Digging Out of a Rut
BY RABBI SHMUEL GLUCK
We often find people who aren’t happy, not only with themselves, but also with others. Everyone knows someone who is cantankerous, argumentative, and always dissatisfied with how others act and treat them. This article will help both types of individuals.
People can look at a problem and attempt to solve it with a myriad of approaches. There’s no “one size fits all” approach. I would like to offer one possibility that may appear to be indirect, and therefore many people tend to overlook its potential, and that is, getting a sense of accomplishment (doing something worthwhile) in life. Those in need of feeling better about themselves and others, may respond that feeling accomplished is a distraction to their situation, not a solution. This may not be true. Feeling accomplished causes people to look at themselves and others radically different, making unhappy people into successful people and those already successful even more successful.
When we feel accomplished we feel good about ourselves. When we feel good about ourselves we become more tolerant and accepting of others.
Almost all people want to feel accomplished. This statement seems obvious. When people feel accomplished everything and everyone around them looks nicer. When they’re accomplished, people tend to be more patient and to ignore those who treat them poorly. They may also have an easier time “getting along” with people who have different opinions. When we feel accomplished we feel good about ourselves. When we feel good about ourselves we become more tolerant and accepting of others.
However, many people are in denial about this, convincing themselves that they feel good about what they’re doing with their lives. They’ll say that they’re happy about sleeping most of the day, not working, or about working in a “dead-end” job. Initially, these people really believe what they’re saying. However, after a while they begin to realize that they’re going nowhere with their lives. These people aren’t only teens at risk, but also adults who find their positions in lifeless envious than what they imagined they would be.
Observing people who are generally unaccomplished, one finds that what they may have achieved during the previous few days, drastically affects how they interacted with their families, helped around the house, and how upbeat were their moods. Although all these are seemingly unrelated, the observer is able to clearly see how the feelings of accomplishment built up their spirits.
On the other hand, when those same people don’t feel accomplished, they become ghosts, silent images traveling through the house, whose presence is felt, may even be feared, but aren’t in direct contact with anyone.
Feeling accomplished is not only about holding a job, having money, or keeping busy. It’s much more than that. People have a need to believe that they’re making a difference somewhere, and without this belief, they can’t feel good about themselves.
Below are two common examples:
1) I sometimes talk to teenagers who’ve spent their “free time” during the last few months or years involved in negative or destructive manners. Once they’ve agreed to drop these bad habits certain realities sink in. These habits offered them the ability to keep busy and be driven with a goal, even if the goal was a negative one. However, keeping busy will not completely fill the void created by refraining from their old negative habits. They must also feel accomplished. The need to feel accomplished is so significant, that I’ve often suggested that they “hold off” on improving until they can do it right. This involves a plan that will keep them busy and accomplished.
2) There are many couples who, when they married, were certain that their lives would be dedicated to a Kollel or Chinuch lifestyle. When circumstances forced them into the business world, they found themselves feeling lost. I’ve spoken to many couples where this feeling became extreme, to the point of depression.
My advice to them was to bring meaning into their lives. Bringing meaning into their lives is a high form of accomplishment. People can feel accomplished by cleaning out their garages, but this pleasure is short-lived. Some examples of pleasures that “stay with the person” long after the activity is completed include: inviting guests for Shabbos, giving a Shiur, or undertaking a community service. Bringing meaning into their lives doesn’t have to be at every moment of the day. It may mean spending the larger part of their days preparing for the smaller, meaningful, parts.
Feeling accomplished may be difficult. Teenagers are often not excited about doing Mitzvahs. Alternatives such as a fulfilling hobby, starting a small business, or any other idea, require work and diligence, something to which most teenagers won’t commit. Adults may also find themselves with no free time or resources to dedicate towards their goals.
Understanding what works and what doesn’t, allows them to avoid wasting their energies in the wrong directions.
What should those who need to feel accomplishment in their lives do to get it? The answer to this is difficult. At the least, they need to have an awareness of what’s holding them back from being happy. Understanding what works and what doesn’t, allows them to avoid wasting their energies in the wrong directions.
However, there’s one opportunity that takes no time or additional energy. They can take pride in their being a “Good Person”. (This was discussed in a previous article which you may request.) Briefly, this means that a person can take pride in doing whatever they’ve been doing, but by doing it better than they have in the past. This includes the way they greet people, the way they act as parents, spouses or teenagers.
Although this last comment about pride may seem like a “cop-out”, it’s not. The difference between being a parent, spouse or teenager and a good parent, spouse or teenager is often more dependent on attitude than time. The same is true about any relationship.
Photo Credit: ROGERPALF from rgbstock.com