4.04 UNDERSTANDING TESHUVA AND SLICHOS: PATHWAYS TO CHESHBON Part 2
In yesterday’s sheet, we spoke about different pathways that can be used to allow an individual to figure out his goals. After an individual has clarified his goals, there is another very important step that needs to be done. Some sort of system for monitoring his progress towards achieving them has to be set up. Today’s sheet discusses a few possible ideas that might be helpful in monitoring one’s goals.
PATHWAY #1-THE BALANCE APPROACH
Many of us live our lives from one day to the next without focusing on all the different areas of responsibility that we should. For example, many of us might hear a shmuez on a certain mussar topic that inspires us greatly, but then after a few days, the issue fades from our mind, and we move on to the next thing that bounces our way.
This approach calls for dividing your life into specific areas that you will monitor either weekly, monthly or any other time span that you approve of. Here is a sample breakdown of different areas of one’s life:
1. Cheshbon — making sure that one does a proper cheshbon that will insure a proper overview of one’s responsibilities.
2. Learning — making sure that you are growing and achieving your goals in all aspects of your learning.
3. Avodas Hashem (serving G-d) — making sure that you are on the right track in serving G-d. This would include overviewing your davening, blessings, and your overall relationship with G-d.
4. Character Traits and Emotions — making sure that you are working on improving your character traits and solving problems that might be holding you back in the emotional realm.
5. Global and Community Concerns — making sure you deal with your idealistic issues. What am I doing to make this world a better place to live in? Am I bringing Mashiach or distancing him?
6. Interpersonal Relationships — making sure that you are fulfilling all your responsibilities with your family and friends. This might include plans on how to show your family the beauty of Judaism.
7. Health — making sure you are healthy and taking care of yourself in the proper way.
8. Financial — making sure that you are on top of all your financial concerns.
9. Physical Concerns — making sure you are doing the things that you need to do in the physical world. For example, doing household repairs, buying a new suit, fixing your car, etc.
This is just a sample list of items that might go into your own personal list. Once you have come up with a list (one that you feel suits your personality), then you can come up with general goals that you want to accomplish in each area.
You don’t have to be involved with all the areas on your list at one time. For example, if you are a bochur living in the yeshiva you may not have so much to do with the Financial area. If you live in the dormitories the area of Physical Concerns might be something is not too big an issue. But for a kollel student who just bought an apartment, these areas might be very big concerns.
The main issue is to work on all the separate areas of your life before a crisis develops. For example, with a little bit of thought and effort, one might come up with a plan to bring his family on a trip to Israel to see the Yeshiva. This trip might lead to a much greater level of Jewish awareness for them and have a great influence on their future. The time to begin to get involved with your family is now not at a later stage when a major conflict might develop over your different values.
Another example, might be the Health area. Certain times we realize that we are not feelirg well. And we ignore it until we get headaches, nausea, etc. and then lose a day or two of learning. Then we call up the doctor to see him. If every week or month we ask ourselves how we are doing in the Health area, this might help us in the future not even require a doctor.
Practical Suggestions -1. Choose the areas of your life that you want to monitor. 2. Make general goals in each of these areas. 3. Every week or month look over the goals to see whether or not you are on track. 4.If you see that a potential difficulty might be brewing, take the time now to start dealing with it before it becomes a major problem later.
This approach is an excellent supplement to the pathways suggested in yesterday’s sheet. For example, one might make a set of yearly goals for Rosh HaShanah and is looking for a way to monitor them. This system is an excellent way to keep you balanced in overviewing all the commitments you made during the High Holy Day season.
Another important part of this system is to maintain focus on goals you have made which you are not presently involved with (because of other priorities). Many of us when involved in certain areas put on our blinders and plow ahead as fast as we can in that area we are involved in. For example, we might be learning very strong in order to help ourselves grow in order to take leadership positions one day. But that doesn’t mean in the meantime we should forget about the suffering of the Jewish People. That should be a primary motivation in our learning.
By focusing periodically on all the areas of our lives this will help keep us on track in every area.
PATHWAY #2-HAVE A PENALTY SYSTEM
This pathway is not for everybody. It is for people who like a strong, emotional incentive to get something done. The idea is to assign penalties for certain things that you very strongly want to get done. Lets say, for example, you want to get up every morning for davening. And it just isn’t happening. So you tell your friend who you are close with, “I will give you, Bli Neder, $5 for every davening I miss.” You also set up with him that if you do give him money, you can earn it back by doing certain mitzvos that are very hard for you to do. Let says you are memorizing Chumash Simonim and you hate reviewing. So you say to your friend, “If I review 50 Simonim a day I can make back my money.”
This system has been proven to strongly motivate people who have been unable to otherwise get moving in a certain area. But a few words of caution. Make all your commitments for a short time period only, say “Bli Neder” for each commitment, and only do this with a good friend. (Some people just give the money directly to charity so as not to cause their friend any uncomfortable feelings).
For someone who is looking for a strong way to get himself to keep his Rosh HaShanah commitments, this might be the direction for you.
PATHWAY #3-ASK YOURSELF EVERY DAY, “WHAT HAVE I DONE TODAY THAT WILL CONTRIBUTE TO SOMETHING VALUABLE BEING WRITTEN ON MY TOMBSTONE?”
We all remember, when we learned the “48 Ways to Wisdom,” the advice that was given to ask ourselves, “When I die what will be written on my tombstone? Will the answer be that I ate 10,000 chickens? Or drove two sports cars?” This is a tremendous way to focus to see if our lives are meaningful. This pathway suggests that a person ask himself every day, “What have I done today that will contribute to something valuable being written on my tombstone?”
The purpose of this Pathway is to allow us to see if our accomplishments really make an impact on our lives that we can be proud of. If they do then we know that our day was ultimately meaningful.
THE NEED TO BE PERSONAL
There are many different types of cheshbon systems that one can choose from in order to successfully monitor his goals this upcoming year. But one thing is crystal clear; everyone has their own way to do a proper cheshbon. You might try one and then find out that it isn’t for you. There is no “one” right way to do this for every person. If none of the suggestions on this sheet are for you, by all means don’t quit. Try and experiment with any system that you feel could be successful this upcoming year.
A man should observe all of his actions and watch over all of his ways so as not to leave himself with a bad trait, let alone a sin or a crime. I see a need for a person to carefully examine his ways and to weigh them daily in the manner of the great merchants who constantly evaluate all of their undertakings so that they do not go wrong. He should set aside definite times and hours for this weighing so that it isn’t a fortuitous matter, but one which is conducted with the greatest regularity; for it yields rich returns. (Mesillas Yesharirn, Perek Gimmel)