The Daily Blast

Matt Kaliff
Director of Endowment
The Jewish Federation
of Cleveland

Matt Kaliff says that God judges us individually, because we each have a unique purpose.

Daily Reading

Identifying Your Life’s Mission

After six months of working for the company, it’s time for your evaluation. You walk into the boardroom, where three designer-suit-clad personnel managers are sitting behind a mahogany desk. The one on the left scans your...

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Daily Sources

וַיִּקַּח יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן־עֵדֶן לְעׇבְדָהּ וּלְשׇׁמְרָהּ׃
בראשית ב׳:ט׳׳ו
-Mesilat Yesharim 1:1

Daily Goals

Crossing the Rubicon Takes True Grit 

‘Crossing the Rubicon’ is a metaphor used by Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer to explain the difference between being fully committed to a goal versus still weighing its pros and cons. The Rubicon is the river that Julius Caesar crossed in opposition to direct orders from the Roman Senate not to do so. When Caesar crossed the river, it was an act of treason – there was no turning back. On one side of the river, he still had options. Now that he crossed the river, he was 100% committed. In other words, Caesar was all in.

After we cross our metaphorical Rubicon, our mindset changes. A why-orientated mindset (‘Why I am doing this?’, ‘Is this feasible?’, ‘Do I want this?’) is replaced with a how-orientated approach (‘How do I reach my goal?’, ‘What strategies can I use?’, ‘How do I deal with this setback?’). Not surprisingly, research shows that people with this latter mindset are more effective at reaching their goals. The reason is simple: when you have a how-orientated mindset, you plan specifically the what, where and when of actions to meet your goal, rather than being focused on the distractions – such as fears, insecurities, indecision, doubts – that get in your way of moving forward.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth relates the metaphor of ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ to grit – the passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. People with grit do not give up – they continually work to achieve their aspiration, even in the face of serious disappointment. Their ambition defines their sense of meaning and purpose in this world. Failures become opportunities for learning and growth, however painful.

People with grit earn our respect not only for their talents and abilities but also because their journey has been such a challenging one. The appeal of ‘freebies’ and ‘lucky breaks’ is fleeting. What we value is hard-won achievements – reaching goals despite numerous missteps and stumbling blocks along the way. Our greatest accomplishments are those which we fight to achieve. Through our own efforts, we merit what is meant to be ours in the first place. It is only then that our achievements become truly ours.

As modern Jews, we can relate to the struggles of our ancestors. We are often in a place of indecision – considering all the available options (there are so many!).

How do we cross our own metaphorical sea to arrive at a place where we are fully committed to striving toward our dreams?
Psychological research offers a few tips:
  • First, consider what are your goals, dreams, ambitions – in other words, your sense of purpose in life. What drives your sense of meaning?

  • Once this is clear, ask yourself – what is my mindset? Am I focused on why or how? With a why mindset, we are always questioning our commitment. When we have a how mindset, in contrast, we concentrate on when, where and how to act, staying on track to reach our goal.

So, how can we change our mindset from a why to a how approach? Here are a few evidence-based suggestions:
  • List a series of steps necessary to implement your goal. Write down when, where, and how you plan to enact each of these envisioned steps.

  • Identify at least three specific situations you face regularly and what behavior would best serve your goal in each of those situations. “If this (opportunity/ barrier/critical situation) arises, then I will (goal-orientated response).”
Psychological research emphasizes that having a sense of purpose and striving for meaningful goals are important for mental health and wellbeing. Judaism teaches us that each of us has our own unique mission.

Daily Quotes

"I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life."

-Ronald Reagan

"He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how."

-Friedrich Nietzsche

"The purpose of life is to obey the hidden command which ensures harmony among all and creates an ever better world. We are not created only to enjoy the world, we are created in order to evolve the cosmos."

-Maria Montessori

Today In Jewish History

18 Elul – The Maharal – 1609

On this day in 1609, R’ Yehudah Loew passed away. R’ Loew was known by the acronym Maharal of Prague which was short for Morenu HaRav Loew.  The Maharal was considered one of the greatest Jewish minds of all times.  He was the intellectual bridge between the kabbalistic teachings of the Ari z”l and the Vilna Goan on one side and the Chassidic movement on the other.  He was a very prolific writer with more than 13 works, many multi-volume, that we have, and many others that are referenced in other works that we don’t have.  Possibly the most remarkable thing is that he didn’t publish his first book until he was 68.  So all of these writings, each one solid gold, were produced in the sunset of his life.

The Maharal was not only a great Torah scholar but was recognized as a great secular scholar as well.  He was friendly with many of the intellectual elite of his time including the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II.  One of the most famous legends of the Maharal is that he created a Golem, a human-like being made out of clay and then brought to life through kabbalistic incantations.  The purpose of the Golem was to protect the Jewish community of Prague from anti-Semitic attacks.  Most historians do not believe the story of the Golem to be factual, but one thing is certain, we see here the Maharal’s greatness, as they don’t tell such stories about you and me.  

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