Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Zelig Pliskin

American Rabbi, Psychologist, Author and Lecturer

"A person who is goal oriented will be able to overcome difficulties that others are unable to cope with. The stronger one is motivated to reach a certain goal, the easier it is for him to tolerate and even ignore difficulties. Hence a person who is strongly goal oriented to do good deeds will easily be able to minimize the amount of difficulty he experiences in doing those deeds."

"A person who wants approval is disturbed and irritated if someone questions his attitudes and opinions. But a wise man seeks truth and therefore feels pleasure if someone raises objections since this helps him correct his mistakes."

"A person whose main goal in life is to be a good person will judge each event and situation by asking himself: “What can I do now that will make me a better person?” The exact details of the situation will not make a major difference to him. He focuses on his own attitudes and behavior, and consequently he will look at each situation as a test of his character and spiritual level. His goal is to become more elevated with each action and statement. If he is missing something which he feels he can use, he will not be irritated for he thinks, “With what I have right now, what is the most elevating behavior I can choose?”"

"A teacher who tends to lower the self-esteem and confidence of his students should either change this tendency or change professions. One of the most important lessons an educator can convey to students is that they have inherent worth and should strive to utilize their potential."

"A person who is a truth seeker and readily admits his mistakes will gain both the respect of others and will ultimately have more self-respect. Instead of looking at admitting mistakes as a sign of weakness, look at it as a manifestation of intellectual honesty."

"Every moment can be viewed as new... You cause yourself a great loss by not living in the present... Don’t let the past weigh you down... Realize what is over is over... The future is always an unknown entity so learn to focus on the present... Learn to concentrate on what you are presently doing... Always try to utilize your present moments for growth... If you master feeling joy in your present moments, you need never be concerned you are missing anything, since whatever you are engaged in can be transformed into an elevating experience... You can alleviate pain by living in the present."

"Faults a person who has low self-esteem may have are: sensitivity to criticism, over-response to flattery, hypercritical attitude, tendency towards blaming, tendency towards seclusiveness and shyness."

"Accept the responsibility for making yourself happy independent of good or bad fortune, you will be determined to work on your thought patterns instead of chasing illusions."

"Do not allow another person’s evaluation affect your feelings of self-esteem... Being an honored person is dependent on your behavior towards others and not on other people’s behavior towards you. Why feel any lack of self-worth just because someone acts disrespectfully to you? Keep your focus on your behavior towards others. When someone does not treat you with respect, it is his problem, not yours... Ultimately, it is your mind that decides on how you will consider yourself."

"By keeping your focus on spiritual elevation you can minimize suffering about worldly matters."

"Frequently people say, “He made me angry.” This is inaccurate. No one can make you angry. You make yourself angry by what you tell yourself about a given situation. When you say, “I made myself angry because of what I told myself about this person’s behavior,” you are accepting the responsibility upon yourself, which is the first step leading to improvement."

"Hiding your faults from others so they won’t correct you might save you from momentary unpleasantness, but you will remain with your faults... Fear of criticism stems from inferiority feelings... If you feel hurt by someone’s criticism, remember it is your choice to feel hurt. You can choose self-statements that allow you to feel grateful for the opportunity to improve yourself."

"Regardless of how you have viewed events in the past, you have the ability to learn to view things with a calm and peaceful attitude. Instead of looking at events and situations as overwhelming, you can look at them as interesting and challenging experiences. Give up your demands of how you would have like anything to be and deal with what actually is."

"Take pleasure in what you have and you never have to envy anyone else. The best anyone can obtain from their possessions, experiences, accomplishments, skills or fame is happiness. If you have happiness from what you do and have, no one can really gain anything more than what you already have."

"The behavior of others is not in our direct control. We want others to be friendly and kind to us. The behavior of others is not in our direct control, but our own behavior is. We play a large role in creating the world we live in, especially how others will behave towards us. If you behave towards others in a positive manner, they are likely to reciprocate."

"The realization that everyone perceives things differently, whether greatly or slightly, is a very important principle for dealing effectively with others. The greater your understanding of someone else’s perception of reality, the greater your ability to communicate effectively with him."

"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 that he can do, he will always be able to find an answer."

"Beware of the temporariness of honor and approval."

