Autumn is a great time for reflection, introspection and change. The fall reminds us that just as the leaves change back to their true colors through photosynthesis, we too can return to our true colors, the ones we really could be most proud of. If we choose to have a more meaningful and fulfilling life, it starts with thinking about what makes us unique as human beings? One thing that distinguishes us from all other living creatures is our ability to change our behaviors through introspection, reflection and a genuine, unshakable desire to improve.
In searching for wisdom and in an effort to become more fully actualized, more refined, and a happy person I’ve borrowed some of the teachings from Sir Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, a moral voice for our times. Sacks captures the essence of how to become more in touch with our higher self, the “eulogy side” of our personality, the one we’d that could someday become our personal legacy. Here’s some of the insights Rabbi Sacks imparts. His advice could help us become better colleagues, co-workers, business and community leaders, family members and friends. Here’s a synopsis of his advice for living a fuller, more meaningful and successful life:
- The things we value the most are the things that are the most demanding. That’s true of study; it’s true of work; it’s true and sport; it’s true in matters of the spirit; things that cost us little we cherish little. What matters most to us are the things you make sacrifices for.
- Never try to be clever. Always try to be wise respect others even if they disrespect you.
- Never seek publicity for what you do. If you deserve it you will receive it. If you don’t, you will be attacked. In any case, goodness never needs to draw attention to itself.
- When you do good to others it is yourself, your conscious and your self-respect that will be the beneficiary. The greatest gift of giving is the opportunity to give.
- In life never take shortcuts. There is no success without effort, no achievement without hard work.
- Keep your distance from those who seek honor. Be respectful, but none of us is called out to be a looking glass for those in love with themselves.
- Be very slow to judge others. If they are wrong, God will judge them. If we are wrong, God will judge us.
- You will find much in life to distress you. People can be careless, cruel, thoughtless, offensive, arrogant, harsh, destructive, insensitive, and rude. That is their problem not yours. Your problem is how to respond. A wise lady once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”. The same applies to other negative emotions. Don’t react. Don’t respond. Don’t feel angry, or if you do, pause for as long as it takes for the anger to dissipate, and then carry-on with the rest of life. Don’t hand others a victory over your own emotional state.
- Forgive, or if you can’t forgive try to ignore.
- If you tried and failed, don’t feel bad. God forgives our failures as soon as we acknowledge them as failures. No one worth admiring ever succeeded without many failures on the way. Not every Symphony by Mozart is a masterpiece. If you lack the courage to fail, then you lack the courage to succeed.
- Seek out the friendship of those who are strong where you are weak. None of us has all the virtues. The work of the team, a partnership, collaboration with others who have different gifts and a different ways of looking at things, is always greater than any one individual can achieve alone.
- Something is wrong, don’t blame others. Ask, how can I help to make it right?
- Always remember that you create the atmosphere that surrounds you. If you want others to smile, you must smile. If you want others to give, you must give. If you want others to respect you, you must show your respect for them. How the world treats us is a mirror of how we treat the world.
- Never worry when people say that you’re being too idealistic. It’s only idealistic people who change the world, and you really want to the course of your life to leave the world unchanged?
- Be straight, be honest, and always do what you say you’re going to do. There really is no other way to live.
- Never confuse righteousness with self-righteousness. They sound similar, but they are opposites. The righteous see the good in people; the self-righteous see the bad. The righteous make you feel bigger; the self-righteous make you feel small. The righteous praise; the self-righteous criticize. The righteous are generous; the self-righteous are grudging and judgmental. Once you know the difference, keep far from the self-righteous, who come in all forms, right and left religious and secular. Win the respect of people you respect, and ignore the rest.
- Confess your mistakes freely.
Be slow to anger and quick to forgive and seek peace over victory
- Transform suffering. When bad things happen to you, use them to sensitize you to the pain of others. The people who survived tragedy and became stronger as a result did not ask, “who did this to me? “They asked, “what does this allow me to do that I could not have done before?” They didn’t curse the darkness; instead they lit a candle. They refused to become victims of circumstance. They became agents of hope.
- Life’s too full of blessings to waste time and attention an artificial substitutes. Live, give, forgive, celebrate him praise: these are still the best ways of making a blessing over life, thereby turning life into a blessing.