Categorized | For You, Holiday, Rosh Hashanah

Organizing Your Spiritual Growth

Posted on 18 July 2010

You can Actually Organize your Spiritual Growth, Here’s How.

After watching a beautiful Aish video on the day of Tisha Bav, I found myself thinking that I want to contribute more to the world then I already do with my organizing skills. Yes, organizing people’s homes and holiday preparation is wonderful but I wanted to do something a little more spiritual, a little more moving. I realized, that I could apply the industry knowledge that I’ve studied over the years and the practical applications of organizing towards something a little loftier.

I proceeded to think about how I could use organizing teachings and methods to organize Spirituality and Personal Growth. After all, I’m not the one who invented the concept of the “Cheshbon Hanefesh”, the concept of taking a personal inventory every night; of your actions and your soul. This concept of harnessing organizing skills towards soulful introspection is a profound one.

The Purpose of Getting Organized

How can you employ the structure of organizing towards your spiritual growth over the year? Understand first what it means to be organized. What phrases come into your mind when you think about getting organized? “It’s having systems in place” you might tell me, or “Knowing where to find what you are looking for”. All true. “The objective of getting organized is to put (oneself) in a state of mental competence”. Mental competence towards performance or completion of tasks as well as being able to retrieve objects.

Spiritual Organizing

Let’s talk a little about the concept of mental competence with regards to your spirituality and most specifically, your spiritual growth. When Rosh Hashanah approaches, our inner critic gets louder. “What did you actually do this year? Was it a productive year? Was it a complete waste?”

We can silence our inner critic by compiling concrete evidence against his self-deprecating words. It’s not possible to remember the day-to-day struggles or milestones. We can remember some worthy acts but certainly most slip our minds.

This is why people save receipts. The physical documentation of where their money went provides tangible proof since the memory of every store visited cannot possibly be held.

Am I suggesting you save all of your receipts? Not the ones the stores give you, too much clutter! Your own. Record some aspects of your spiritual growth on paper and as a result, standing in the days before Rosh Hashanah thinking about what we actually accomplished over the past year, will be much easier.

G-d records our actions, why shouldn’t we? Tell Him, “Yes I think I did grow, and here’s how.”

“What in the world do I write down?” you may be asking. How about your G.R.OW.T.H? The letters that make up the acronym “GROWTH” are aspects to spiritual growth that I found are worthwhile to record day-to-day, or week-to-week, or whenever the need/inspiration hits.

G stands for Gratitude

Oprah Winfrey talks about keeping a Gratitude Journal, and often credits it as one of the secrets to her success. When we record statements of gratitude, we undergo a mental shift, out of whatever stagnation or even negativity that we may be in.

Expressing gratitude on a regular basis not only shifts our mental space, it actually creates a new reality for us. You can relate to this if you have ever been plagued by anxious thoughts that perpetuate until they are flushed out of your system.

Reversing those nervous thoughts into positive mantras of gratitude will actually create new realities for you. Worried that your kids won’t sleep the night and you’ll be exhausted tomorrow? You can write, “Thank you for the abundant rest” or “I am grateful for the sleep everyone gets…”

Maybe it sounds strange at first, and you may be familiar with the various books and studies that are currently out lauding the powers of positive thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice for even the small fears to vanish in an instant?

Expressing gratitude on a regular basis is a catalyst for shifts in all of your relationships with yourself, your fellow man, and G-d. It doesn’t hurt that Hakaras Hatov is a practical Torah concept as well.

Reflecting on previous entries in your gratitude journal will also help you recognize Hashem’s bounty of gifts on us.

R stands for Resistance

Tracking things that you make you feel unsafe, aka your “resistances” will give you tangible perspective about how far you’ve come in your growth when looking back at what they were.

We all resist things that make us feel unsafe, it’s the fight or flight mechanism that we are born with to help identify what is really harmful.

When you track the things you feel resistant towards, not necessarily knowing why you do resist at first, at the end of your writing period, you can look back and understand why you felt resistant towards who, what, when, where or why, and that you have grown by leaps and bounds since then.

Know that the very things you are most resistant to changing are indeed hard because of their inherent role as healing mechanisms towards making you a more complete individual.

