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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Audio Class on Chukat-Balak

Dear Friends,

Here is a class I gave on Parshat Chukat-Balak:

Parshat Balak 2020

Have a Shabbat Shalom,


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Monday, June 12, 2023

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Audio on the Parsha

 Dear Friends, 

This is a parsha class I gave during Covid: 

Parshat Behaaloscha 2020

Have a Shabbat Shalom,