During the High Holidays, when we strive to live with a heightened awareness, it's important to be clear on your priorities in life and not get caught up with endless distractions. Here's a simple exercise to help you stay focused.
Write down 10 of the most important principles you believe in that shape your life priorities. What are the big-picture fundamentals that you know deep down should be guiding your decisions and that you all too often forget about in the daily grind? It doesn't matter if they're obvious or simple; you're not trying to impress anyone with your list. This is your private reminder of the principles you ultimately want to be living with.
It doesn't matter how well it's written, and whether or not you're a philosopher. Just write, and later you can hone your list down, and perhaps share with others.
Here's my list, in no particular order:
(1) I have free will and can choose to wage battle against my yetzer hara, my lower self. I am responsible for my actions. There are no excuses, only eternal consequences. God is filming everything, and isn't going to turn a blind eye. He expects the most from me. Choose life!
(2) The only real failure in life is not trying. Don't be afraid to take on new challenges and risks. I never know what good will come from my focused efforts, but I do know what will come from not trying.
(3) Am I nurturing my most important relationships? Be affirming, positive, giving to others.
(4) I have an obligation to learn and know the entire Torah. What is my plan to accomplish this? What am I doing about it?
(5) Am I making God welcomed and comfortable to be with me in my day to day life? Am I thinking inappropriate things? Am I viewing inappropriate things? Am I wasting time? Losing my temper? Being critical and judgmental? Am I even thinking about God?
(6) Am I taking care of my health?
(7) This world is a corridor to the Next World. My life ― right here, right now ― is to create eternity by choosing wisely, to connect to God and become more and more like God. Get moving; this opportunity is quickly evaporating.
(8) It doesn't matter what others think of me. My self esteem comes from recognizing that I am a pure soul, loved by God, striving to do my best.
(9) I am responsible for the Jewish people. With the majority of Jews intermarrying and assimilating, there is a grave spiritual crisis, as well as a serious physical threat to Jews everywhere. What am I doing about this? What else can I do?
(10) If I'm not pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, I'm not really living. Life in this world is for growth and struggle.
(11) (I know I said 10, but how can I not include this one?) God is the ultimate reality, the transcendent source of all existence. There are no accidents; everything happens for a reason and is somehow for my good.
That's my list. What's yours? Please share some of your core principles in the comments section below.