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Elul: The 4 D's of Lasting Change

September 4, 2016 | by Rabbi Eli Held

How to keep your resolutions and truly grow.

David, a friend of mine, shared with me something that changed my life. He and his wife were frequently fighting and couldn't find a way out of their negative pattern of behavior. He told me that last year, as Rosh Hashanah was approaching, he decided to make a resolution that on every Friday for the next year he would write a little note thanking his wife for some of the things she had done for him over the past week. He would then stick it under her pillow where she would find it on Friday night.

Before he committed to doing this, he mentioned the idea to his wife. She thought it was such a good idea and decided to take on this project as well.

He told me that this little gesture made a great impact on their relationship, not just on Friday and Shabbat, but throughout the week as well.

He also told me that this was the first resolution in his life that he actually kept for the whole year. The secret to his success: it was the first resolution he did not make alone. He partnered with his wife.

David's experience was eye-opening to me and illustrated the first and perhaps most important tool of what I call The Four D's of Lasting Change.

1. Don't Do It Alone

One of the cornerstone principles of the 12-step program, which has helped millions worldwide recover from the darkest addictions, is that as humans we cannot go through life alone. We must draw on the help and support from others in order to succeed.

Involve a friend or a mentor with your resolution. Too many resolutions have fallen by the wayside because we didn’t have anyone to encourage us and keep us strong. When the going gets rough and we feel like giving up it is absolutely essential to have a shoulder to lean on.

Better yet, partner with a friend in taking on a growth project together and become accountable to each other. Accountability coupled with a sense of not wanting to let our partner down is a potent force that will give us a much better shot at staying with our resolutions.

2. Don't Take on Too Much

Too often we become inspired to change and resolve to make big improvements in our life. The problem is that even though our souls desire to grow, our bodies resist big change. Our bodies only adapt to small changes, one step at a time. So whatever you resolve to do, cut it in half. Real incremental growth is better than big aspirations that remain unactualized.

3. Daven – Pray

Even the most grand ambitions will fail without God's help. Pray to Him and ask for clarity on what you should be working on and that He give you the focus and wisdom to properly devise a successful course of action to go about that change. Turn to Him for success in your endeavors and you will have an infinitely better chance of achieving that success.

4. Don't Fear Failure

We need to stop fearing failure. Failure is an integral and unavoidable part of growth. Just as an infant falls all the time when learning to walk, we too will never grow out of failing and falling when we strive to attain a goal. We need to utilize our failures to learn new things about ourselves and then we need to get back up and try again.

The only way we can escape failure (and criticism) is by doing nothing and saying nothing.

We need to learn to chew on the fat of failure or we will remain small and unfulfilled.

This year as we enter into the Hebrew month of Elul, the month of preparation before Rosh Hashanah, let’s be smart about rekindling our inner will and resolve to change.

Find a growth partner, cut your resolution in half, pray, and be fearless about failure. You will have an Elul that will inspire you and lead you into a year filled with enduring growth.

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