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What Is In The Way Of What We Really Want? 

What Do You Really Really Want?

I think that sometimes we confuse what we really want with what we might fantasize about. I heard a great quote a while back: “The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan.” If I want something but don’t have a plan to practically work on it, it means that I don’t really want it. If I am simply not willing to invest the time, put in the hard work, and sacrifice things that are in the way of achieving that dream, then it is a dream and not a goal. I don't want it enough to do what it takes to get it. I would grab it if it was free, but that does not mean that I really want it.

An Example And Exercise

Let’s use personal fitness as an example. I think that most people don’t really want to be in marathon-ready physical shape. Maybe it’s just me, but as much as I have incredible respect for someone who has the discipline to train for and run a marathon, I don’t value that level of fitness enough to put the necessary level of work in. Why? Because right now, I have many personal needs and goals and feel that saying yes to the work and dedication to get to marathon condition would be saying no to other goals and needs that I value more. I do greatly value health and fitness, and I feel a sense of responsibility to take care of the physical body that the Almighty gave me, but I have not set the bar of my personal fitness that high. I may dream about running a marathon, but it is not a goal that I really want to reach. I am not willing to pay the price. So how careful and consistent about maintaining a healthy lifestyle that I set for myself am I? I think an honest assessment is that I am a little less careful and consistent than I would like to be. I would grade my compliance with the plan that I have put into place with an A - at best. But why am I not an A+?

What Gets In The Way Of Personal Success?

I think that there are two categories of things that knock us off of our plans: Our character, and external forces.

An example of character: Plans require dedication, commitment, and hard work. Our sages teach us that by nature we trend toward laziness, and that laziness takes many forms. As much as I want to exercise, there is a little voice inside of me that recommends that I sit on the couch just for a minute. I rarely actively plan my day to include couch time, but somehow it always slips into the schedule. What can we do about it? Step one is to understand it, plan for it, and call it out for what it is: a nature that we must forever work to overcome. I believe that step two can be found in in chapter 9 of The Path Of The Just, written by Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato. Rav Luzzato teaches us that we need to habituate ourselves to act with alacrity and speed even when not specifically performing a mitzvah. He gives the analogy of learning to live like soldiers who eat quickly and never get too comfortable in a long night's sleep because they are always on call. Rav Luzzato references the verse in Job 5:7, “Man was created for toil.” Our default position should be that we are expecting a full day of work. Those habits and this mindset will help us in every goal that we want to accomplish.

External Things That Pull Us Away

Have you ever been on a diet and then gone to an event where the food is deep fried, spiced just right, and perfectly aromatic? I know that I have, and somehow rationalized that it would be OK for me to have just a little bit. I am committed and I sacrifice all the time, but I do get pulled off track. Sometimes, it is because of reason number one. I simply don't have the discipline. But other times, there is something else at play.

My Unusual Kosher Experience

I would like to share an experience I had recently and how it helped me with this area of personal growth. I really like a good cinnamon bun. Pretty much every time I walk through an airport I notice the Cinnabon store and how good it looks and smells. Every time I have ever smelled one I have continued walking, as Cinnabon is not Kosher. A few weeks ago that changed. I was walking in the American Dream Mall in Jersey and saw the only kosher Cinnabon in the world (as far as I know). I got myself a coffee and cinnamon bun. It was good. But it wasn’t worth salivating over for the past 20 years. I was reminded of something that my rabbi used to say: “nothing is as good as you think it is going to be, nor as bad as you think that it is going to be.” Our imagination is very powerful. We tend to romanticize the good things and over dramatize how dreadful something difficult will be. That cinnamon bun reminded me that as good as it is, it's just a bun. Since then, every time I have passed a great smelling non-kosher restaurant I smile and remind myself of how I romanticized Cinnabon.

We can each look at our life experiences and remember the time that we were enticed away from what we really wanted, what we planned to achieve. Something that we knew in our heart was good. We deeply regretted it. We each have a mission. We are destined to be great. We are destined to be upright, distinguished and Godly. We have the ability to live meaningful, dedicated lives. We have a plan for that life that we know we should be leading. We believe in that plan. And then things pull us away. We gave it up or diminished it for a cinnamon bun. If we were honest with ourselves we admitted it, if we didn’t have the courage to admit our weakness we rationalized it even ex post facto. What is your personal Cinnabon story? Think about it, review it, and keep it in your pocket for the next time you are enticed away from your plan.

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Fantastic story about your kosher Cinnabon experience!

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