It really is a wonderful exercise, and in the case of a resistance you have towards another person you are in a relationship with, sharing your past or present resistance with them in a safe way can connect you in an even deeper way.

O stands for Objectives

What was last year’s Resolution? Who knows!

Know what your objective for last year was. When this year comes to a close and you look back at the beginning of last year realizing that you have not only completed your objectives but surpassed many of them, how amazed will you be!

Recording your objectives is not just a way for you to feel proud. It’s concrete evidence that you are growing as a human, constantly achieving and striving in this world. Important testimony to ourselves and our “inner critics” especially during those times that feel like we are not doing anything spiritual at all.

Record 2-3 objectives for yourself in the coming year and save them in your prayerbook or personal planner. Remind yourself daily to put focus on achieving those personal growth objectives.

W stands for wearies or worries

Wearies or worries? Why would I want to record those in my GROWTH journal? Partially due to the same reason as Resistance- that the very things we resisted in the past, after a while, we no longer resist. But let’s go further than the reason I recommend you record Resistances.

I am sure you know that there are people, places, things, or ideas that consistently wear you down. When you become aware of the things you worry or feel weary about, perhaps the consciousness you will now feel as a result of your recording will cause you to shed those worries or wearies. Not necessarily by ending contact with those people, but perhaps by setting boundaries. Or limited time with those “wearying” people. Same goes for the worries. Give your worries “space” in your journal. When they are fully expressed onto paper, you will shift into mental competence and perhaps realize those worries no longer serve you.

Your GROWTH journal gives you a way of looking back at your productive year and actually changes reality because you made your Gratitude, Resistance, Objectives, Worries, Technicalities, and Habits real, by recording and writing them down. You grew into a state of mental competence, knowing what you did, what you used to do, what needs to keep you no longer and what you need to be doing presently.

T stands for Technicalities

Less spiritual than technical, you must have a place to record all of the necessary tasks, appointments, meetings, needs you have down onto paper so you are in a full state of mental competence.

The Torah places emphasis on the concept of order and taking care of yourself; making sure you are not preoccupied with mental clutter applies to these concepts.

Find a way to create a semblance of order in what you do every day and what is in your house. A person needs their home to run efficiently.

H stands for habits

Make or break habits by tracking them on paper.

Sound too perfect? Believe it or not, a Habit Tracker was not my own idea. I came across other people tracking their habits on a regular website designed for people to create their own planner/calendar pages. This was a form that was created by the average Joe Shmoe wanting to keep track of his/her habits. I took a lesson from this and found it to be a very spiritual practice, actually. Working on ourselves to make or break a habit is a Jewish concept that is probably one of the most fundamental when it comes to our relationship with G-d and our relationships with others.

List your Habit

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Shabbos Sunday
Not giving silent treatment, instead, talking when feeling calmer Yes Got angry and had a hard time talking Yes Yes No- couldn’t help it Yes Yes

After keeping track of your habits, be careful to stay proactive. Now that you know what you do, what are you going to do about it now? Picture yourself moving towards the goal and reframe that negative habit into a positive one.

Instead of saying, “I don’t want to get angry anymore” say in the present tense, “I am calm”.

Affirm your present, positive statement daily.

It’s about service, growing, getting out of our comfort zones to grow and become better people. See how organizing practices can be used for spiritual growth?

This is no set format for keeping a GROWTH journal, in fact, if you want to type every day on the computer noting how your day went, what you felt grateful for or what you wish you could take back and make right, gezunterheit. Better yet, if you’d like to carry a small voice recorder around and talk into it, fine. It’s up to you. A standard notebook or beautiful journal works fine too. I encourage you to keep some physical record that you can track from year to year noting your progress. You will “hear” your progress not only through your actual activities but even in your actual writing style or voice! Your spiritual development will become obvious to you.

This time of year is all about tracking our growth and spiritual development. Make the process easier and organized by recording your feelings of gratitude, resistance, objectives, worries, technicalities, and habits. Here’s a little secret you may not know-it’s not only about what you do but how you do it. Keeping the journal in itself is a growing act so get all the points you can get before Rosh Hashanah! We all need ‘em!

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