Someone emailed this question to me. After responding to her, I realized that so many people are probably thinking the same thing so I decided to post it here (with her permission, of course). I'm putting this here in two separate posts so it's not too long to read at once.
Question: We are in Elul and I know I should be doing teshuva and improving myself. I understand that we are in a special time and could probably even write a bunch of divrie torah on the topic too! But since the summer started I've kind of been in this slump and haven't really been working so much on myself. Its not like I'm short on what to work on, I know there are things I would like to change. I was hoping that by the time Elul rolled around I would have gotten out of it but now its Elul and im still feeling this way. Do you have any ideas on how to get out of it?
Answer: Thanks for your question-I think it's a very important one and a question that many other people have. It's so special of you to ask this - it shows that you really care about your spiritual growth and don't want to just let Elul slip by too quickly! You want to take advantage of this special time and really accomplish!
What you have to keep in mind is that it's not going to happen automatically. It would be nice if when Elul came around each and every one of us would suddenly shift gears and be in "teshuva mode" and just start changing. But it doesn't work that way at all! It takes thought, time and work. Even if you know you have to work on certain things (don't we all have things we have to work on?), the only way for change to happen is with work!
So where do you begin?
The good thing is, you know it's Elul and you know that you have things to work on. So that's already a start. Now you have to move on to the active part of turning the changes you want to see in yourself into a reality. One thing to do is to take baby steps. Do things slowly. Slow change lasts. When you do things too quickly (too much too fast), it can become overwhelming and then you will end up slipping back (possibly lower than when you started because it gives you a feeling of hopelessness and then you end up giving up) and that's not good.
Pick something you know you are good at and work on improving it one little bit.
You have a friendly personality? Greet people with a smile. Engage in conversation with somoeone. Cheer up the people you are around.
You are able to write well? Write out something inspiring email it to your friends.
You have free time on your hands and love old people? Visit them in the hospital or nursing home once a week.
Any talent or quality that you do have can be built upon and improved so that you become better in that area.
Then, look at the thing(s) you know you need to work on. You need to really be into it - think about it every single day at a certain time and come up with a plan on how you are going to fix yourself. Tell yourself that once a day, you want to make sure you don't stumble in that area.
It's hard for me to be specific when I don't have real examples that relate to you, but I can try to give you some of my own examples.
Click here to continue on to part 2.