Today is Yom Kippur. I’m a bad jew and didn’t go to temple. However, I DID participate in the holiday by practicing the core aspect — 24 hours of fasting to repent for my sins (or something along those lines).
To pass the time while fasting and feel like I was living in essence with the spirit of the holiday (despite not going to temple), I sat in my apartment and focused on delving into the depths of myself and figuring out what I truly want out of life.
Instead of going to temple and praying, I used this time to reflect, introspect, and create a space that allowed me to objectively evaluate where I’ve come from in life, where I’m currently at, and where I’m going in the future. A quick check-in with myself to see what I told myself I was going to do and how that actually ended up panning out.
So here’s what my process looked like:
I started this exercise at around noon and it took me 4 hours to complete. I suggest taking the full four hours (or even more) and really dive deep into the depths of what you want out of life.
Step 1) What are the moments in my life that make me most uncomfortable?
I decided to go all the way back through my childhood and uncover all of the moments in life that made a strong impact on me, both good and bad.
One was the first time I gave flowers to a girl and was rejected.
One was bullying and making fun of someone.
Another was when I was made fun of and called “monkey boy” as a child.
Then I thought of the things that have happened more recently that still weigh heavy in my mind.
Many weren’t huge, traumatic, life altering moments, but memories nonetheless that made me feel uncomfortable or uneasy in how I reacted or was treated.
I wrote down as many as I could think of, and fleshed out everything I could remember about that day/scene in my mind.
Who was there? What did it look like? How old was I? I tried to remember everything I could and documented it like I was telling the incident to someone like a story.
Step 2) How do I FEEL when I think about that memory?
This is a bit of a tricky one, but when you think back to an unpleasant memory, try to notice the feelings you have in that moment of thinking about the memory.
Take a second to notice if you are tense, anxious or jittery, have pain in some part of your body, feel distracted, hot or chilly, or even nothing at all — just pay attention to what that feeling is, and then write it down.
For example, when I was writing about one memory I noticed that my legs were tense and I was tightening up just by thinking about the memory.
Observing your feelings is a powerful tool to study how you react to situations in life. If you were tense or anxious when thinking about a past memory, chances are that when you encounter similar situations in life you will be faced with similar feelings.
Negative feelings associated with past memories can also influence how you feel about an individual person in the present as well. This is a great way to release yourself from carrying those emotions around with you.
Becoming aware of your feelings can help you to reprogram yourself and overcome some of the negative feelings and emotions associated with memories.
Step 3) What lesson can be learned from that memory?
I then thought about what lessons can be learned from those memories. I wrote down how each memory and its associated feeling had a lesson to be learned from it, and how that lesson could help me in the future.
I also tried to pay attention to if I have had similar lessons repeat themselves throughout my life, that I am still yet to learn and implement.
This was a fascinating part, because life has a funny way of continually repeating lessons we need to learn until they are learned properly. I had plenty of these!
Step 4) What values can I lay out for myself so I don’t violate these lessons learned?
I then asked myself, “How do these lessons reflect my values and principles?”
I took the list of lessons and wrote out values for myself. Statements to live by so that if I am ever faced with a similar situation in the future, I already know how I am going to respond.
y writing this down I am making a commitment to myself that this is how I will act in the future.
This way, in moments of panic, stress, or anxiety, these statements can act as the guiding principles to make a decision, so that I am never overwhelmed by the moment and have the ability to look back on what I have already decided I would do.
Values are often personal and reflect our individual sense of what is most important to us. They come in different forms for everyone.
I personally started with past memories, and then once I started writing I became flooded with inspiration and went on tangents on everything from diet and exercise, to what I want in a relationship, to what I’ve learned from past relationships, and more.
Step 5) How does this influence my mission in life?
Once I had a huge list of values of what is most important to me, I felt now was the right time to think about “What is my mission in life?
I borrowed this next part from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In it, he discusses personal mission statements, and how the best way to get started is to think about all of the roles that you play in life.
These could be Son, brother, employer, competitor, etc. He suggested to list out the roles you play in life, and what you need to do in order to be successful at that role. Then, once your idea of success in that role is defined, you can set goals for yourself to ensure your success.
For example you could say, “What do I need to do in order to be successful to my parents as a son?” or “What do I need to do to become a successful brother? or Spouse? Or Boyfriend/girlfriend?” The list goes on.
I went through all of the people/groups in my life, and examined what role I play in each of those, and then wrote down my mission for each role, making sure to pay attention to how it overlapped with my values I previously created.
Step 6) Put into action!
All of this brainstorming is useless if you don’t put it into action. The document I created today will be something I revisit and add to/edit frequently as my life evolves and my values are tested.
I believe that by focusing on something like this now, and making a habit of doing this exercise at least 1x/year, I will put myself in a situation to be successful in all areas of life, in a balanced and harmonious way with all of the people who are important to me and are a part of my life.
And that’s it! So today if you’re bored in temple and tired of hearing the same prayers over and over, or it just doesn’t do it for you in the same way it used to, try this out and see if it helps you.
OR if you’re at home fasting with nothing to do, try and go through this exercise as a way to kill time and pass through the day until you can eat again OR if you’re a bad jew like me and can’t deal with going to temple, try this instead.
You’ll find that the mind is very clear and creative in states of fasting, and it can lead to great outputs like what you’re reading right now. If this can help just one person think about their Yom Kippur (and life) differently, I have succeeded in my mission today 😃
Thoughts? Similar experiences? Let me know in the comments below!
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Also published on Medium.