Zelig Pliskin


American Rabbi, Psychologist, Author and Lecturer

Author Quotes

What a person believes about himself and his abilities is [often] a self-fulfilling prophecy... Believing you are inferior, untalented, unimportant or incapable, influences your abilities. If you view yourself as unable to do things, you will be unable to do them. On the other hand, if you see yourself as talented, capable, and important, your self-concept will open up powers and talents that would have otherwise remained dormant. Hardly anyone utilizes his entire capabilities. We can accomplish much more than we realize. By raising the perception of your capabilities, you will accomplish more.

When you learn to tolerate the frustration of not gratifying an urge, you will be able to overcome it. Many people have an external orientation. That is, they feel that the problem is the external thing they desire. But an outlook that will aid one to overcome desires is to realize that all desires are inner experiences. The urge to do something is within you. Accept the frustration of tolerating the unpleasant feelings until you are able to distract your mind and the urge will pass.

Your magnificent brain can make mental pictures of how you would like to speak and act. The more times you repeat these pictures, the more ingrained they become. These mental pictures will make it easier for you to follow through in reality.

What Do You Say to Yourself After Someone Criticizes You? Imagine that someone criticizes you. Then imagine yourself feeling joyful about this wonderful opportunity to learn something positive from the criticism. Imagine that you love to hear feedback about what you've said and done or didn't say and do. Positive feedback means that you are on track. Critical feedback means that you can now improve and develop yourself. Imagine that your self-talk sounds like, 'I appreciate and am grateful for this wonderful opportunity to become better. I am grateful to this person for telling me something that will be beneficial for me.' If you actually respond to criticism this way, congratulations! It shows that you have integrated one of the elevated qualities listed in the 48 factors to acquire Torah. If you are like most people, however, you don't think of critical feedback as one of your greatest pleasures in life. But if you have the inner strength, courage, and honesty to be open to hearing criticism, you will grow more in life. So what can you say to yourself if you have not yet mastered the ability to love criticism? One possibility is: 'My goal is to constantly grow and develop myself [Evolve into my best self]. I love positive feedback. But I can grow from critical feedback. So I will increase my inner strength, courage, and honesty to be open to hear what people say, and to weigh what they say objectively.' You don't have to feel bad about yourself because someone gave you critical feedback. [We are all growing as people and because of this criticism you are now in a position to be better tomorrow than you are today and were yesterday.]

When you meet someone who is a highly knowledgeable expert in a specific area, you can always ask, 'What are some of the best questions that you have been asked on this subject?' and 'What do you consider the basic principles for understanding this subject'. [To break the ice a few good questions to ask are: 'How did you get started in this career?' ; 'What have been some of the highlights so far?' and; 'What are your aspirations for your career?']

Your perspective of events is an important factor in attaining peace of mind. Be aware of your main goals in life. When a situation arises that might disturb your peace of mind, ask yourself: ?What effect, if any, does this event or incident have on these goals?? When you realize this present situation does not have a major effect on what is really important, the problem will shrink in significance and once again you will be able to have peace of mind... One needs to ignore unfortunate events unless there is some practical benefit to be gained by talking about them.

What Does Life Want From You? - Viktor Frankl, a Jewish physician who spent the years of the Second World War in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, related, 'I remember my dilemma in a concentration camp when faced with a man and a woman who were close to suicide; both had told me that they expected nothing more from life. I asked both my fellow prisoners whether the question was really what we expected from life. Was it not, rather, what life was expecting from us? I suggested that life was awaiting something from them.' The person who feels despair and discouragement is asking the wrong question. He asks what the world is giving him. As soon as he changes his question to what is the good [service] that he can do, he will always be able to find an answer.

When you personally are happy, it doesn't make any difference what others have. So the way to counteract envy is to increase your own level of joy. By mastering joy, you will become free from envy.

What would you love to achieve and accomplish? What would you feel great about doing in your life? What meaningful goals would you wish to reach? Imagine achieving and accomplishing everything that you would wish [dream] for. Picture yourself reaching your highest aspirations and your most meaningful goals. Visualize yourself speaking and acting the way you would wish with the highest and best character traits.

When you want to access a joyful state, ask yourself, 'If I were a master of joy, how would I speak and act now?' Since this method doesn?t ask you to feel anything you're not actually feeling, it will be easier to speak and act the way you would if were a master of joy. This is the power of acting 'as if.' I have found that people who once claimed, 'I can't just decide to be joyful when I don't really feel joyful,' were able to benefit from this approach.

Whatever you focus your attention on [good or bad, desired or not], you increase. This one principle is the key to mastering any trait and skill.

