It is the friday before the last Shabbat of the year. It is a year that revealed itself to be so deeply transformative. And so, it is with infinite gratitude to Hashem that I share pieces of my personal torah, the lessons of this path of my journey that was the year 5773.
Invest In Experience
The body of research in the field of positive psychology continues to grow with studies exploring what makes us happy, why it makes us happy and what leads to a life of fulfillment. Studies consistently show that investing in experience brings more happiness than investing in objects. this awareness that your possessions will not provide a long-term inner-satisfaction may sway your decision when the choice is between a vacation and a new pair of Manolos but I think we can expand these findings to use as a filter when faced with career questions and various professional opportunities. It’s obvious to place salary as a fundamental factor in our pursuit of a high quality of life along with career advancement and reaching professional goals. For me, spending on experience has sometimes meant taking a lower paying position to ensure I’m surrounded by people who share my ideals and values and live kindly, honestly and with integrity. Often it means investing in my health by putting myself in an environment where cortisol levels are manageable. Consider the effects of a high stress lifestyle with cortisol levels off the charts, the far reaching consequences for health, decision making, the impact on your home and loved ones, your overall quality of life. Sure, my closet may want for some Diane von Furstenberg (OK. so by closet I mean me. I want DVF!) but the gifts we bestow ourselves by investing in experience will appreciate over time giving us a more pleasant day-to-day living while memories of positive experience will satiate us in our later days.
You Are Your Own Wisest Guru
There is no doctor, guru, therapist, coach, psychiatrist, Rabbi, holistic health practitioner or Kabbalist who can tell you more about you than you know about you. Really. Both physically and emotionally. In western society we’re plagued by ingrained victimization parading itself as conventional wisdom which holds that if you’re sick there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. You can’t make you better. Only the doctor can make you better. We sign-off responsibility for our wellbeing to teachers and practitioners and have lost sight of a fundamental difference between integrating the advice and guidance of practitioners and relying on them entirely. As we take the steps towards self-discovery, knowledge and wisdom we will come to rely on ourselves first. We will then seek out those with more expertise, know-how, skill and experience to gain added insight in our healing journey. We will honor our doctors and spiritual guides while cherishing the truth of our inner voice. This recognition was a game changer for me. For 29 years I went to my doctor and said “fix me” and in my 30th year I understood that in reality I could fix myself and then further reinforce and complement the healing process by partnering with the most knowledgeable and skilled doctors and specialists.
You Will Always Make Mistakes
The question is only when will you stop glaring those mistakes down with judgement? When will you cease to allow mistakes to be the fuel for your sense of inadequacy? It takes 20 years to become an overnight success. Rovio went through 51 titles and tens of thousands of revisions before launching Angry Birds… More and more those we recognize as being the new spiritual thinkers and leaders are publicly baring their vulnerabilities, sharing their missteps and failings. Is it self-inflicted public shaming? No! They have welcomed mistakes as supercharged fuel for growth. Mistakes and failures are not cause for shame but the foundation for success. It’s only falling off your board that you learn to get back up and then get off and design a better one or hone your strength and balance to surf the next, bigger wave. Acknowledge your mistakes and continuously evaluate them asking what you can learn how you can change to improve in the next round.
The Blessing is in the Hardship
Or in other words, stop fighting your reality. Growing up with Loveline meant being impressed with the words of Dr. Drew to “accept reality on reality’s terms” and quite frankly I’m really not sure how I used to understand this saying. We will all face some degree of trauma in our lives from expected and unexpected sources and in our rumination we may fall into the trap of “should have”. It should have been different, it should have gone a different way, he should have been nicer, I should have gone there instead, I should have walked, she should have been more caring, should have been more attentive, should have been less stupid. It is in the “should haves” that we find ourselves on thin spiritual ice questioning the core of our emunah (faith/belief). Reb Shlomo calls the word “should” avoda zara (idolatry but literally, strange worship) because it questions the path that Hashem laid out for you. It claims that G-d was wrong in fashioning your life in the way it has played out. This is an incredibly dangerous way to live and in my experience it is in battling our reality, fighting our perceived misfortunes that is the root cause of all physical and emotional dis-ease. Hashem chose Am Yisrael as the am segulah and chazal teach us that the suffering of Egypt was not for the sake of punishment but a crucial step towards refinement to reach our divine potential. In our personal lives we will experience our own Egypts and we will emerge to see the blessings that result from that hardship. Ultimately we will internalize the knowledge that the trauma does not only yield infinite blessing but that the hardship itself is the blessing. At that moment we release “should have” and lay down arms against our past to live a more content present.
It is with gratitude and anticipation that I fashion and open myself to the abundance of 5774.
Wishing us all a Shana Tova.
May we be signed and sealed in the book of life.