Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Zelig Pliskin

American Rabbi, Psychologist, Author and Lecturer

"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]."

"Base your happiness on your own attitudes, and you can be its master. If you tell yourself that you can only be happy if others do or say what you wish, your happiness is under the control of those people... 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... Happiness is a byproduct of thinking and behaving in a positive manner."

"At times the knowledge of what not to say to someone is even more important than what to say."

"Be A Good-Digger: When you come into contact with another person, make a special effort to see their virtues. Not only look for good points, but try to genuinely feel pleasure in discovering a new virtue in someone. A person who masters this trait lives in an entirely different world than someone who lacks it. Everyone he meets has positive elements that he notices, and hence he will show honor and respect to everyone."

"Be carefree yet careful: While you should work on overcoming unnecessary worrying, have a healthy fear of danger and sensibly guard yourself from harm. Overcoming worry does not mean putting yourself in danger, but in having a calm attitude in dealing with difficulties and accepting what cannot be changed."

"Be aware of the positive attributes and behaviors of the people with whom you come into contact [especially your children] and help them build upon their strengths. Encouragement is a much more powerful tool for change and growth than blaming and condemning. You can bring about miracles in people's lives if you believe in their potential."

"Be careful not to correct others in anger."

"Be careful not to compare yourself with others, for envy is a prime cause of lack of pleasure in one?s studies. As you continue to gain more and more knowledge, you will eventually feel pleasure. For many this will be a slow process, so be patient. Persistence and diligence will pay off in the end."

"Be Humble, Be Happy: - A person who is sincerely humble will be constantly happy. A humble person realizes that nothing is owed him, and therefore feels [if not completely] satisfied with what he has [he is grateful that it is not worse, as it of course always could be. Therefore]... He constantly has peace of mind and always feels the joy of life [as he continues to strive to meet his needs, wants and dreams and to be his best self]."

"Be Honest About Your Faults: Approval-seekers feel a necessity to put themselves in a better light than they really are. Because they try to hide their faults, they are nervous about others finding out what they're really like. Their situation is like that of a spy in enemy territory. If, however, they are honest about their mistakes and faults, they will be much more relaxed. They will also find that others behave more positively toward them for their honesty. While it is not worthwhile to go to the opposite extreme and tell everyone you meet about your faults, if you stop being defensive about your faults [while you are, of course, trying to correct them to become your better self], you will live a more serene life."

"Be Glad You Didn't: When people think about happiness, they usually think about being happy for positive things that occur. Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm, (1824-1898) wrote to his students to appreciate what didn't happen. He commented on a puzzling custom that he saw. When a shirt would fall from a clothesline down into the dirt, some people would say, 'I am grateful that I wasn't in that shirt.' It sort of makes you want to smile, doesn't it? He explained that people play games and listen to music in order to enjoy life. Developing the habit of being grateful for all the wrong things that didn't occur in your life will add to your daily dose of enjoyment. When you learn to appreciate what didn't happen, it's mind-boggling how many bad things don't happen to you in one day. I've told some people to make a daily list of ten bad things that didn't happen to them. Some find this unpleasant. And for them there are other paths to appreciation."

"Be Soft Spoken: Always speak to others in a manner that makes it a pleasurable experience for them. Your tone of voice should be calm and pleasant. Do not speak in anger or raise your voice."

"Before you go to sleep, you have a great opportunity to condition your mind to be more joyful by programming yourself to have joyful dreams. Simply repeat the words, 'Joyful dreams,' in a calm and peaceful tone of voice. You might also suggest ideas for a joyful dream. With patience and persistence, you will eventually see results. After upgrading the joy in your dreams, you can condition your mind for more courage, kindness, and serenity by suggesting to yourself, 'Brain, please create more dreams of courage, kindness, and serenity."

"Bring Out The Best In Each Other: We are all very different when at our best than when we are at our worst. We can even seem like two different people. This isn't a rare case of 'multiple personality disorder.' Rather, it is simply that when we feel good we think clearly, while when we are stressed we may get angry. We all have met people who bring out the best in us. Around them, we feel better about ourselves. We think clearer. We act kinder and more elevated. Around other people, however, we might sometimes behave our worst. This will be true for you, and true for the person you are married to. Your task is to bring out the best in yourself and the best in your spouse. (And before you complain that this seems unfair, remember that your spouse has the same task!) A husband and wife who know how to bring out the best in each other will live blessed lives. They will cherish each other and create a wonderful environment in which to raise their children."

"Change It or Accept It: Matters leading to sadness fall into two categories: matters that can be corrected and matters that cannot. If something can be done to correct a situation, why feel sad? Simply take action to correct the matter! On the other hand, if nothing can be done, what gain is there in feeling sad? Sadness will not improve matters. It is wiser to accept what cannot be changed."

