Hello from Florida!
I’m sitting in our studio room at the Residence Inn in Parkland, Florida, an extended stay hotel where we’ve been for the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the small condo that we bought with some of the proceeds from our Denver home is not ready for us to move into due to delays and difficulties. In fact, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to move in at all before we return to Israel at the end of May. While it certainly is a First World Problem, it’s still challenging. Interestingly, I’ve found that negative situations are also very motivating for me. Specifically, when I feel thwarted or frustrated in one area that I can’t do anything about, I feel possessed to act on things that I can do something about. It actually creates a sense of urgency in me that moves me from my more natural state of procrastination. So in this case, even though I have never taken an exercise class, now that I can’t do anything about the construction in our condo, I’ve been going to an exercise class every day at Century Village (where our condo is). Hello Zumba, low-impact aerobics, and weight training!
We’re supposed to have a sense of urgency about making spiritual progress. Our souls aren’t happy when we’re static and complacent — when nothing is happening. How do we motivate ourselves? Interestingly, the Jewish people are called a stiff-necked people. While that can be seen as a negative, it’s also hugely positive when channeled in the right way. All you have to do is tell someone Jewish that they can’t do something, and we react with a “yes we can” and push ourselves even more to achieve and succeed. In this way, we can use what could easily be a “difficult, oppositional” character trait and make it a source of motivation for us.
Maybe you’ve seen with your kids or students that when they’re dared, they become extra motivated. I remember a really weird Economics professor who announced on the first day of class that he didn’t understand why there were “girls in the class who should really only be signed up for Home Economics classes.” Granted I could have reported him and probably should have, but my reaction was simply, “You’re an idiot, and I’m going to get an A in this class” — which I did. Ironically, I went on to get a Masters degree in Economics, but fortunately didn’t have to take any more classes from him.
So during this time of Serfirat HaOmer, Counting the Omer, when we’re working on refining our character traits, don’t forget that each of our character traits can be used to help us grow. We can channel and redirect every quality that we have — even being oppositional and stiff-necked.
So try it…I dare you!