Zelig Pliskin


American Rabbi, Psychologist, Author and Lecturer

Author Quotes

Uncover Your Accomplishments: There are many accomplishments in life that are often overlooked as being accomplishments. For example, developing your character is a great accomplishment...Each difficulty that you cope well with is an accomplishment. Doing an act of kindness for another person is an accomplishment. (And the less you feel like doing it, the greater the accomplishment!)

A person who never regrets his wrongdoings is likely to repeat them. But excessive guilt is harmful.

Ask Advice Before Giving Up: If you are in a situation in which negative consequences appear to be inevitable, don't give up. Rather, consult others for advice. Even though it might seem there is no escape, someone else might think of an idea that will save you. Today, think about situations when you were under the impression that negative consequences were inevitable, but the reality turned out better than you had imagined. Let this serve as a resource not to give up prematurely in the future.

Character is developed one positive action at a time. Therefore nothing is actually trivial in our lives. To grow in character development, pay attention to seemingly trivial matters. Someone who grows from each minor life event will eventually reach high levels of character perfection.

Every person you meet deeply desires to be treated with respect. If you listen carefully, you will hear them cry: 'Please consider me an important person. Don't embarrass or insult me. Please listen to me when I speak.' If you learn to treat every person you meet with respect, you will have many friends throughout your life. Upon meeting another person, ask yourself, 'What can I say to this person to show him respect?' [The first way is to show and speak with disciplined politeness. In fact this should be a constant desire when dealing with everyone. While morality and ethics demand that you give other humans as much freedom as possible to be themselves so long as they don't harm another's person or property or initiate force, coercion or fraud, the next level of social skill is to show politeness, as many people feel (wrongly) any less than politeness is an act of aggression towards their ego and self-worth that makes them feel they must defend themselves, often with equivalent or worse verbal if not physical violence. Therefore a wise person simply tries to not unnecessarily offend people and tries to be polite at all times. Levels of social skill and sensitivity after freedom and politeness in ascending order include: kindness, self-sacrifice, love and forgiveness.]

For those who have mastered serenity, fifteen seconds ago is ancient history. They realize that once something is over, it is over regardless of whether it has been over for many years or for a relatively short time. It is understandable that it can take different people varying amounts of time until they are able to let things go. But the goal should be to let go of what is over and done with. In truth it is gone whether or not you let it. It is just a question of the degree of emotional mastery that you will have. Regardless of where you are at this moment, you can always improve on your ability to let things go as soon as they are gone.

I realized that we had come across certain tools that worked miraculously in helping us become responsible for every aspect of our lives.

Joy in a Challenging Environment: A person who finds himself in a challenging environment is likely to find it difficult to maintain happiness. But he will still be able to create moments of joy throughout each day. Moments of joy add up. The more joyful moments you experience, the easier it will be to create even more moments of joy. And when you think about your life, these moments of joy will automatically come to your mind. another's physical person or property]

Living with this gratitude elevates you... You become a more joyful person. You become a kinder and more compassionate person. You become a calmer and more peaceful person. You become a person who lives in greater harmony with others.

Picture Success: Make it a regular habit to imagine yourself accomplishing what you wish to accomplish. This will motivate yourself to accomplish more. As you create these visions in your mind's eye, you will be conditioning yourself in a way that - in reality - will lead to many positive accomplishments.

Resolve Your Worries: When you are worried, pinpoint exactly what you are worried about, and then try to think of solutions to the real problem. For example, if you're worried about how to make a living, your anxiety level might be commensurate with someone who's worried that they'll starve to death! But is that really the case? Most likely, you have the necessary talent to deliver mail, work in a factory, clean floors, or similar jobs. Perhaps such jobs do not enable you to utilize your potential, or you feel they are below your dignity, or will be very boring. So realize then that your real problem is pride or boredom, not starving to death. Your worry level will be decreased if you realize the exact nature of the problem. Now that your question is how to make a boring job more interesting or how to use your potential, you can make an inventory of all your skills, hobbies, and interests -- and figure out how to best utilize them to earn a living.

Telling Yourself the Story of Your Life: What is the story of your life? The story you choose to tell yourself about your life has a tremendous impact on your self-image, on making and reaching goals, on your character traits, and on your level of happiness. Some people think, 'I don't choose to tell myself a story about my life. My life happened. When I tell myself and others about my life, I am just recounting the objective picture of my life.' Sorry. There is no such thing as an objective picture of your life. All experiences are experienced subjectively. What does this mean? It means that the way you think about what happened in your life is the way that you experience what was and what is. You give meaning to your life and the events in your life by the way you tell yourself about your experiences. Regardless of the stories that you've been telling yourself about your life and about specific incidents in the past, you can choose to upgrade the level of your stories. At this moment, you can make a life-enhancing decision. From now on, I will tell myself stories of appreciation and gratitude. Stories of personal growth and self-development. Stories about increasing my confidence, courage, and self-empowerment.