"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."

"Choose Your Reaction: 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. When you evaluate something as negative, awful, tragic, or a misfortune, you will feel sad, depressed, miserable, angry, or full of anxiety. When you think that something does not affect you in any way and are apathetic to it, you will feel neutral. When you evaluate something as good for you, you will react with happiness and joy. It takes practice and effort, but ultimately the choice is yours."

"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."

"Cultivate Gratitude: Lack of gratitude is at the root of discontent. In order to be consistently serene, we must master the attribute of being grateful to the Creator [if religious] for all His gifts. As the Torah (Deuteronomy 26:11) states, 'Rejoice with all the good the Almighty has given you.' This does not negate our wanting more. But it does mean that we have a constant feeling of gratitude since as long as we are alive, we always have a list of things for which to be grateful."

"Create your 'courage part' by utilizing your power of imagination. Imagine yourself talking and acting with courage. Then your 'courage part' can be applied in real life."

"Courage comes in many flavors. In general, courage is defined as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or adversity. It is staunchness of mind and of will. It is the strength to face opposition and not allow it to stop you. It is the strength to cope with hardship. It is maintaining your dignity when it is difficult to do so. Courage gives you the empowerment of steely determination. It enables you to strive towards noble aspirations."

"Do More than the Minimum: When a person does more than was expected or demanded of him, that is a sign of love. On the other hand, the surest sign that someone is doing something begrudgingly is when he does the minimum and no extra. This principle applies to the good deeds we do in helping others. When you take on more than the minimal requirements, it manifests your loving attitude. Today, think of some area in which you have been trying to just 'get by' with the minimal requirements. What more can you do in that area?"

"Do not use guilt feelings to justify laziness and procrastination."

"Difficulties will occur in everyone's life. We are typically much more aware of our own difficulties than those of others. This can easily breed unwarranted envy. But knowing that everyone has challenges in life can make your own easier to cope with."

"Empathy Brings Relief: When a person who is suffering sees others empathize with him, he feels a degree of relief. Hence if you want to help someone overcome suffering, instead of telling him that he has nothing to worry about, or that his situation is not so bad, try to share his suffering and communicate that you feel for him."

"Don't Let Hurts Blind You To The Good: If someone has done something to you that you feel angry about, focus on some good quality of that person. He might have helped others or have virtues you can appreciate. The positive aspects of his character could be sufficient for you to erase your feelings of anger toward him. Say to yourself, 'It's enough for me that he has helped me in the past.' Or, 'It's enough for me that he has this or that virtue.'"

"Events by themselves cannot make you sad [and want to give up]. It is your attitude [mental self-talk - refer Rational Emotive Therapy] toward those events that make you sad [and want to give up]. To overcome feelings of sadness [and wanting to give up], become aware of the message your negative thoughts are communicating - about yourself, about the event [and the future], or about life in general. The next step is to change these negative thoughts to more positive ones. Repeat positive statements to yourself. Your mood [and drive] will change."

"Each second of life is precious. And I won't waste it by causing myself needless distress...I will look at the present as a gift and an opportunity."

"Every moment of life is precious and [can never happen again and therefore] is a reason to [appreciate, be grateful for and] celebrate the fact that you are alive."

"Every person has moments of suffering and unpleasantness in life. If you master the skill of living in the present, you will keep these moments limited to the actual negative experiences. Both before and after a painful experience, you will focus on what actually is at that moment, freeing you from much unnecessary pain in your life. Very young children have this skill naturally (we all have it when we were younger), and that is why they enjoy life, unless they are presently in pain. As we grow older, our ability to use our minds and think about the past and future increases. This ability can be utilized in very beneficial ways [satisfaction and planning and anticipation], but it can also be used in a detrimental way [disappointment, bitterness and fear]. We can transform our lives into suffering and torture by [focusing] keeping in mind all our unpleasant experiences of the past. Forgetting those experiences is the positive aspect of forgetfulness [and distraction]."

"Events by themselves cannot make you sad. It is your attitude [mental self-talk - refer Rational Emotive Therapy] toward those events that make you sad. To overcome feelings of sadness, become aware of the message your negative thoughts are communicating - about yourself, about the event, or about life in general. The next step is to change these negative thoughts to more positive ones. Repeat positive statements to yourself. Your mood will change."

"Every week, review the things you've recently spoken about. If you find that you were careful not to have spoken negatively... feel joy."

"Everyone in the world from the most successful to the least needs encouragement. Make it [part of] your career to give others encouragement."

