Stretching my own Bechira Point


I have a tendancy (read urge) to check my email constantly. This is a major problem for me because it takes away time from other things I should be doing. I’ve tried only checking it at designated time, but I often slip up. It’s been driving me crazy, because I have no problem not eating any dairy for several hours after I’ve eaten meat. I have no urge to turn on light during Shabbos. Yet, I’ve struggled to not go online and check email for periods of a few hours. My Yetzer gets the bets of me.

Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve been slowly working on this. It has resulted in less time spent online (which is not a bad thing) and has been a good exercise in adjusting my own bechira point. At age 36, I have found myself, again, changing aspects of my behavior, I’m proud to write (it should be chizuk to anyone who needs it to change even the most mudane aspect of their personality).

For me things like going online (and other actions that are potenial unproductive and suck away my time from right under my nose) are really ‘pareve’ issues that I often fool myself into thinking don’t matter much and don’t require that much bechira to begin with. This is not the right way to think. I admit that I need to work on this.

The method I’ve been using was based on something I read a few years ago in Alan Morinis’ book Climbing Jacob’s Ladder. The book tells the true story of a man who grew up non-observant and his journey towards self-discovery that takes him to Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchok Perr, Rosh Yehsiva of Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, the tradition of mussar, and towards a Torah observant life.

Mr. Morinis writes (page 47) that after his initial meeting with Rav Perr he asked the Rosh Yeshiva for a mussar practice to work on. Rabbi Perr said “Well, what you can do is get a rubber band that’s big enough to fit around the palm of your hand. Keep it in your pocket, and when you feel impatient or angry, slip it on. No need to do anything more, just put it on.”
I decided to use this technique to me more aware of when I felt the urge to go check my email. It hasn’t been easy. It has help me become much more conscious of the choices I make. Not just checking email, but how I speak to others and being patient.
I’ve been keeping a chart of my progress and tracking the times that I’ve wanted to check email. Here’s last weeks:
Monday: No work
Tuesday: 9.:25, 10:04, 3:28
Wednesday: 11:36, 2:31
Thursday: 10:18 (no rubberband, 3:47 (no rubberband)
Friday: 11:45 (no rubber band)

On Tuesday and Wednesday last week I put on the rubber band. As you can see, by Thursday, I felt that I didn’t need it. It just sat in my pocket. It’s a great feeling knowing that I can change.

9 thoughts on “Stretching my own Bechira Point

  1. Rafi G

    I always check mine. My wife jokes, if the volume if the computer is on too loud and we happen to hear the “ding” of new email coming in, that I have to run and see if it is something important….

  2. Pragmatician

    I check my (private)email several times a day as well.
    It’s a very annoying habit.
    I don’t see the psychology of the rubberband so clearly though.
    Is it the time you take it out of the pocket and put it on that helps? Like counting to ten before exploding?

  3. der ewige Jude

    You don’t show checking e-mail on Sunday or on Monday when you had no work, how often do you check e-mail when at home, and do you feel there is a difference between checking at home and checking at work. If so why?

  4. Neil Harris

    I was, at the time, concerned with checking email while at work.

    There really is no difference for me between check email at home or at work. I’ll write more in the next post.

  5. Mata Hari

    I thought I was bad, but then I’d see people on the elevator obsessively checking their blackberrys and cell phones. I mean come on – it’s 2 minutes


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