Yom Kippur is almost here and I’ve been thinking a lot about the changes I’d like to make in the coming year. Of course we all know about the whole ‘new years resolution' phenomenon –you have big plans, you want big changes, you make big promises, and right after new year’s you forget them.. in a big way!
We all know what the solution to that is – baby steps!
But just like anything else, it’s easier said than done!
So here are mookie's** steps to a successful babystepalicious Yom Kippur!
1. Find an area in your life that is important to you, and that affects you on a regular basis and that you would like to improve, something that will stay current and fresh in your mind so that you dont wake up three months later and realize you forgot your resolution!
2. Find a mitzvah that is related to that area. This isn’t the time to start looking for obscure chumras – find an obligation, that’s relevant, mandatory and feasible.
3. Now break that mitzvah/obligation down into small components.
Take one of those components, and divide it into smaller parts
Break one of those small parts into even tinier steps.
Take one of those tiny steps and split it up into teeny weeny baby steps.
Pick one baby step.
Assuming this is something you should be doing every day or a few times a day/week/month, pick a time/space that you will stick to it and make a commitment to it.
4. Make yourself a minimum commitment - this is very very very important. Whatever you decided to take on, make a mazimum and a minimum commitment , and take on yourself to try to reach your maximum, but never to go below your minimum.
5. Finally, on yom kipur (or any other time!) make a commitment to this new baby step!
Ok, so let me give an example –
1.GOAL: developing a stronger connection/relatioship with g-d.
2. Making a commitment to working on a richer personal relationship with g-d is a HUGE undertaking. Its abstract, its big and its intimidating.. where does one even start!?
No relationship is possible without open communication and so praying is a good place to start. Start talking to Him!
So now it's time to formulate a plan on how to achieve the goal.
Taking on praying 3 times a day, every day, for the rest of our lives, with kavana.. is.. NOT realistic. We've all tried it..
That’s where baby stepping in comes in.
3. goal : Pray with kavana (every day, every prayer!)
- Pray one day a week with kavana
- Pray one prayer - on one day in the week, with kavana
- Pray one paragraph of one prayer on one day in the week with kavana
4. And finally – make a maximum and a minimum. There are times when we feel strong, more inspired, more connected and we soar spiritually, and there are other times when we can hardly drag ourselves through the bare minimum. We have to be realistic and realize those will both happen in the year to come, and for the rest of our lives, and so we need to take them into consideration when formulating our plan of action. A maximum in this case could be praying the first paragraph, of every prayer, every day, with kavana; and a minimum could mean doing it once a week, or once a month.
So, to summarize – the more general goal is to connect to hashem, and the more specific goal is to pray with kavana. On good days and good weeks we commit to do this on a daily basis, but we keep into consideration the possibility of a bad, weak, lazy, disconnected day, or week or month, where we commit to never miss at least one prayer with kavana in the week – no matter what!
This step is the most important, because it gives us the space to manoeuvre, to be flexible, and to learn to listen to ourselves. Pushing ourselves beyond our limits will only lead to a burnout. The problem that often happens is that we make huge commitments and then slowly start to falter because we didn’t consider the possibilities of not being able to do it on certain days or under certain circumstances. We end up feeling guilty, turning our back on g-d, disconnecting…If we plan ahead for that, what happens is that on our weakest days, we still have a plan B and so we always end up achieving something, we never feel like we failed. We just worked within the lazier end of the spectrum as opposed to the super turbo inspired end. When we’re not down anymore, we don’t have the added baggage of guilt to deal with, and we can just jump back up to our maximum.
I’ve found that this really helps me learn to listen how I feel, and where I am in my connection to G-d, and how much I’m capable of. It helps me not compare myself to others, or to put pressure I can’t handle with. I develop my own personal spiritual spectrum of capabilities and work within it.
5. If I follow these steps, and make a serious commitment, there’s a good chance that at the end of the year I’ve made praying with kavana a regular part of my spiritual experience. Maybe not every prayer, or every day.. but its always there in the bakground, motivating me.
An important point to remember, is that any behavior we want to correct isnt something we stopped doing or dropped over night. Chances are we used to abide by a mitzvah and one day we got lazy and did it with less enthusiasm, then on another day we forgot completely, then we skipped it for a week.. we baby stepped out of it.. and so we need to baby step back into it.
fear the results of a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu
I wish you all tons of clarity in finding the area, and the baby step you want to work on. The idea of baby stepping is that no step, no mitzvah, no part of a mitvah, no character trait.. nothing is too small to work on.. but in the long run the habits change and the resolutions
** mookie's steps.. gleaned from the teachings of her amazing rabbis and rebbetzins (Rabbi Bear, Rabbi Kelemen, Rabbi Chalkowski.. and the list goes on!)