"Favorite Memories: If you would like to recall your favorite memories, here are some questions to ask yourself: --1. What are five of my favorite memories? --2. How do I feel when I remember them? --3. What are the main patterns of my favorite memories? --4. In what ways will I benefit from recalling these memories more often? --5. When is a good time to recall each of these memories? --6. What can I learn from these memories? --7. What do I lose out by not recalling my favorite memories? --8. What will help me remember to recall my favorite memories more often? --9. What can I do now to create more memories that I would benefit from recalling?"

"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.]"

"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."

"Everyone knows the Torah verse 'Love your neighbor as yourself' (Leviticus 19:18)...Therefore we should feel the joy of others and, similarly, empathize with their misfortunes. This is the essence of all our obligations towards our fellow man. [Morality and ethics]"

"Experiencing joy in doing acts of kindness for others will increase the quantity and quality of your kind acts. When you enjoy doing things to help others, you will always be able to find enjoyable things to do."

"Feel the Joy of Living: Appreciate the gift of life. At least once every day, feel the simple joy of being alive. Imagine yourself in a situation in which you're about to die. Concentrate and feel what that would be like. Then picture yourself being given another chance. The more vividly you can imagine this, the greater you will be able to feel the joy of life itself. [Daily gratitude meditation]"

"Feelings Aren't Facts: Some people feel discouraged. They then assume that these feelings are facts: since they feel discouraged that is a 'proof' there is no hope. But feelings only represent a person's present state of mind, they cannot predict the future. They can ask themselves: 'Do my present feelings actually prove that there is no hope?' Of course not. There is never absolute proof that your situation will not improve. By believing you have no hope, you are causing yourself great harm. Adopt the attitude: 'It is always possible that the future will turn out much brighter than I presently feel it will. What constructive action can I take for improvement?'"

"Fear of failure is a prime reason some people feel anxiety. They think, ?If I don?t succeed, I am a worthless failure.? Someone who fears failure is not willing to take the risks that are an essential ingredient in every new undertaking. This prevents him from taking action in many situations in which he could accomplish a great deal. If someone accepts his intrinsic worth as a person even if he does not succeed at a given task, he realizes that his value as a person is never under risk, and will try to accomplish... One aware of his value does not worry about losing it."

"Feel intense empowerment as you have the strength to remain silent when silence is the wisest course of action. Your silence will not be passive, but an active silence that comes from self-mastery. As you remain silent, hear an inner cheer. Your silence requires as much skill as any Olympic athlete. It is a victory that deserves a standing ovation. Hear an inner voice saying, 'I'm proud of your self-mastery to remain silent.' Your silence is the mark of a champion!"

"Find triggers for your joy. Today, every time you hear a telephone ringing, hear a joyous inner cheer, 'I am alive.' Every time you hear a horn or bell, hear a joyous inner cheer, 'I am alive.' Every time you hear something that used to get you irritated or frustrated, allow yourself to hear a joyous inner cheer, 'I am alive.'"

"Find the Silver Lining: When things don't work out the way you wish, always look for some positive outcome to the situation working out the way it did. For example, you can always be grateful that things didn't turn out even worse."

"Flexibility is a very important tool in interpersonal relations. If you are rigid in your demands, you might frequently get your way - but you will not have many friends [a reputation for reasonableness, plenty of goodwill or leeway when next you meet and the tables are turned]. Learn to differentiate between what is important and what is not. Someone who feels he must always get his way is telling himself [wrongly], 'If I give in to others, it means I am weak.' [Negotiation skills include anticipating 'push-back' on getting your 'best-case scenario', planning and prioritising alternative propositions and then knowing when and how to compromise]"

"For many people, sadness and suffering is not a result of present experiences. Rather it is pain caused by regretting and resenting the past, or worrying about the future. Living in the present saves you from needless emotional pain. Additionally, keeping one's mind on the present is necessary to concentrate on the important tasks of the day."

"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."

"Focus on the roses: 'A person who gathers honey will not escape being stung by bees. A person who gathers roses will not escape being scratched by thorns.' The positive things in life also have negative aspects. Keep your focus on the beautiful roses of the world, and the thorns will seem trivial and inconsequential."

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

"Get High on Appreciating Life: A person who has mastered the attribute of appreciating what he has, is constantly in a state of emotional high - just as someone who is inebriated during the height of a party! Today is a wonderful day to increase appreciating all that you have. If you can do this naturally and spontaneously, great. If you find that you need to make an effort to do this, that's good, too. The important thing is to practice mastering this quality. For 15 minutes, act as if you were extremely excited about all that you have. See how this effects you. You might like it so much that you will make this a daily practice!"