With Rosh Hashanah approaching, Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, the great spiritual guide of the famed Mirrer Yeshivah said to his students, “As important as it is for one to know his faults so he knows what he must amend, it is even more important for one to know his virtues to know what he can accomplish.”

This idea is shaping my preparation for the High Holidays this year.

I know my faults. I know my weaknesses. I know all my errors and all my mistakes, most of them while they are happening (!) or immediately after. I’m not sure what another review of them would accomplish – other than mild depression. I’m not sure how many times I can commit to change without losing total credibility with myself. Perhaps I’m at that point already…

This year I’ve decided on a new strategy, a strategy that is more uplifting, a strategy that I hope and believe will yield a better chance of success. I’m not giving up on my faults; there’s still plenty of work to be done there. I’m just not making them the focus of my Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur efforts. Because it brings me down. It can be so difficult and discouraging.

I’m trying to enhance my strengths and make the most of the gifts the Almighty has given me.

Instead I’m subscribing to the above-stated advice and trying to focus on my virtues, trying to enhance my strengths, trying to make the most of the gifts the Almighty has given me, playing with my best ability the cards I’ve been dealt. Most of us know our faults. We could recite them on cue. Perhaps our parents, siblings, spouses could do the same!

We need to know our virtues.

How often do we analyze our strengths, acknowledge our talents and skills? These are gifts from the Almighty that we want to make the most of. These are opportunities that we don’t want to waste. This effort leads to a much more positive focus for Yom Tov.

A list of my faults and the abject ways in which I have failed to improve has me walking into Rosh Hashanah downbeat and spent. A list of the gifts the Almighty has given me with thoughts on how to use them to grow, to connect to the Almighty, to help the Jewish people has me entering the holidays empowered and energized.

One of the goals of the High Holy Days is to break bad habits and create better ones. Many of us have a habit of concentrating on our mistakes, our weaknesses, the areas where we just don’t measure up – year after year after year. That’s the habit I want to break this year. That’s the area where I want to create new, more positive ways of being. I’d like to habituate myself to focusing on the positive, on the opportunity for growth, on the chance to make a difference – first with myself – and on deepening my relationship with my Creator.

There’s a lot of external darkness in our world at the moment. Instead of adding to it or buying into it, I’d like to develop an inner world of light and joy and optimism. With the Almighty’s help, this is really going to be a different Rosh Hashanah. I, for one, can’t wait!