"Despair over loneliness will increase the suffering. Looking at the time available as a precious gift will decrease it."

"Demanding security and certainty prevents peace of mind. No human has the omniscience to foresee everything. Always realize the unexpected can occur. Plan as much as is appropriate, but realize that regardless of how much you plan there will always be difficulties that you had previously not imagined. By expecting there will always be unexpected occurrences and accepting them, you will have much greater peace of mind than if you have unrealistic expectations of complete control. A person would be making a big mistake if he felt that the way to peace of mind is to obtain complete security from all risks... Uncertainty is inevitable... The demand for success is detrimental to peace of mind... Keep your focus on trying to accomplish with the best of your ability."

"Happiness is a skill that can be learned. To acquire this skill it is necessary to master: the ability to focus on happiness-producing thoughts instead of those which cause unhappiness and the ability to evaluate events and situations as positive instead of negative, or at least lower the degree of negativity... The person with greater control over his thoughts will have greater control over his emotions."

"The exact same job can be viewed either as drudgery and emotionally distressing or as an enjoyable way to spend one’s time. It depends on the individual’s perspective."

"There are two sides to every problem."

"What is reality? The simple picture before your eyes. Your emotional reaction, however, is based entirely on the way you personally perceived the situation... Facts themselves are neutral. You do not have emotional reactions to facts. Your emotional reaction is always based on your subjective evaluation of any situation... Learn to differentiate between facts, inferences, and value judgments. Facts do not make you happy or sad. It is only your value judgments that do."

"Many people consider the happiest days in their lives when they received the applause and acclaim of others. But the fact they needed someone else’s approval for their happiness makes them dependent on others. Someone who can find happiness even when he is insulted is assured of having a happy life. Once a person knows that he is able to experience positive feelings even when insulted, he is free from the fear of what people might say to him. This can give a persona feeling of liberation. If you believe someone else’s words cannot hurt you, they won’t."

"A key element in why it's easy to lack gratitude is because human nature is to take things for granted when we get used to having them. To master gratitude we need to stop taking things for granted and to increase our thoughts of appreciation... As an exercise, choose a day to not take anything for granted. Look at everything as if it were new. Look at everything as if this were the first time that this positive thing was happening. Look at all that you own as if you just bought or received them today. Look at what you have as if it were invented recently and you are one of the first people on the planet to get it. Hopefully this exercise will give you the experience of what it's like to not take things for granted."

"A common question that parents ask is, 'How do I teach my children to be grateful?' Be role models of gratitude yourself. Let your children frequently hear that you are grateful... [for example before each meal while saying grace or giving toasts] Let your children frequently hear you say that you are grateful to your parents for what they have done for you and what they have taught you. Let your children frequently hear that you are grateful for friends, relatives and neighbors who have done things for you, recently and a long time ago. Let your children frequently hear that you are grateful to them for the positive things they do."

"A few years ago a person who would be considered successful by most people's standards shared with me, 'Looking back at my childhood, a pattern that I remembered having is, 'He has more than me.' 'His birthday present was better than mine.' 'He gets to travel to more interesting places.' 'He is luckier than I am.' 'He has more friends.' 'He lives in a nicer house.' 'On my fortieth birthday I made a mental accounting of my life. I thought about various traits and patterns that I had. The most distressful part of this mental accounting was that I noticed I wasn't very happy in my life. When I asked myself why, and thought about it, I realized that I kept feeling that I had less than others. I was told to look back at my childhood for this pattern, and that's when I realized how often this theme came up. There were many ways that others had it better than I did. And my mind was full of thoughts of not only having less, but of being less. I realized that if I wanted to live the rest of my life joyfully, I needed to do one of two things. Either I could make it my goal to be so successful in every way that is important to me that I would be far ahead of everyone I knew. Then I would find it easier to be grateful for my accomplishments, successes, and possessions. Or I could learn to gain greater mastery over my thoughts. I would choose to think thoughts of gratitude as my automatic way of thinking. The first choice would take so much time, effort, and energy that I would be in a constant frustrating race with others. I might never reach my goal and even if I did reach it, it was certainly not going to last. Eventually someone would pass me by. This way of thinking would give me many years of stress and frustration and there really wasn't a way that this would give me gratitude and happiness. It was obvious that the wiser approach would be to be grateful for what I had. Choosing this pattern of thought was one of the best choices I have made in my life."

