of others. When you spend time with positive, successful people, you will realize that they are no different than you, that you too can succeed. If we associate with people who share our values and are working toward achieving their goals, that will have a beneficial influence on us. You may even decide to partner with them on a venture. Widen your circle of friends: attend events and classes and ask friends, mentors or relatives to make introductions. Reconnect to former classmates or people with whom you’ve lost touch.

We will have people in our lives who are underachievers. If they are open to it, be encouraging and share with them what has worked for you. If there are people in your life who doubt your ability to succeed or engage in unhealthy behaviors which bring you down, distance yourself from them and spend time with people who believe in you.

Do not fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and feeling you fall short. Yes, other people have talents and abilities you don’t have, but so what!? Whatever abilities you don’t have, that is God’s way of telling you that you don’t need them to succeed. Don’t dwell on what you don’t have and what you can’t do. Focus on your current abilities and what you can achieve. You do not need to be the best to succeed; you just need to do your best.

Diagnostic questions: Who are some positive and productive people you can reconnect with or spend more time with? Is there anyone in your life that you need to distance yourself from as they are having a negative impact on you?

5. Enhance your energy and focus. You need energy to achieve. Increase your energy by exercising (aerobic and anaerobic), getting enough sleep and eating healthy. Stress is a major energy drainer, so engage in stress reducing activities, such as meditation and writing in a journal. If you have any physical or emotional issues that are sapping your energy or impairing your ability to focus, now is the time to get that addressed. Reign in any addictive behaviors or time wasters which are distracting you from being successful. Those who frequently veg out in front of their video screens, what they’re really watching is life passing them by.

If you’re wasting time on your phone or computer, when will you live your best life?

There is no better time to get your life together than today. If you choose to do what you need to do to live your best life, you will accomplish great things. 

Start by setting limits on internet use and gaming (install a filter), avoid or at least limit cannabis and alcohol; they reduce your motivation and cognitive abilities and will make it harder for you to succeed. Carve out productive time during your day, where you silence your phone (unless you need to be on call for select callers). During those blocks of time, do not check your phone, email, texts or social media, and remove distractions from your environment. Focus only on your priority tasks. 

God has given you a natural drive and intelligence to overcome your challenges - as long as you do not get in your own way. If you are unable to stop unhealthy or addictive behavior, go to a recommended therapist to help you regain control and get your life back on track. 

Diagnostic questions: How are your energy levels? Are you frequently tired? What will you do about it? Do you have an addictive behavior that is sapping  your time and motivation? What will you do about it? 

6. Believe in yourself. Successful people are not necessarily more talented than those who are not successful, but successful people believe in their ability to achieve. Just that belief alone can make all the difference. Think big. Let go of preconceived limitations. Since God created you, He created you for greatness! You can grow and achieve far beyond where you are today. Less capable people than you have achieved greatness and so can you. Read biographies or articles about people overcoming challenges to achieve success. This will help you believe that you too can be successful. In order to accomplish anything in life, you first have to believe in yourself. With God’s help, you too can be successful!

Successful people focus on their strengths, on what they do well and when possible, delegate the tasks they are less good at. Part of believing in yourself is knowing what you're good at. Develop those strengths and use them to fuel your success.

We all talk to ourselves, we either give ourselves encouragement or we put ourselves down. Stop the negative self-talk; the only thing it accomplishes is to hold you back from living your best life. Be your own coach and encourage yourself to keep going and get up from setbacks. Before you start a task, tell yourself, “I can do this. With God’s help, I will get this done.” If you hit a roadblock, either try again, try a different tactic or ask for advice. But never stop encouraging yourself and believing in your ability to achieve. To help you believe in yourself, pick something you want to achieve and each day spend a few minutes visualizing yourself successfully achieving this goal. Start small, the more goals you achieve, the more you build your self-confidence. Speak to people who believe in you (relatives, mentors etc.) and be strengthened by their encouragement.

Diagnostic questions: Do you believe in your ability to succeed? If you struggle with self-confidence, what can you do to boost it? What are your talents and abilities, what do you do well? How can you spend more time and energy on those activities? How can you take those abilities to the next level and achieve even more?

