New Year, Better You

40 days to better habits

In Short

While the path of growth can sometimes feel solitary, there's a unique strength in knowing that we are not alone.

In the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashana, I found myself engrossed in the pages of James Clear’s thought-provoking book, Atomic Habits

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement,” writes the bestselling author. “It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writ­ing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.”

“The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them,” he continues. “They seem to make little dif­ference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

As I delved into the concept of habits, I couldn’t help but wonder: Are we truly the sum total of our actions? Could the mitzvot, the good deeds we are commanded to perform, possibly serve as the building blocks of habits? 

If the answer to both these inquiries is an affirmative nod, then a bigger question emerges: How can we merge these profound ideas to catalyze our journey towards becoming better individuals?

The Talmud imparts a powerful lesson: “In the way in which a person chooses to go, they are led.” This reminds us that our choices are not merely solitary decisions; rather, they influence the greater tapestry of our existence. Our aspirations and actions form a two-way connection with the greater system, guiding our journey toward realization. The initial step, the act of choosing, holds immense power as we strive to unlock our full potential.

Within the realm of mitzvot lies a treasure trove of insights on how to lead a more meaningful and impactful life. As I pondered this, I began contemplating the positive habits I aspired to cultivate and the negative patterns I yearned to shed. It became clear that the Jewish New Year held the potential to be the launchpad for my pursuit of incorporating Atomic Habits into my own life.

While the path of growth can sometimes feel solitary, there’s a unique strength in knowing that we are not alone. That is why I would like to invite you on a profound journey with me, a journey that holds the potential to reshape our lives in remarkable ways. This is not just a project — it’s an expedition toward cultivating habits that will stick with us for a lifetime. Drawing inspiration from the wisdom of mitzvot and practical insights, we will navigate the terrain of personal growth and transformation together. 

Why start this journey now? We are in the midst of Sukkot, still in the embrace of the seasonal unit that was kicked off by Rosh Hashana. We can still tap into this period’s unique potency for transformation; and instead of letting it taper off with the end of Sukkot, we can use it to kickstart a path of renewal and growth that will yield dividends well into the new year and beyond.

Let’s take that pivotal first step together. Whether your aspiration is to cultivate a new habit or break free from an old one, whether you seek a structured approach to enhance your life gradually or simply yearn to embrace novelty in the new year, join me on a free 40-day email journey as we navigate through life’s challenges, successes, and revelations side by side.

Rabbi Benji Levy, Ph.D. is the co-founder of Israel Impact Partners, which works with leading funders to accelerate the growth of nonprofits; Dreaming Bigger, a global platform to support the leadership of teens and those that work with them; Keshev, a mental health center focused on education, therapy and support; and Tanna, an AI-based note-taking startup. For more information, visit www.rabbibenji.com.