We must never assess ourselves by the results, we must always assess ourselves by our efforts. There are no guarantees in life when it comes to results.
I’m in the midst of a working on a building campaign in our community. We’re building a Jewish ritual bath otherwise known as a Mikvah. One of the recent challenges that I’ve had was in the layout of the building. We want to follow a particular layout that gives off a certain feeling which we’ve seen at another Mikvah. We also want to add some elements which are not in that Mikvah. I spent a few hours on the phone with our architect trying to reconcile the two so we can accommodate everything we want. However, we met with no success. I was feeling quite frustrated and was ready to throw in the towel, as they say, no pun intended.
Then I had a second thought. I reminded myself that the number of possibilities for anything in this world is many and that I need to take a step back and give this a little more time so we can get the final product that we are looking for. I sat down with my wife to reconcile the conflict we were having and within 10 minutes we came up with an approach which isn’t perfect but definitely doable, a huge step forward from where we were. This is now one more event that I can turn to in my memory to remind myself not to give up easily on something that’s important, there is always a way, and there’s often more possibility than we see. The only question is whether we are committed to finding it.
There is always a way, there is always an approach, there is always a solution. It may not be perfect but we don’t need perfect. We need the best way to step forward from where we are. This project is a huge project. Many things need to get done, zoning, permits, lawyers, engineers, architects, builders, and about $700,000 still needs to be raised. I wake up every day and ask myself how I can keep the ball moving forward. What do I need to do today to get to the next step? With this approach, we have already been able to buy a property and get the variance needed to use the property for this special purpose. There still so much more to do and I know that we will always find a way. Why? Because we will do whatever we can every single day. To expect anything more from me would be completely unrealistic and unfair. There is one thing I can always expect from myself and that is to always do everything I can.
There’s a story that means a lot to me which occurred with the great mystic known as the Baal Shem Tov. There was a knock on the synagogue window when he was teaching his students. It was a peasant whose wagon got stuck in the mud. He was looking for some help to pull it out. When the student who went to the window returned to the table, the Baal Shem Tov asked him what he wanted. After the student shared his request, the Baal Shem Tov asked his student how he responded to the peasant. The student replied, “I told him that I can’t.” The Baal Shem Tov replied, “It isn’t correct that you can’t, it’s that you don’t want.” He was encouraging his student not to confuse not wanting to do something with not being able to do something. The difference is tremendous. Once a person, in fact, does everything they can, they should feel calm. You’ve done what you can.
Here’s something we must never forget. We must never assess ourselves by the results, we must always assess ourselves by our efforts. There are no guarantees in life when it comes to results. We don’t have control over results. We may do everything we should in the most outstanding way and a circumstance or person beyond our control can entirely derail the efforts we made. The one question we should be concerned with is, “Have I put my best foot forward?” If the answer is yes, we should feel good about the situation. Of course, good results would be great. We pray that G-d does His part and produce good results from our efforts. But let’s not confuse our roles here. We work in the effort department, G-d works in the results department. The good news is that the science of Jewish spirituality teaches, the greatest way to inspire results from above is by putting in our best effort below.
With this simple perspective, we can eliminate the vast amount of worry many of us carry around on a daily basis. Worry comes from fear. To worry about things which are out of our control is futile. The moment we begin to practice letting go of that which isn’t in our control, we begin worrying much less. Let’s say I put my teenage child on an airplane. Have I done everything I could to make sure he is safe and knows where to go after he lands? Did I instruct him to do everything I could think of to prevent him from getting confused or have a problem? If the answer is yes, it’s now time to let go. The results are not in my hands.
Yes, easier said than done. However, here’s a simple tool that can make it easier for you to eliminate the worry. Ask yourself, “Have I done everything I can to get the results I want?” By focusing on what you can do you will remove some of your focus on the result. By practicing this behavior repeatedly you will be putting your attention on the positive, what is within your control, instead of on the unknown, the outcome or result. Within a short amount of time, you will be worrying much less.
When we do think about the result, we must remember episode 28 about trust. Developing our trust muscle is vital to eliminating worry. Trust in G-d that you’ll get the results you want while remembering that you don’t work in the results department.
Some people feel like they’re being responsible when they worry. It shows that they care. Worrying is actually being irresponsible and it’s counterproductive to caring. It puts us in an unhealthy state of mind which makes us emotionally unavailable. It leads to making unwise choices. It has significant health ramifications. If I asked you if it’s responsible for me to do something that will put me in an unhealthy state of mind, make me emotionally unavailable and make me sick, would you say it is responsible?
So I leave you with this to remember. Worrying isn’t responsible and doesn’t fix problems. Put a strong focus on what you can do. Don’t confuse what you don’t want to do with what you can’t do. Trust in G-d that He will provide the results you want.