As I picked up my 1st grader from Irvine Hebrew Day School, and asked him about his day, I anticipated the programmed 7-year old response: “Fine”, or better yet, “I can’t remember!” Imagine my surprise when he shared, unfolding a paper with his own handwriting, “Today I persevered through a challenge, encouraged my classmates, found a creative solution to a problem and valued others’ opinions. It was a great day!”
The daily “cheshbon nefesh”, (literally “accounting of the soul”) or personal reflection checklist that our students use to reflect on their day at IHDS, demonstrates how each of us, at any age, experiences growth through self-awareness. Even as adults, we often hyperfocus on our missteps and shortcomings, failing to appreciate our many daily accomplishments. This personal reflection checklist encourages children to discover and celebrate those accomplishments that might otherwise fade into the background, such as listening respectfully to others, having a positive attitude, or being truthful. While we all do many of these things regularly without thought, how many of us take the time to reflect on their importance? As we come to appreciate our positive attributes through self-reflection, we become encouraged by our power to make a positive difference in the world every day. The “cheshbon nefesh” fosters the intrinsic motivation to be compassionate, diligent, respectful, creative, and face challenges with grace.
Although self-reflection is important every day, during this time of prescribed introspection we have a genuine opportunity for growth through personal accounting. Expanding our spiritual checklist to reflect on those deeds which we want to augment as well as that which we want to eliminate can prepare us for a truly transformative High Holiday season. An honest snapshot of our inner landscape has the greatest spiritual impact, leading us to new heights in 5777!
Karin Hepner Ph.D. is a co-founder of Irvine Hebrew Day School, molecular biologist and mom of five in Irvine.