That’s what we should say it. You’re not in the mood to make your bed? So what? You’re not in the mood to smile, come out of your room when you’re prepared to smile.
I heard a very telling story from the well-known talk show host, Dennis Prager. Sometimes a good story can serve as a trigger we can always go back to, to snap ourselves back into a healthy perspective. That what this story does for me. I hope it can do the same for you. Here is Dennis telling the story at a live lecture:
In 4th grade I went to a Yeshiva, a Yeshiva is an orthodox Jewish all-day Jewish school. And I’ll never forget 4th grade, I have only one memory from 4th grade. The Rabbi announced one day, “Boys it is time to daven Mincha,” which means it’s time for the afternoon prayers. So I told you I have chutzpah, I always had chutzpah. I always have respect but I always have chutzpah. So I walked over to Rabbi Fustag and I said, “Rabbi, excuse me, I’m not in the mood to daven Mincha.” I have to tell you this moment really is a big one in my life. If G-d enabled me to have five videos from five select moments in my life, that would be one of them. Rabbi Fustag’s reaction, it was a combination of so many things but mostly, “WHAT?” He understood mood, he understood daven Mincha but he never put them together. I put them together for the first time. So seriously, he thought about it and then he said, “Huh.” In the Jewish studies half of the day they call you by your Hebrew name, my Hebrew name is Shmuel. And he said, “Shmuel Prager is not in the mood to daven Mincha, so what?” I’m not kidding, they guy changed my life. All the sudden I realized my moods don’t matter. It was an unbelievable moment, unbelievable. It wasn’t an unbelievable religious moment, it was an unbelievable behavioral moment. My mood would not determine whether I did X, my feelings didn’t matter, you mean so what? I mean if you were a modern Rabbi you would say, “Look, you know, I fully understand that, why don’t you open up to this.” Shmuel, Shmuel, what are you really feeling? The guy, under torture he couldn’t have come up with that one. The guy was from Eastern Europe, the guy, I don’t know if he knew the word feeling? All he knew is, when it’s time for the afternoon prayer, you do the afternoon prayer. What’s the matter with you? It’s a very big deal. That’s what we should say it. You’re not in the mood to make your bed? So what? Right? That’s all. Here’s the better part. You’re not in the mood to smile, come out of your room when you’re prepared to smile.
The idea that he shares so humorously is actually very profound. You don’t need to want to do something in order to get it done. You don’t need to be in the mood. My wife repeats something her mother says all the time. Your face is public property. Put on a smile. What she’s really saying is, “You don’t need to be in the mood, to shine your light on another person.”
This concept is fundamental to leading a value based life and an effective life. If we let our moods control our behavior, we will have a very hard time staying committed to our values. We also won’t be very effective at different things we want to accomplish if our moods can get in the way. Think about Olympic athletes who train day after day for years, following a specific regimen. Plenty of them wake up not wanting to continue and yet they do. They override their mood to accomplish something greater. I’ve said in the past, we need to see our lives as our personal Olympics where we strive to actualize all that G-d invested into us. One of the most basic tools we need to accomplish this is the ability to override our moods.
There isn’t a person in the universe who isn’t challenged by their moods. We all have days when we don’t want to get out of bed. There’s that joke about a mother who continuously attempts to get her son out of bed for school. After the fifth attempt, the son says, “But why do I have to go?” To which the mother replies, “Because you’re the principal!” You see, everyone has days. We all have days when etiquette is the last thing we care about. There are times when we’re ready to throw in the towel on the challenges of life. How we respond to the challenge of our moods can make all the difference. There’s no question that we need to take the longer shorter way of developing a healthy perspective on our life and challenges. This takes time and infuses us with the preventive medicine we need when circumstances can affect our mood. A healthy perspective, like our immune system, protects us from getting into a bad mood.
Yet, we all have those days. Some bacteria slips past our immune system and we pick up a bad cold or the flu. Likewise, even with our best perspective, we wake up one day and our mind is focused on the wrong things, we have a lousy attitude and we’re not interested. This is when behavior is so important. Then is when we must stubbornly tell ourselves, “So what?” Are we an instinctive animal or are we a human? The greatness of the human is our ability to override our feelings. As I mentioned earlier, we can either do this by having our intellect create a perspective that directs our emotions. Or, when we’re having a rough day, by having our behavior override our emotions.
This is one of the greatest life tools we can teach ourselves. It is also vital that we teach this to our children. It can be one of the biggest gifts we give them. Sometimes children should do things simply because their parent asked them to. Not always, but once in a while. This is actually the blessing G-d gives us through commanding us to do things which the human mind cannot comprehend. It trains us to do the right thing even if we can’t develop a feeling for it because we don’t understand it. And, no joking, you’ll be a better child and spouse by learning to do things for your loved ones whether you understand them or not. When you do something for someone else, it’s about them, not you.
If you want to condense this all into three words, remember Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It.” So the next time you’re not in the mood to do what you know you should be doing, ask yourself this two-word question, “So what?!”