"A person is both wise and wealthy when you master the art of appreciating what you already have."

"A master of happiness will appreciate what he or she has while they have them and the moment any specific thing is gone or lost, the focus will be on other things to appreciate and be grateful for. At times, this could be gratitude for the memories that remain. Material and physical objects are temporary, memories are forever."

"A happy and joyful person has mastered the art of thinking in patterns that create happiness and joy. Let this be your mind."

"A person who has great wealth will still be unhappy if he hasn't also mastered gratitude."

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

"A person who looks at life through the lens of gratitude will always find things to be grateful for. A person looking from a place of kindness and compassion will always find opportunities to be kind and compassionate."

"All's Well That Ends Well: In his later years, Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein wrote that those situations which initially caused him suffering were ultimately the cause of good fortune. We can never really be certain that any event will actually be bad for us. Why assess an event as definitely negative, when it can turn out in a way that you will clearly see is for your benefit? [Only time can tell what is really good or bad for us or anyone else.]"

"An arrogant person demands that others behave in the manner he wishes. This frequently causes resentment, especially if others perceive his demands as arbitrary and unreasonable. A person with humility [and therefore respect for others equal right to freedom from force and fraud] gets along well with others because he is flexible and considerate of others. He will not push people around just for the sake of feeling power and authority. Being with him is a pleasurable experience."

"An Avoidable Worry: Oftentimes the calamities that people worry about never occur. Imagine: If you constantly worry about potential disasters, even if your life will work out perfectly in all respects, you will still live a life of suffering. Such suffering is entirely self-caused and unnecessary. Whenever you catch yourself worrying about a potential negative event, ask yourself, 'How do I know for sure this will occur?'"

"A speaker's tone of voice is a key factor that will make a major difference whether he will have a positive effect or not. Matters pertaining to cold logic do not need a special tone of voice. However, when your goal is to arouse elevated spiritual feelings in someone, it is important to speak in a tone of voice that will inspire the appropriate elevated state. Today, when speaking to someone about a personal matter, be conscious of how your tone of voice can enhance your message."

"Accepting Criticism: A person who is serious about self-improvement will be grateful to anyone who points out his faults! Whereas a person who does not have a strong desire for self-improvement will deny that he has any faults - even those which are blatant. Utilize the criticism of others as an opportunity for introspection."

"Admit The Truth: When you speak to others, admit the truth when they are right. People often deny the truth because they are afraid that others will look down at them if they admit making a mistake. But in fact, most people will respect you more when they see that you have the moral courage [and good sense] to admit when you are wrong."

"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."

"A person?s experiences in the physical and spiritual areas give him the potential for happiness without end. What destroys this potential is we become used to what we already have and take things for granted... All happiness is in the mind... Focus on what you have and not on what you are missing... Learn to focus on the positive qualities of each situation... Learn to appreciate things which are usually taken for granted... We can derive pleasure from everything that benefits us: the trees we see, the sidewalks we walk on, the roads we travel, the streetlights at night. The fact that everyone else enjoys these benefits can increase our pleasure, rather than decrease it."

"A world-champion boxer or a mighty warrior only becomes that way because of his regular program of exercises and practice over a long period of time. By consistently working on conquering anger, it is possible to gain an inner spiritual and emotional strength that is very powerful."

"Accentuate The Positive: Consciously make an effort to fill your mind with positive thoughts. Practice focusing on the hundreds of positive [grateful] aspects of your life. Be aware of your ability to see, talk, walk, etc. Thoughts always keep racing through your mind, so gently keep your focus on all the positive details of your life. Realize that you are the one who chooses what thoughts to dwell on. Choose those thoughts which enhance your life."

"Appreciate All You Have: Try imagining your life without all that you presently have. If you can master this ability, then you will appreciate what you do have to such a degree that you will live a life of constant joy. If you were lost in a wilderness without food and water - and then found some bread, you would enjoy that bread more than the most sumptuous meal! Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm wrote that he personally had such an experience, and it was like living in paradise. You will always be able to feel that joy if you use your mind wisely. Today, spend a few moments imagining what it would be like if you had absolutely nothing: no family, no friends, no possessions, no money at all, no knowledge, no eyes, ears, hands, feet - absolutely nothing. Continue this exercise until you actually feel it. Then do the second half of the exercise: Imagine yourself obtaining what you presently have, one item at a time."

