Question:

I have been trying to increase my Torah study and my prayers, but keep failing this commitment. How can I change if I can not seem to even have any small success in my efforts?

Response:

The key here is to make small, specific commitments that are doable.

Imagine a woman who wants to lose 100 pounds. Focus on the 100 pounds, and it seems insurmountable; it doesn’t even pay to start. One hundred pounds is a paralyzing proposition. So, we tell her: instead of thinking about the 100 pounds, focus on losing 5 pounds. Only 5 pounds. It may take a few weeks, maybe a month. But 5 pounds is really very feasible. After she loses five pounds, she can decide where she wants to go next. Not 95 pounds—that’s still way too scary. But how about another 5 pounds? She was successful at losing 5 pounds already—another 5 can’t be too hard. And so it goes.

The trick is to break down any large goal into smaller, more manageable pieces. And it’s better to make commitments for a specific amount of time, rather than an open-ended resolution to do something forever . . . because otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

So, start small. Instead of thinking, “I want to increase my Torah study and my prayers,” make a small resolution: “For the next month, I will attend the Torah class in my synagogue on Monday nights at 8:00, and I will devote 15 minutes each morning to prayer.” (Or whatever you think will work for you.) After all, you can certainly do this for one month!

After the month is over, and you have the satisfaction of seeing success in your efforts—well, then, perhaps you will decide to continue what you’re doing. And maybe you’ll even be able to add (a little bit) to it. For instance, you might decide to add another class for the next month. Or to enroll in a six-week JLI course. Or to spend 15 minutes on another evening—maybe Thursday, before Shabbat—browsing some Torah thoughts on our website. Or maybe not; you may decide that you are happy for the time being with what you are doing.

In any case, making small commitments, for a specific amount of time, is the route to success.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg