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?
Click here to read the first part of my answer.
Let's just say you need to work on helping your mother the first time she asks. The first thing you have to do is be aware of the fact that this is what you need to fix. Then, come up with some sort of plan-what will you tell yourself to feel motivated to help her when she asks you the first time and not just push it off? You know what makes you tick and what the right thing you need to tell yourself is. Ask Hashem to help you - especially when it's hard. Tell Him how you feel and how difficult it is and how you really want to listen the first time. Then, at the end of your day, check yourself and count your wins. If you were able to overcome this challenge even once a day, you are moving in the right direction.
Or let's say you know that you always end up stumbling in lashon hara when you shmooze with your friends on the phone. It's very hard to stop because it is so tempting! So the way to correct that is with baby steps. Catch yourself once a day so that you are aware that you stumbled. Once you notice that you did it, you will be able to work on correcting it. Then, talk to Hashem and tell Him how you feel - that you really don't want to do it but it's so hard! Ask Him to help you stop speaking negatively about other people. Think of ways you can stop yourself from speaking Lashon Hara - either by cutting your conversations short, switching topics, trying once a day to ignore a phone call if you know that person is someone who might make you stumble.
And remember, count your wins! Don't be discouraged if you keep falling - the yetzer hara wants you to give up so he makes you focus on the times you didn't accomplish so you'll stop trying! Every time you DO overcome, every time you don't give in, you are climbing higher!! That's what you need to focus on.
Let's say you know that you need to work on time management. You spend so much time online or just not doing anything and you wish you can feel that you were more productive by the time the day was done. So being aware of this issue, knowing that it's something you need to work on is the first step. Then you need to brainstorm, think of what you can do to make sure you don't waste so much time during your day. Maybe you can give yourself a time limit - an amount of time you will spend on the computer and then you will get off - and set an alarm when the time is up so you know you have to stop. If you have too much free time because it is the summer and you aren't so busy, maybe you can think of ways to keep busy.
Listen to a shiur on the phone (Kol Halashon has a TON of shiurim to keep you inspired and uplifted! Their number is 718-906-6400.) or online (like Torah Anytime or Simple To Remember). Read a book or learn something together with a friend every day or once a week at a specific time. Sign up for Partners in Torah so you can teach someone who wants to learn more about Judaism.
Ask Hashem to help you use your time in a productive fashion. Tell Him that you want to feel accomplished and use your time wisely. At the end of the day, look back and see how your day went and if you did something that made you feel good about how you spent your time. And remember, count those wins! That is what will help you move forward the next day - by noticing that the day before you were able to do it.
I only gave you a few examples but I'm sure you can use these suggestions for other things that you need to work on.
Try to use this equation and "plug it in" to whatever you need to work on.
Be aware of what you need to work on.
Notice when you stumble so you know what makes you fall.
Think of ways to fix it - see what "talks to you" to help you get out of it.
Talk to Hashem about how you feel and ask Him to help you correct your mistakes.
Count your wins so you don't get discouraged and you keep climbing.
I know it's hard. It's going to take work. Change doesn't happen on it's own. That's what Elul is all about - you have to think about what you need to do and then be active about what you want to fix.
I hope this helps you!