Becoming a Student of Abraham - Local Pages (Passaic) 7.3.2014

This week’s Torah portion introduces us to one of those most wicked personalities in the Torah, Balaam. Our sages (Avos 5:22) tell us that the “students” of this immoral prophet possessed three undesirable qualities: “an evil eye, an arrogant spirit and a demanding soul”.

Of course, none of us seek to live a life marked by such qualities. Instead, we seek to be “students” of Abraham, demonstrating “a good eye, a humble spirit and an undemanding soul,” qualities that were underscored when our patriarch routinely put the needs of others first.

How can we be sure to live a life that is framed by proper values? Moreover, what are we to do when some of our values seem to operate in direct conflict? (One example of a values conflict is our desire to provide materially for our families while also spending meaningful time with them. Another illustration is when a better paying job than the one that we presently have opens up in a different company. In such cases we must weigh loyalty and fidelity against our wish for growth and increased income.)

This is where a coach can be particularly helpful. The role of a coach is to help others achieve clarity of vision and purpose, with the goal of realizing a sense of deep contentment.

One tool that coaches use is a “values list.” Such lists contain countless ideals and principles, such as care, decisiveness, family-orientedness, financial success, loyalty, openness, service, and thoroughness. The idea is for clients to narrow down the list to a handful of values that they hold most dear and to use these guiding principles when faced with questions about work-home balance, career decisions and the like. 

A good way of starting to identify your core values and drives is to identify when in the past you felt really good and confident that you were making good choices. Find examples from both your career and personal life. What were you doing? Were you with other people? What other factors contributed to your happiness? If you were particularly proud of something, think about why you were proud.

The same holds true for feelings of satisfaction and contentment. Try to label your thoughts as you reflect with particular values (if you were proud to earn a degree or attend a child’s graduation, which values do those speak to?). Then, aim to prioritize your values list (not an easy task, I might add) in order to identify a short list that can guide you at a time of confusion and decision making.  

To create such a list may not seem like an exciting process. Nor is it necessarily easy to achieve. After all, who doesn’t want to say that they value everything that is virtuous? That said, by achieving increased clarity in what really drives us, we can start to live a life of clear design and deep fulfillment.