"Appreciate Constructive Criticism: A truth seeker will want others to correct him if they see that he is doing something wrong. The more of a truth seeker you are, the more you will actually love criticism. Of course, everyone prefers praise. But criticism will help us grow. If the criticism is valid, we gain by listening to it regardless of whether it's presented in a sensitive manner. If someone criticizes you in a painful way, use that as a lesson to be careful in giving others negative feedback. The next time someone offers you a piece of criticism, act as if you love it!"

"An Hour of Gratitude: There is a powerful exercise that will greatly help you upgrade your level of gratitude. Designate an hour a day to be your hour of gratitude. During this hour keep your focus on gratitude. Isn't an hour a long time to do this? Yes, it is. When you actually do this exercise for a month, you will find the benefits so great that you will make the effort to keep it up for an hour a day tremendously worthwhile. And what about spending an hour a day focusing and thinking about what you don't like, what you are unhappy about, what you are resentful about, what you are envious of, what you find frustrating, what's not happening that you want to happen, what might go wrong in the future (also known as worrying), what has already gone wrong in the past. Isn't an hour a long time to spend on thinking these thoughts? Yes, it is. And many people would find it a great blessing to only think these thoughts for just one hour a day and the rest of the day to think more pleasant and enjoyable and beneficial and growth-oriented thoughts. Making a resolution to designate an hour a day reserved for thoughts of gratitude will make it easier for you to overcome a tendency to think thoughts that create stress and distress. 'But I don't have that many things to be grateful for,' some people might argue. 'You would be surprised!' is the answer. Try it out and you will find that you have much more to be grateful for than you usually are aware of. If you go to a store to buy something, be grateful that the store is there. Be grateful that you have the money to buy what you want to buy, or that someone is willing to lend you the money, or that a store is willing to give you credit. If you meet someone you know, be grateful that you have people who are friendly towards you. If the telephone rings, be grateful that you can hear. If you see anything, be grateful that you can see. If you have food to eat, be grateful for that food. If you read something, be grateful that your brain is functioning and you know how to read. If you smile to yourself in a mirror, be grateful that you have the positive feedback that will help you master positive states. If you begin to feel irritated or upset over something and remember that this is your hour of gratitude, be grateful that your memory is working and that you have things to be grateful for and that you can access a gratitude state rather than an unpleasant one. If someone else needlessly makes a negative comment, you can say, 'This is my hour of gratitude, and I would be very grateful to you if you could point out some things we can be grateful for during this hour.'"

"Appreciate Your Brain: You are the owner of a magnificent brain. Wherever you go, your brain is always with you. You have a lightweight multi-million dollar valuable machine that you take with you at all times. You use this machine to study, to enjoy life, to relate with other people, to make money, to face tests and challenges. Your brain is powerful. If you are reading this, it is your brain that is enabling you to do so. Your brain receives images of the symbols that you are looking at and turns them into words and sentences. Because similar letters and words are stored in your brain's immense library, you are able to make sense of these words and can benefit from them. The sheer number of pictures, knowledge, and information stored in your brain is awesome. When you think of how relatively small your brain is and what it has stored away in its cells, it is mind-boggling. Whenever you recognize someone it is because that person's picture is stored in your brain. If you recognize any scene, whether you saw it in person, or in a newspaper, book, or magazine, it is because there is a picture of that scene in your brain. This can include gigantic areas and a wide variety of places. Some people tend to just complain when they can't remember something and take remembering for granted. A person who sincerely wants to master happiness will do just the opposite. Appreciating the power of your brain will give you thousands of joyous experiences."

"As an exercise in appreciation, try for one hour to feel grateful for every single thing you find yourself doing. When you read, be grateful you can see and read. When you walk, be grateful for the use of your feet. When you talk, be grateful for the ability to communicate with others. For a full hour do not take even the smallest action for granted. Be aware of every detail of what you can do. Anyone who does this daily for even a short time will have a much greater appreciation for everything he does."

"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."