Who Is An Honorable Person? A major underlying issue in many quarrels is that people feel that someone else didn't treat them with the proper respect. The specific details of the quarrel are trivial compared to the fundamental need to be treated with respect. 'Who is an honorable person?' ask the Sages (Pirkei Avos 4:1 - Ethics Of The Fathers 4:1). 'The one who shows [politeness] honor and respect to others.' That is, your honor and respect does not depend on how others treat you. Rather, the more honor and respect that you express to others, the more honorable you yourself are. We all want to be treated with basic respect. And as we internalize the essential message of the Sages, we will decrease our concern about how others treat us and we will increase our concern about how we treat others.

When ['bad'] events occur in your life, at least leave the situation as a question mark in your mind, 'How do I know this will really turn out bad for me?' The answer is that you never know with absolute certainty that it will. Many things that you now perceive as strongly negative are questionable if they will really turn out bad. Why make yourself irritated in a doubtful situation by taking for granted that this is really so negative?

Will Power: A Jewish principle states that 'nothing can stand in the way when you have strong desire to accomplish something.' Think of something that you would like to accomplish but are not doing all you can in this area. Increase your intensity of 'will', and be totally motivated to utilize all your resources and energy to accomplish it.

When a person looks through a colored lens, everything seems to be that color. If the lens is tinted yellow or blue, everything seems yellow or blue. A person who looks at life through the lens of gratitude will always find things to be grateful for.

Worry is Created by [your imagination and] Self-Talk: The more you engage in joyful and grateful [imagination and] self-talk, the more your mind will be free from worry [and fear]. Some people tell themselves, 'It?s my nature to worry [imagine negative experiences].' But the truth is that no one is born a worrier. A person might have started worrying at a young age and have many early memories of worrying. A person might find it very difficult not to worry. But this isn?t someone?s basic nature. Worry is essentially [imagination and] self-talk about something negative that you hope won?t happen. You feel anxious and distressed about the possibility. One way out of the worry pattern is to think of potential solutions. Whenever you worry about something, imagine three or more alternate [positive or neutral] outcomes. A happy and joyful person has mastered the art of thinking in patterns that create happiness and joy. Let this be your mind.

When a shirt falls from a high place, there are some people who say, 'I am grateful I was not in that shirt.' At first glance, this seems like a very odd thing to say. But after some thought we can see it makes sense. Human beings are susceptible to all sorts of diseases and accidents. Many things can harm a person. Even a person walking on solid ground can trip and break a limb. Someone could choke on his food. With imagination you can picture events that have remote possibilities of actually happening. A wise person is constantly aware of his lack of power to protect himself and realizes how easily he can be harmed. When he observes something falling, he is immediately aware that he could easily fall down, too. This serves as a reminder that he should be grateful [not only for the good that he has but for the bad that he doesn't have]... The main desire of each and every person is to live a life of happiness. This is the underlying motivation behind diversions such as games and music. Why should the art of feeling joy that potential harm did not happen be less than the art of enjoying music? The person who can feel joy because he is not ill or injured lives a happy life.

Worry is when you choose from millions of possible thoughts, only the few which deal with a potential misfortune or problem. Once you accept your worrying as the act of choosing specific thoughts, you can consciously make an effort to avoid those thoughts that cause you needless pain and choose more constructive, positive thoughts.

When dealing with a person you find difficult, keep in mind that this person's way of behaving and thinking might be causing him to suffer even more than he is causing you to suffer. See life from his point of view - and be compassionate.

Would you rather feel worse than you have to? Do you want to choose to feel happy? At the root of complaining is thinking that the situation could be better. At the root of satisfaction is being aware that the situation could be worse. In almost all instances things could be worse and they could be better. To master happiness a person needs to have a constant awareness that things are better than they could be. A person lacking flexibility in his ways of looking at things is apt to have difficulty with the concept of changing one?s perspective.

When performing a good deed that is difficult for you to do, instead of thinking how awful it is, appreciate that the difficulty is what elevates [grows and evolves] you!

Write a list of ways that you have benefited from being married to your spouse. Then write a list of your spouse's positive patterns and qualities. Keep adding to the lists and reread them frequently.

When someone is doing something wrong, feel sorry for him that he is harming himself by doing the wrong thing. Feelings of compassion will prevent feelings of anger.

You always have a choice of your self-talk. Ask yourself, 'What can I think about now that will improve the way I am feeling?' You can always think, 'The more challenging a situation, the more I can grow from it.' The more skilled you are about creating positive self-talk in challenging situations, the easier it will be for you to handle new challenges in the future. [In every situation in life there is the objective situation and there is the subjective way we see and talk about it to ourselves and others.]

When working on improving yourself, it is easy to become discouraged because you do not see sufficient progress. Keep trying and do not give up. Every small amount of improvement is a success.

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American Rabbi, Psychologist, Author and Lecturer