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Your guide to a sweeter New Year in 5774

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09/03/2013

new year 5774

Ready for a fresh start? We Jews are lucky to get a chance to start over every fall as the shofar sounds a wakeup call in each of our lives.

Back by popular demand—at least according to my relatives—is my second annual guide (check to see how you did in 5773) to a sweeter new year.

L’shana tovah umetuka!

1. Speaking of sweet, catch more flies with honey. The Russian Jewish proverb whispered to me by my mother throughout my life and passed down from her mother and her mother’s mother applies to everyone we encounter in life. We make a choice in the way we approach people, both the primary players in our world and the strangers we meet just making cameo appearances, like the checkout clerk at Target or the man selling StreetWise on the corner.

2. Find out where you come from. Investigate your roots. Talk to your grandparents and parents about your family history. Google your genealogy. What did your great-grandpa do for a living back in the old country? What shtetl did your ancestors live in? You don’t have to appear on Lisa Kudrow’s TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" to find out who you are. 

3. Tell the people in your life what they mean to you.Jewish author Bruce Feiler explains that it took being stricken with cancer (he is now in remission) for him to tell his loved ones how important they are to him. Why must it take a near-death experience or dramatic roadblock for us to take stock of our friends and family? Drop a note or have lunch with the people you care about and tell them what they mean to you.

4. Take FDR’s words to heart. Fear can be a good thing. Don’t let fear stop you from doing the things you want to do. They never seem as scary after you do them.

5. Be and do Jewish in whatever way speaks to you. Whether it’s davening, honoring Shabbat, traveling to Israel, reading Isaac Bashevis Singer, watching a Samberg/Sandler flick, or all of the above, find your own Jewish path.  

6. Live generously. Be generous with your time, money, forgiveness, smiles, and hugs.

7. Remember that this too shall pass. I was having a tough time recently, and then I read that the Connecticut man who lost his family in a home invasion is expecting a baby with his new wife. Even in the most extreme cases, human beings possess resilient spirits. You never know what incredible things are waiting for you just around the bend.

8. Take a hike. Or a run, or a stroll, or a bike ride, or kickboxing, or the stairs. Just move.

9. Sing more—even if you’re off key. Okay, so you’re not exactly Pavarotti, Aretha, or Rihanna. Don’t worry—Simon Cowell can’t hear you in your car or shower.

10. Get inspired. By the Torah, a TED talk, Shakespeare, volunteer work, or even a conversation with a friend.

11. Eat Nutella. It’s just that good. And, it’s kind of like going to Europe.

12. Spend time with people who get you. And less time with people who don’t. Life’s short. `Nuf said.

13. Flex the other side of your brain.If you’re an accountant or teacher by day, take up watercolor, improv comedy, or hula hooping by night. Stretch the limits of who you are and open yourself up to new experiences.

14. Reach out during the holidays and on Shabbat. Having an apples and honey tasting? Gathering people for Shabbat dinner Friday night? Or hosting a meal in your sukkah? Invite that friend of a friend you heard just lost her job or that new family with the triplet toddlers who just moved in down the block. You’ll make someone’s day and maybe make an unexpected friend too.

15. Hang out by the lake. Whether you’re swimming in it, jogging along it, or sipping an umbrella drink on a hammock near it, take in its beauty and vastness. Notice how small you are compared to it. Sort of puts life in proper perspective.

16. Be less green. And I’m not referring to the environment. Remove jealousy from your emotional suitcase. It’s unproductive and you never know what challenges someone else is going through.

17. Give yourself a break. So many people try to excel and make everyone around them happy all the time whether that means making the honor roll, saying yes to a work project you know you don’t have time for, or going out on a date that you’d rather not go out on. But you know what? Sometimes it’s okay to take a day off from perfection. I give you permission.

18. Be present. Stop texting, tweeting, looking back in hindsight, and planning for the future every once in a while—and just be.

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