Many people take their personal growth seriously, but most are unaware of the best way to succeed. Without having a plan, they grasp at whatever opportunities are presented to them. They'll begin to pay more attention to Davening and try to be more helpful to their family and friends. Although there's nothing wrong with this, the absence of a plan makes their attempts mostly haphazard and short lived.
When I discuss personal growth, particularly when the conversation centers on undertaking positive activities, I usually offer several rules that should be followed (see below). The individuals can undertake anything that interests them as long as it's something that they consider important. Some focus on Torah, others on Tefilla, and still others on Chesed. In many cases the focus is something that makes them feel good about themselves, and there's certainly nothing wrong with feeling good about doing the right things.
1. Avoid undertaking any activities that will make them feel like "heroes”. I had a schoolmate in Yeshiva who would often fast on Mondays and Thursdays. When our Rebbi found out, he suggested that, instead of fasting, he should commit to not eating potato chips for the entire week. He explained to him that both approaches involved sacrifice and self control. However, the potato chips approach will go unnoticed. (Everyone eats meals while not everyone eats potato chips.) This helps the activity to be performed with purer intentions.
I'm not suggesting that fasting or any other form of abstinence should be undertaken. The point is that undertaking something that is "beyond the call of duty" should be done only for the right reasons. Having the wrong intentions, transforms the action into something personal and not one of Avodas Hashem (serving Hashem).
2. Undertake things that are easy, and not difficult, to do (contrary to what many people think). Undertaking something that's easy lessens resistance, and thereby increases the chances for success. Easy is defined as something that's consistent with their schedule, personality and individual strengths. Applying this rule will help with the next one.
3. Undertake things that have significant chances of sustainability. The goal of undertaking any activity should be to internalize the positive trait inherent in that activity. For instance, repeatedly helping others makes the helper into a kinder person.
Every Mitzvah that's performed, even if done only once, is valuable. However, internalizing the Mitzvah, which will change them into better individuals, can only be accomplished through repeated behavior. Short term commitments, although deserving of reward, will not make them into better people.
4. Focus on an activity that involves as important a Mitzvah as possible. This means choosing a Torah Mitzvah over a D'Rabonon (Rabbinical) and a Rabbinical Mitzvah over a Minhag (Traditional). For example, they should focus on Davening with a Minyan before undertaking the saying of one or two chapters of Tehillim after Davening.
5. Don't undertake anything that'll detract from something else that they're already doing. Learning an extra 15 minutes a day at the expense of dropping a previous commitment to help one's wife is not an added activity. It's replacing an existing commitment.
6. Focus on an activity that is part of their personal mission in life. All people have personal responsibilities including commitments to: children, parents, neighbors, etc. Each relationship creates its individual responsibilities, and every person's strengths creates further responsibilities. A person who is musically talented may be responsible for making people happy through music and song.
The following are examples of activities consistent with people's personal roles: a) A mother should undertake something involving her children (they already are her responsibility). It should be consistent with her nurturing instincts. She should take them out for lunch every other week, share a hobby with them, or go for a daily walk with them. b) A father who may want to mentor a boy from the community should first consider whether he's able to convert his relationship with his own son from that of parent/child to that of mentor/mentee. It's possible that a parent and child may not work well together, but since the father has his own son, why should he consider undertaking someone else's child as a Chesed project? c) A community leader shouldn't undertake another community's issues before he takes care of his own community.
7) If one accepts that the first choice should be from an activity within their personal mission, then I'll add one more rule. As much as children or parents are our personal responsibilities, we have a more important responsibility that precedes any other, and that is to take care of ourselves.
Taking care of oneself is a Mitzvah. The Rambam writes that people have a responsibility to take care of their bodies. Doing this will ensure their ability to perform Mitzvohs for many years, thereby also taking care of their Neshomo (souls). Taking care of one's weight, or sugar level, is a Mitzvah. When people are healthy, they can perform more Mitzvohs.
In today's times it's necessary to add that everyone must also check their mental health. I'm not referring to mentally ill people. People that are "normal" and successful may still lack self esteem, problem solving techniques, anger management, and/or may be overly stressed. These deficiencies, when ignored, will make it more difficult for them to succeed in life. This will affect not only their own lives, but also the lives, of those around them.
When I suggest to people that they should first take care of themselves, their reaction is that they shouldn't be selfish and worry about themselves. Their premise is wrong. We must first make ourselves into people capable of helping our children and/or parents. In order to do this, we must first become the healthiest people that we can.
Areivim offers multiple programs for Klal Yisroel's teenagers and young adults. I am certain that everyone is already familiar with our mentoring, counseling, crisis intervention, traveling camps, and networking (Including Yeshiva placement) services.
Since many of you may be unaware of everything that Areivim offers, I am taking this opportunity to "spread the word".
1. A day program for teenagers unable to attend school. Due to the time and energy these boys require, we are limiting this program to a small number. We are working on expanding this program to include sleeping arrangements. If you have any interest in this program, contact Moshe Frankel at 347-865-3247, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mechy Miller at 845-499-0691.
2. Tuesday night skiing/snowboarding for teenage boys and young men. The goal is to connect to them, offer them a good time, and build on the relationships. Skiing season begins in a few weeks. For more information contact Moshe Frankel at 347-865-3247 or at email@example.com
3. Beginning next Sunday we will be offering, a G.E.D. course, twice a week for boys/young men. For those who are very far behind we will also be offering a pre-G.E.D. course. These courses are designed for the motivated student. This is not a mentoring program dressed in a classroom environment. This is for young men who realize that they need an education to advance themselves in the world.
4. Résumé writing. Contact the office at 845-371-2760 or, e-mail us at Areivim@juno.com with your contact numbers
5. Job placements are always difficult and I don't want to give anyone false hopes, nevertheless, we sometimes get lucky. It's worth your calling or e-mailing us to see if we can help. If you have a job opportunity to offer a teenager, boy or girl, please let us know.
6. Shidduchim. This service is limited to young adults who were at risk/in crisis. Areivim is not getting into the Shidduch business, but if you have, or are, a young adult who is finding it hard to find Shadchonim who understand your needs, begin the process by e-mailing some information about yourself and I will gladly call back as soon as I can.
7. A Parent support group that is just forming. Call or e-mail the office if you feel the need to spend some time each week with parents who share your frustrations.
8. Areivim offers a night program for teenage boys, Mon - Thurs. This program is run at the Kol Yakov Torah center, 29 West Maple. Supper is at 8:30, Shiurim between 9:00 - 9:45.
9. Bais Hamedrash Program. Although Kol Yakov is not an Areivim program, it is affiliated with Areivim. Kol Yakov offers a wonderful opportunity for the serious, yet non typical, Yeshiva Bochur, by offering 3 Sedorim and an opportunity to find a true Rebbi. For more information call or e-mail me.
10. Birchas Eliyohu is another affiliate of Areivim. It is a junior high school, offering 11 - 13 year olds an opportunity to enjoy Yeshiva and to prepare for High School. For more information, please call the office or call Rabbi Ehrman at 914-393-6497.
11. Otzar a girls school, is another Areivim affiliate, which offers a, warm, life skills focused, High School program, for girls in need of a little more attention. For more information contact Mrs. R Resnik at 845-642-2561
Areivim is trying to help as many teenagers and young adults as we can. If you can help us in any way, large or small (e.g. helping us find jobs, offer jobs, donate skiing equipment) please contact the office by phone or e-mail.
Wishing everyone only the best.
For more information about Areivim please contact us by phone at 845-371-2760 or by e-mail at Areivim@juno.com www.Areivim.com
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