4.03 UNDERSTANDING TESHUVA AND SLICHOS: PATHWAYS TO CHESHBON Part 1
One of the key elements of your commitment to the teshuva process is to have a plan. Without one it is hard to show G-d that you are seriously committed to change in the future.
The first step in making a plan is to figure out your goals in life. What do you want and which direction do you want to take? Once a person determines his goals, he then begins to implement and monitor them. This sheet contains suggestions for determining yearly and lifetime goals. Tomorrow’s sheet deals with how to monitor your goals.
THE NEED FOR CHESHBON
The Baalei Mussar (the masters of self perfection) speak about the absolute necessity of self-reflection and awareness on where you are and where you need to go:
A man must constantly — at all times, and particularly during a regularly appointed time of solitude — reflect upon the true path (according to the ordinance of the Torah) that a man must walk upon. After engaging in such reflection, he will come to consider whether or not his deeds travel along this path. For in doing so it will certainly be easy for him to cleanse himself of all evil and to correct all of his ways. (Mesillas Yesharim, Perek Gimmel)
AN IMPORTANT NOTE
This sheet is not suggesting that you try out all the exercises here. Rather, it is written as a list of options so you can have a choice. Try one and see if the tool is for you. If not, try another one. More than that might be too much.
PATHWAY #1-LOOK BACK ONE YEAR FROM NOW
This pathway suggests that we write down the personal resume that we would write one year from today — if all our dreams came true. Many of us have a work-oriented resume summarizing our past work history. We could do the same for our past personal history. This tool suggests writing a future resume now as if we were summarizing the next year. It will then tell us what we want to happen over that period.
There are three rules governing what goes into your “future” resume:
1. It has to be something you want to happen.
2. It has to be possible (even if you don’t plan for it to happen, or even if it would require great energy output on your part).
3. You have to be as specific about it as possible.
What do you do after you finish your resume?
Look at all the ideas written on the paper. Ask yourself, ‘Why can’t I make this a reality?’ Brainstorm different ideas to overcome potential obstacles from getting you where you need to go.
What is the purpose of the “future” resume?
Many people have unconscious goals and wishes that are buried deep in their personality. They think they never can achieve them. If they make them conscious, they may well see that they can achieve goals that they never thought possible.
For example, you may have a strong subconscious wish to finish a certain mesechta. But you avoid thinking about it because you don’t believe it is possible. By doing this exercise, this desire might come to the surface. Then you might take action for achieving it.
Many times you have a goal that you wouldn’t even consider because your Yetzer Hara has you convinced that it is just not possible. Doing this exercise might get you to realize aspirations that you might not normally concentrate on.
Note: This exercise can be done for a longer period than one year. Pretend you are 120 years old, sitting in a rocking chair looking back on your life. What would you want written about your life that went before. This provides incredible insights into what you want out of life.
PATHWAY #2 – LIFETIME GOAL EXERCISE
What are your lifetime goals?
How would you like to spend the next three years?
If you knew now you would be struck by lightning six months from today, how would you live until then?
Get several pieces of paper, a pencil or pen, and a watch or clock with a second hand. Set aside about fifteen minutes. On the top of a sheet of paper write the question: What are my lifetime goals?
Now take two minutes to list answers. Of necessity, you will have to stay very general and abstract, but you should still include all the areas you can think of. Make your list as all-inclusive as you can. During this listing stage you are not committed to any of the goals that write down, so record whatever comes into your head.
After the first two minutes are up, give yourself an additional two minutes to make the changes necessary for you to feel satisfied with your statement of goals at this early stage.
The Second Lifetime Question — When you list lifetime goals quickly and without much reflection, you probably include a number of generalities such as happiness,’ success, achievement,’ and the like. You can pinpoint your goals better by now asking a second question: How would I like to spend the next three years? Again list your answers as quickly as possible for two minutes. Then take another two minutes to include whatever you may have missed the first time around on this question.
The Third Lifetime Question— Now, for a different perspective, write down this third question: If I knew now I would be struck dead by lightening six months from today, how would I live until then?
The purpose of this question is to find out whether there are things that are important to you that you’re not doing now or which deserve more of your attention in the next six months. You might continue to live as you are now or you may want to add several things that are missing. Write your answers as quickly as possible for two minutes, then go back and refine them for an additional two minutes. (Don’t get lost in thinking about this question — just write.)
Working Further On All Three Questions— Now spend an additional two minutes minimum reviewing and improving your goals statement on all three questions. You may spend longer if you wish.
Take your list in hand and spend one minute selecting the top three goals in each question.
At this point, you should have nine goals culled from the three lists. To pick out the three most important long-term goals of the nine, write on a fresh piece of paper, “My three most important long-t,erms goals are …” Then write them in priority order. You have now finished a preliminary goals statement.
You might want to try this exercise a few times until you are clear with exactly what you want out of life
PATHWAY # 3-SEE HOW YOU CAN INCREASE SATISFACTION IN YOUR LIFE
Write out a list of all the major areas of your life. That list might include learning, serving G-d, interpersonal relations, financial concerns, community responsibilities, etc. Try to be as comprehensive as you can. Write on the top of a piece or paper the following question: I would have more satisfaction one year from now in each area if…
Then start brainstorming ideas in order to fill in the blank. After fifteen minutes of doing this, you will have a list of directions you might want to change in.
Now come up with specific, practical solutions to allow you to have more satisfaction in your problem area. Implement them in a weekly program and you will start seeing tangible change in how you feel about your life.
PATHWAY #4-MAKE A LONG TERM PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE
King Solomon said, ‘If you search for it like silver, and hunt for it like a treasure, then you will understand the fear of G-d.” What King Solomon is trying to tell us is to treat our spiritual growth as seriously as we would search for treasure. Another way of looking at it is, we should pursue growth the same way we pursue money in our lives.
This pathway is for individuals with a business background or with a business type orientation. It suggests that we should make a long term plan for our lives in the same way a company would make one. Every company has a plan with directions, dates and deadlines for each step in their future. We should have one as well.
So sit down and make a plan for the future. Ask yourself how you would make such a plan if you owned a business. By doing this, you can come to many different insights into how you should take your life more seriously.
In order to begin work on the Teshuva process, one needs to know what he wants out of life and where he wants to go. Once he has that clear it will allow him to develop a plan for Teshuva that will lead to maximum growth and direction.
This sheet is dedicated to getting us to delve inside ourselves and figure out what we really want and are looking for in our lives. Out of this we can develop a plan for teshuva that will motivate, and excite us in a powerful way.
So now pick a pathway and try it. You will find that it will open you up and allow you to think of the directions you need to pursue in the future.