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Three keys to catapulting from paralysis to action.


What is the most frightening six-letter word in the English language?

No, it's not, "D-A-T-I-N-G." And it's not, "S-K-I-I-N-G." And it's not, "P-A-S-T-R-Y" either.

How about, "C-H-A-N-G-E"?

If you're like most people (and don't fool yourself -- you are), C-H-A-N-G-E pretty much scares the dickens out of you. All of us try to make changes in our daily lives, but how many of us are really successful?

You try to quit smoking, or lose weight, or speak Hebrew, or visit your grandmother, or surf the Internet a bit less, or spend more time with your kids, and chances are you may make a bold and decent start, but it peters out after a few days. Or, more likely, you never really get started at all, you just talk about it all the time.

Welcome to the club. Everyone finds change difficult. But some people do seem to be better at it than others. What is their secret? How do they manage to move forward? Why do some people view life's hurdles as challenges to embrace while others perceive every new transition as a 50-ton barrier on the road in front of them?

The answer is not nearly as simple as this article appears to make it, but it is within reach.

Here are three keys that may not sound especially potent or very new, but still have the potential to catapult you from paralysis to action.


A fundamental requirement for embarking on anything new is that you must believe in yourself. All of us have succeeded in certain areas and have failed in others. Unfortunately, the failures often seem to overshadow the achievements. We tend to magnify our deficiencies and downplay our accomplishments.

Savor the successes in your life and you'll soon start believing that you can.

This must stop. You'll never muster enough energy to make difficult changes without compelling evidence that you are a capable human being. The only way to do this is by remembering, listing, and savoring the successes in your life. Five minutes a day should be sufficient. After a while, you WILL start believing that you can.

How do we know this is true? Because the wisest of all men, King Solomon, said so.

"The heart of the wise man looks to the right; the heart of the fool looks left" (Proverbs).

The Hebrew language has the unique distinction of being written and read from right to left. This means that every holy book is opened and every subsequent page is turned to the right side. So many of us open these books with the best of intentions. We want to study, we want to teach, we want to finish etc. But, all too often, reality sets in. We get bogged down, we slow down, we lose our interest and our resolve. We want to quit and we often do.

A great part of our bent to surrender comes from the enormity of the task. "Look at how many pages there are in this book. I'll never finish anyway. I might as well quit now."

Stop, says King Solomon. You are looking at the wrong side of the book. Only a fool looks to the left. That shows you how many pages you haven't yet studied. Look to the right. There you will see what you have already learned. That will encourage you to continue your task and complete your mission. That is the formula for becoming wise.


Everyone has bad habits. They range from the terribly serious kind -- drugs, gambling, over-eating, to the milder variety -- nail-biting, interrupting, and being a 'neat freak'.

Most people make changes gradually.

One of the most potent stumbling blocks to success is the notion that the only way to quit is to do so all at once. Not true. I have found that most people make changes gradually. There are times and situations where only radical methods can be effective, but, by and large, throw a large hamburger on a high-chair tray in front of little Joey and chances are it will end up on the floor. But cut it into small, manageable, bite-size pieces and he might eat two burgers

Big Joey is a lot like little Joey. By definition, habits (and certainly addictions) are things we have done for long periods of time. The swift and sudden removal of them may produce swift and sudden change. But that is not what you are looking for. You want lasting change.

  1. Identify a firm and specific goal. I want to stop coming late to meetings, dinners, work, synagogue, and medical appointments, whatever.
  2. Do not attempt any alteration in your schedule for two weeks. Simply jot down every time you come late and by how many minutes.
  3. Create an objective for the following week to reduce that late-coming by just five minutes in just two or three places.
  4. Chart your results. Do not overreach your goal. Even if it seems easy, just stick to the plan.
  5. Add five minutes and two more places each week.
  6. If you fail, just extend the same projection for an additional week.
  7. Take pleasure in your accomplishment. Reward yourself.


One of the side effects of this incredible Age of Communication is that everyone knows everything about everybody. Or, at least they think they do.

    • "Boy, Stan sure looks like he's making the big bucks."
    • "Debbie lives such a carefree life. Not a worry in the world."
    • "Well isn't Miriam just Miss Popular. No wonder she's always smiling."

The fact is that we actually know very little about Stan, Debbie, or Miriam. All we know is what we see. And the reality may be very far from the discernible.

But that doesn't stop us from making constant and damaging comparisons.

"I'll just never be as popular as Miriam. So why even bother trying to make friends with __________."

"I'll always be a worrier. That's just the way I am wired. I wish I could be more like Debbie.

"So what if I'm unemployed. Stan's making high six figures and I should start at 60K?"

 We use our mistaken impressions to formulate damaging comparisons about people around us, and then conclude that we can never "match up" to our peers.

God made each of us with our own unique personality, DNA, fingerprints, and purpose.

How soon we forget that God made each of us with our own unique personality, DNA, fingerprints, and purpose. No two people contain the same potential or mission on this planet. So, besides the fact that things are NEVER the way they seem, our goals must singularly be our own. What someone else, no matter how similar he may seem to you, has accomplished is completely irrelevant to your life objectives.

Focus on what is within your reach. Never forget that your capacity to change is not in any way associated with anyone else's achievements or failures. Be your own man or woman. Change is hard enough without having to compare yourself to anyone else.

In sum, focus on your successes, cut the new steps into bite-size pieces, and never ever compare yourself to anyone else. That's the simple formula to get you started on the road to change. No, the road is not perfectly paved, free of traffic, or easy to navigate. But it does not have to be nearly as daunting as we think it is.

You have the keys. Now get in the car and drive.

You'll get there.

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Visitor Comments: 46

(41) Arona, August 31, 2016 6:22 PM

great article

About looking at what you've already accomplished, there's an idea somewhere that that's why we count Sefirah as how many days have passed already, not how many days we have left to count, so as to see what we've already counted, and not to be discouraged by how many days are left.
About not really knowing what's going on with others, that's why Facebook and other social media platforms are so damaging. People only post about their best selves. No one posts about the fight they had with their spouse, or the job they lost, or whatever. Everyone just looks so perfect. But it's really all fake, which is hard, but necessary, to remember.
This is a great article. I hope I can keep it all in mind. Thanks for writing it.

(40) Anonymous, August 31, 2016 12:46 PM

We miss you!!!

(39) Jong, July 1, 2013 2:15 AM


I often forget that I am unique and therefore it is absurd to compare myself with other people's accomplishment. This article is succinct, to the point and easy to be put into practice. Wish I could remember all the steps suggested here. Rabbi, thank you so much!

(38) David, January 26, 2012 10:41 PM


to create lasting change we need a BIG enough "WHY", ie a compelling reason to make the change and to maintain it

(37) Leo Sarini, January 25, 2012 12:46 PM


I liked the article. Despite i am a jewish atheist, I found interesting our ancient history, like Solomon wisdom. I wish we can concentrate in PEOPLE who we can share and see and forget about INVISIBLE and USELESS deities.

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