Yesterday, my son Chaim donned his tefillin (phylacteries) for the first time. In Jewish tradition, tefillin are worn for weekday morning prayers beginning one month prior to the bar mitzvah. This allows a young man to become comfortable with the process in advance of the big day.
As you can imagine, there is a special excitement and enthusiasm that accompanies this long-anticipated moment. After a lengthy sequence that included ordering the (custom-made) tefillin, securing their arrival from Israel, etc. Chaim was finally able to put them on “for real”. And he beamed with pride as he navigated the process for the first time.
But we also know that initial enthusiasm is quick to fade and the newness of an experience, when repeated often, quickly fades.
Here are some thoughts on how each of us can maintain a sense of palpable excitement for any one or thing in our lives that deserves to be cherished (such as a great spouse and family, a wonderful job, a supportive community, excellent health, a car, home, etc.), rather than simply possessed and/or maintained.
- Think back to the first day – Seek to remember how you felt on the first day, such as the first day on the job, your wedding day, or when you bought your home. Remember all of the things that excited you then and try to recapture that feeling.
- Find something new to appreciate – Identify something about your “old” item/experience that you can celebrate anew, or even for the first time. For example, this may include a new aspect of a relationship or something about your residence, car or other possession that you can appreciate more deeply.
- Imagine life without it – Consider what life would be like without this person, opportunity, item, etc. For example, how would your life change if suddenly a loved one or your job were taken from you?
- Become more mindful about appreciation – People who have mastered the discipline of appreciation find things in their daily lives to celebrate and appreciate. They do not need reminders because they take nothing for granted and mentally focus on all the bounty that they have been blessed with, regardless of whether outsiders view them as wealthy or not. Jewish tradition informs that, “who is wealthy? He who is happy with his lot.” By developing a mental state of appreciation, which may include expressing something positive each day or writing a daily list of things to be grateful for, we can find ourselves appreciating the “standard” things that too often go unnoticed or unappreciated by most.