On Sunday night, July 10, “Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem” hosted Rabbi Dov Greenberg, Executive Director of Chabad of Stanford University and sought-after speaker, on the topic of two words that have the power to change your life.

Rabbi Greenberg began with a short anecdote. A colleague met with a student who appeared to have it all. He was from a religious family, and he was a gifted athlete. The student spoke about himself in a negative way. He said, “I am not blessed. I am not a great Jew,” etc. The common denominator of the problem was his use of the word “I am” and what he followed it with. The words that you follow “I am” with determine the quality of your life.

If we say, “I am…,” followed by words that are uplifting and beautiful, then this changes our future and how we feel. Rabbi Greenberg taught that records of athletic achievement went back thousands of years and they stated that no human could break the record of a four-minute mile. In 1954, Roger Banister was motivated to break this record as he would receive a scholarship to medical school if he broke it. He woke every morning saying to himself, “I can do it.” He did break the record and, after that, more people were able to break the record. What changed? Rabbi Greenberg explained that human perception changed. Now people said, “I am capable. It can be done.” This demonstrates the power of a person’s mindset.

We need to ask the question of how I view myself. There was an experiment where a makeup artist painted scars on people’s faces. The artist then said he just needed to touch it up, but the people all thought they still had the scar; and when they related to others, they felt awkward. In their mind, they had this noticeable scar, so this affected their interactions with others, even though, in fact, the makeup artist had erased the scar.

He then shared an example in Chumash. When Hashem came to Moshe Rabbeinu and told him that he needed to take B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt, Moshe’s reaction was, “I can’t. I am a stutterer.” Hashem told him, “You’re my ambassador. I will go with you.” So, Moshe understood that he was an ambassador of Hashem. When Moshe heard this, he was able to change himself and world history.

Rabbi Greenberg posed the following questions: How do you view yourself? What do you tell yourself about the issues you face when you get up in the morning? If you say something positive, it strengthens you and allows you to do the mission that Hashem wants you to do. Think about the words you say to yourself after “I am…”

Rabbi Greenberg then shared a story of how a couple kept a positive mindset. There was a couple who went off for a honeymoon to a rustic cabin. At night, there were woodpeckers making tons of noise and they couldn’t sleep. On the way back, they decided to say that it was a good experience, and while they were driving home they came up with the idea of making a cartoon. That was how the first episode of Woody Woodpecker, a famous cartoon, was born. At their 50th wedding anniversary, they shared that those two nights were the best of their lives.

Rabbi Greenberg asked so was the experience good or bad? The answer is that if you can create something good from an experience, then it becomes good. In most of our daily experiences, an event itself is not good or bad, but it’s how we interpret it. Our interpretation creates a story. The story creates feelings, and our feelings determine the quality of our life. Events don’t write a story. It’s the mind that creates the story. This is a powerful idea for life.

When Hashem tells Avraham Avinu that He plans to destroy Sodom and Amorah, Avraham’s first reaction is to look for a positive outcome. He asks: If there are 50 righteous people will Hashem spare the cities? When he realizes that Hashem is going to destroy the cities, then he says Hashem is the true judge.

Rabbi Greenberg taught that Avraham didn’t say that in the beginning, because “to be a Yid means to do things in the most positive way we can, and to have faith that Hashem will make it good. Our initial approach to a difficult situation is to find the positive way to look at it; and if the negative happens, then to accept that that is what Hashem wanted.

Rabbi Greenberg related that a person’s neshamah has the capacity to download the positive perspective of emunah and bitachon. The first words we say in the morning are “Modeh Ani.” We say that we are grateful and we fill our heart with joy for another day. Then we recite morning blessings, thanking Hashem for all the blessings we possess.

He taught that in most events in life, we determine the reality. The one thing we have control over is our thoughts. Wealth and power can be taken away. Viktor E. Frankl (Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and Holocaust survivor), in his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, taught the idea that we have control of our thoughts, and even in the Holocaust he was able to keep a positive perspective and tried to find meaning in suffering. He affected everyone around him.

By Susie Garber