The Scope [Chain of service, value and] of Gratitude: A friend of mine, Rabbi Leibel Benjaminson, described a self-improvement ('mussar') group in which he participated. In order to improve their sense of gratitude, everyone in the group was to select one thing that they do frequently - and then think for 10 minutes about its ramifications. My friend drank one cup of coffee every morning, and he chose this cup of coffee as his subject. He felt it would be easier to work on the assignment if he wrote his thoughts on paper. To his surprise, the 10 minutes quickly turned into 35. He wrote about how the coffee beans grew in Brazil. Someone planted the trees and took care of them until the coffee reached maturity. Then workers picked the beans from the trees. The beans were roasted and ground, and packed for shipping. He described all the work involved in the shipping industry which allowed the coffee to reach the United States. This alone required hundreds of people. Finally, the coffee arrived at the port in Haifa from where it was taken to his grocery story in Jerusalem. He wrote about the gas range that boiled the water, and the match he used. (And how much easier it is to use a match rather than have to rub two sticks together!) He wrote about how the gas reached his home and what was necessary to build his stove. He wrote about the water kettle that whistled to let him know that the water had boiled. The milk he added required the work of many people from the time it left the cow until it reached his coffee cup. At the end of 35 minutes, he saw he had not even begun to write about the actual cup, saucer, or teaspoon nor the table he placed it on, or the chair he sat on!! Through this exercise, he became aware of so many things he'd been taking for granted...Would you like to have a similar experience? Try it today: Pick something that you enjoy doing, and write as much as you can about what there is to appreciate.

Unrealistic expectations are at the heart of much of our emotional pain... Major areas of expectations are: the world should be exactly as I wish, other people should do and be exactly as I wish, I should be able to accomplish whatever I wish.

A person who overcomes his desires for things he cannot afford or obtain [and truly feels, 'I am grateful for what I have and it is enough'] considers himself wealthy regardless of how others would rate him.

At Least Don't Be Discouraged: Realize that if you ever feel discouraged, your attitude of discouragement is a greater problem than any external hardship. You can change your attitude [and thereby give yourself your best chance to persist, succeed and enjoy the journey].

Choose Happy Thoughts: You feel sad when you keep your mind focused on negative things. Your thoughts are the cause of your unhappiness. You have a large choice of what to think about. Instead of causing yourself sadness, focus on happiness-producing thoughts. Imagine that you have a tape recorder and are choosing between two tapes. One will make you happy and cheerful, while the other will make you sad and miserable. Only a fool would choose the tape that causes suffering. Your mind is constantly playing tapes. It is always your choice between self-statements and thoughts that that will make you happy and cheerful, and those that will cause you misery. Consistently choose positive thoughts and you will live a happy life.

Every time someone says or does anything you find distressful, immediately add it to your mental database of things you are committed not to do to others.

Frequency of subjective positive experiences is more important for a positive mood than intensity.

If a person decides to view life from a place of self-confidence, this confident lens will color all that he sees. More positive opportunities will appear.

Just Keep Silent: Sometimes we know that saying something will make a situation worse. We can tell ourselves to, 'Just keep silent.' If we feel tempted to speak negatively about someone, we can strengthen our resolve not to say it by telling ourselves, 'Just keep silent.'

Make it a regular practice to imagine being calm and relaxed [smiling and laughing as well as grateful, hopeful and happy] in situations that are likely to arouse your anger [frustration and unhappiness].

Picture Your Ideal Self: Work on improving yourself, instead of wasting time feeling sorry that you are not the way you would like. Describe your ideal self: What type of person do you really want to be? Be as specific as possible. Don't use vague terms like 'being a kind person, gaining lots of knowledge, and being successful.' With these terms you will not have a clear criteria to determine if you have reached the goals. If, for example, you wish to improve in doing kindness, clarify the specific acts of kindness you plan to do, and how often. Then, once you have a picture of your ideal self, you can plan ways to travel the path leading to that ideal. [Freedom, Individualism, and being yourself, so long as it doesn't hurt]

Respond to Arguments With Honest Humility: Respond to the outbursts of others with humility. Agree with any truth you see in their statement. By agreeing with part of the person's comments, you are likely to calm him down. ('Yes, I was inconsiderate.' 'I agree with you that I can improve.' 'That was a stupid thing I did.') Conversely, when you try to defend yourself, an angry person will usually keep up his attack. Arguing with him adds fuel to the fire. When you agree with him, however, he will see that he has no reason to keep arguing since you already agree with him. Some people find this difficult to do, but try this a few times, and you will see that it works wonders.

The [Jewish sacred text the] Talmud states that all suffering [frustration, failure, etc.] is purposeful. When we suffer, we should view it as a message to check our behavior for areas we can [learn more about and thereby] improve. Viewing suffering as meaningless increases one's pain. When you find meaning and purpose in suffering, it becomes much easier to bear [gratefully]. The more meaning you see, the lighter the burden [and the easier to be grateful for it]. The worst suffering is when one feels there is no purpose in it [for ourselves or others].

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American Rabbi, Psychologist, Author and Lecturer