People confuse ‘desire’ with ‘determination’. You may like to finish medical school; whether you do or not will depend not on whether you desire that achievement but whether you are committed to it. What is your goal? What would you like to achieve? How much do you want to achieve it? How motivated are you? You say you want to accomplish your ambition—but how serious are you really? I can tell you one thing for sure—the chance that you will reach your goal is not predicated on your genuine interest in that achievement but on whether you can muster real drive and enthusiasm.

I know people who would love to start their own business or write a book and I don’t doubt their sincerity. I also don’t doubt that it will never happen. Why? Because dearly wishing for something is not the same as being dead serious about realizing it. When an idea changes from a dream to a goal, from an aspiration to a plan—then you will see things happen. Why do so many great ideas—that are spoken about so emphatically—prove in the end as successful as Haman’s plot? The problem is that in our own minds we are undermining ourselves; we are subverting our own success! Are we prepared to believe in ourselves? Or are we actually unconvinced?

Here are three words to look out for: If, Try and But. Spot them in your language and you’ve been caught red-handed being an unrepentant self-skeptic. These expressions are a warning that you don’t believe what you are saying, so what chance is there?

If: “If I finally manage to get my act together, I will have an amazing business plan.” If? What kind of language is that? I thought you were serious? Not if--When! I thought you said it was a great plan? So why start with ‘If’? I have no idea what your business plan says, but if you don’t wholeheartedly go for it, there’s an excellent chance it will remain one big ’if.’ If is iffy. That word is banned, treif! ‘If’ implies choice, but often it simply means that it may never happen. The sages of the Talmud say that "G‑d regards a positive intention as an action." Why? If you have a serious intent it will result in action. Any disbelief—whether in G‑d or yourself—is problematic.

Try: “I will try to get my office sorted out before I am literally submerged by my papers.” What do you mean ‘try’? Are you or are you not going to clear out your office? No one in the history of the planet ever tried to clean their office—they either did or they didn’t. The word ‘try’ presupposes failure. The word ‘try’ is often used when there is an expectation of defeat. You are not going to try to tackle your office deluge—you will tackle it! I cannot guarantee you’ll succeed, but I can guarantee that if you try to you won’t. You don’t try to get out of bed in the morning—you just get out. To achieve a goal, don’t try, do. With G‑d’s help you’ll succeed.

But: “I have this plan to learn through the entire Talmud, but I need to get a few thing sorted out first.” The word ‘but’ is the verbal equivalent of the reverse gear in your car. It negates whatever is said before. ‘But’ is a great eraser. It rubs out whatever positive vibes you had expressed previously. If a friend says to you, “Malkie, you’re looking great today, but it’s too bad about your hairstyle,” she would have been better saying nothing. If your friend ‘compliments’ you on your new chocolate cake recipe thus, “It tasted amazing, but I was nearly hospitalized with stomach pains,” you would think you could manage somehow without such praise. So if it’s no good for someone else to do it to you—how does it become acceptable to do it to yourself?! Answer: it doesn’t. When someone says, “Yes, but…” you know the emphasis is on the ‘but,’ not the ‘yes.’ When you are expressing your positive affirmation, there is no ‘but.’ Got it?