7. Be ready to fail. If you fear failure, you’ll be afraid to try, and if you don’t try, you won’t succeed. In order to get out of your comfort zone and succeed in life, you need to be ready to fail. No one is successful all the time. In order to have successes, by definition you will need to have failures. If one goes through life without failures, that in itself is a failure; it means they stayed in their comfort zone and did not take full advantage of life’s opportunities. The key is to take judicious risks, so that if needed, you can easily recover and regroup after a setback. Do not take a risk that will take you many months to recover if things don't work out. Taking such risks shows a lack of faith: God can give you success without you needing to engage in risky behavior.

Part of being ready to fail is not caring about rejection or what other people think of you. Do what is right and if people think you are a fool, who cares? As long as you are not a fool in God’s eyes, that’s all that matters. Do not wait for ideal conditions or for you to be fully ready to start a project. You will never feel fully ready. You will experience failures in life, so you might as well get started and get that over with so you can start to experience successes. You only have one life. Now is your chance to make something of it!

Diagnostic questions: Is a fear of failure holding you back from taking judicious risks? Is a fear of rejection or being afraid of what other people will think of you, holding you back? What can you do about it? What is a safe risk you can take to get out of your comfort zone?

8. Be persistent.You will hit roadblocks and have setbacks. That is to be expected. Highly successful people don’t fail less than others, they fail more! They keep failing, until they succeed. They have grit and refuse to give up. They work tenaciously toward their goals. Being persistent does not mean being stubborn and inflexible. Sometimes goals need to be modified, new strategies tried or to shift gears and work toward a different goal. Periodically assess how you are doing in reaching your goals. Are you making progress? If not, what is getting in the way? Ask advice and update your game plan.

Each day, stay focused on doing the most important tasks first, the ones that will help you achieve your goals. Use your time wisely. If you are wasting time or procrastinating, get that addressed. Time is your most valuable commodity. Do not squander it. There is so much to achieve in life! Each day is another opportunity to get closer to your goals. Focus on the activities that will have the greatest impact on your life and on that of others. Focus on your strengths and what you are good at. Delegate or shelve tasks that are not a good use of your time.

Never give up! As long as you are alive, that means God has not given up on you. Pick yourself up after every setback and keep trying until you succeed!

Diagnostic questions: Did you give up too early on a goal or need to pick a more doable goal? What is an area of your life in which you are not seeing success? What are you going to do about it?

Success does not happen overnight. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Some goals take years to accomplish and multiple attempts before you are successful. Savor the mini victories along the way. Compliment and encourage yourself during the journey. As you climb the ladder of success look for ways to help others be successful as well (engaging in cutthroat or unethical tactics doesn’t work in the long run and is a sign of a lack of faith in God). As you progress, stay focused on two tracks: being persistent in working toward your goals and in praying for success. If you do not see success, ask advice: maybe you need to keep forging ahead or change tactics. With God’s help, at the right time, you will succeed.

Once you are successful remember the following:

1. Do not focus only on material success. Also work toward spiritual goals like increasing observance or closeness to God, moving to a community that will afford greater spiritual opportunities, enhancing your health, increasing your Torah learning and communal work, and being a better parent, spouse, child or sibling.

2. Do not let success go to your head. You are no better than those who are less successful. God gives success and He can take it away at any time. Learn from the arrogance and downfall of others to be ethical, generous and humble. Successful people can get sucked in by the allure of materialism, losing sight of what’s truly important in life and chasing after even more money to their spiritual detriment. Ask yourself, “Has material success pulled me away from living my best life, the life God intended for me to live when He blessed me with wealth? If I have veered off course spiritually, what am I going to do to get back on track?”

3. Keep your focus on helping others. Look for ways to use your success to benefit others. Whether helping your family, giving charity, mentoring others, helping people find jobs, getting involved in the community or in an organization. Remember that money is a tool to help us live a spiritual life and not the end goal. If you make material gain to live large your end goal, by definition you are not living your best life. Such a life is a failure and a wasted opportunity. God did not give you blessings just so you should hoard it for yourself. Go out there and share the blessing!

Begin with the first three steps and get started: Pray, write down your goals (find someone to hold you accountable) and ask for advice. Then, as you work toward your goal, add in the other steps: enhance your network, your energy and focus, believe in yourself, be ready to fail and be persistent!

Often, just making a few small daily or weekly changes will have an outsized impact. Soon, with God’s help, you will start seeing results and achieving your goals!

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