8 life and career lessons from Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year

It’s autumn, which means kids are back in school, pumpkin spice is making its way to a latte near you, and Jews around the world are about to celebrate the New Year. Wait, what? New Year’s in September — is that really a thing? It is indeed, and Rosh Hashana is a great reminder for anyone of any religion — or none at all — to take a moment to reflect on the year to date and try to figure out what’s next.

Here are 8 ways the Jewish holiday can inspire you to take stock of your life right now, and maybe hit the reset button on what’s not working:

Don’t let the calendar be your only milestone

While I celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31st with the rest of the world (be it out with friends or home in my ‘jammies), I love the fact that I have two New Years in my life. There’s something about being able to take stock of the year before the end of year panic sets in that affords me a different kind of perspective. It’s almost like a cheat sheet before pressing the New Year’s reset in January. In addition to the holiday thoughts, I tend to ask myself a series of questions including: Am I on track in my career or my personal business plan? Have I had any abject failures or spectacular successes? Can I sneak in a few more of the latter before the year is officially done?

Be more flexible

While we’re on the subject of calendars, unlike New Year’s Eve which is on the same date every single year, the Jewish New Year is based on the lunar calendar and falls on a different date on the Gregorian calendar each year. So, some years we celebrate in September, others it’s in October. The thing is, that when you spend your life trying to figure out when to schedule meetings based on both the lunar calendar and your Google calendar, you learn to be a lot more flexible. As my Catholic-raised/half Jewish friend Erik (who asked that only his first name be used in this article) puts it, “Living with two calendars makes you realize that you have to understand priorities, what comes first, and how to make everything work together.” It’s also a great lesson in prioritizing your work self and personal time.

Follow the script that works best for you

When I was researching my book “Ancient Prayer” I spent a lot of time studying the powerful and beautiful prayers said this time of year. I also came to realize that just like story inside the classic Christmas song, the Little Drummer Boy, sometimes the way others express themselves doesn’t work for you and it’s okay to go off script.

Like prayer, your work or relating style doesn’t have to mimic anyone else’s. So, if you’ve outgrown the career style or even path that may have once fit you, you don’t have to wait to make an official New Year’s Resolution to find a better one. Start right now and start from wherever you are.

It isn’t always fun

When clients or colleagues find out that I’ll be taking off for the Jewish New Year, they inevitably tell me to have fun. Sorry to burst that bubble, but Rosh Hashana isn’t even remotely about having fun. It’s a holiday that’s about connection to oneself and one’s faith; it’s about introspection and trying to figure out what went right or wrong in the year that passed, while trying to figure out how to hopefully fix oneself in the new year. In other words, though it takes work, it nourishes me and challenges me to try to figure out how I can improve in the year ahead. If you feel like you’re going through the motions at work, that doesn’t mean that you have to throw in the towel and start over. Work is meant to be challenging at times and overcoming hurdles will probably land you that next promotion or title upgrade.

Find a new outlook (in the middle of the year)

Yoga and other eastern philosophies, faiths, or practices tend to remind us to let everything else go and embrace the present. Ana Weber, who coaches entrepreneurs, thinks that the Jewish New Year is “a perfect time align our goals and embrace new beginnings-fresh starts introduce new outlook on life – career – relationships with a sense of freedom.”

And since there isn’t the added pressure of a new calendar year starting, she explains that it allows you to “Befriend the present, and extract the seeds of experience and wisdom, while looking forward to the newness, the change, the hope one will feel less overwhelmed and open to opportunities and personal/business growth.” It’s a gentle way of allowing yourself to seize the moment and start from wherever you are.

Embrace positive motivation

Rosh Hashana is celebrated with loads of positive symbolism, from eating a fruit you haven’t eaten in the year past, to dipping challah bread and also apple slices in honey to symbolize the desire for a sweet new year. Depending on your background, you may also find yourself eating a sweet carrot dish known by the Yiddish name of tzimmes, or sharing a pomegranate for its myriad jewel-like arils, since both symbolize abundance. While work and everyday life can be a drag, it can be fun and inspiring to create your own daily positive triggers. Among other tchotchkes on my desk, I have an antique bottle of “writing fluid,” right next to a smiling sunshine-topped piece of pottery that simply says “optimism.” Sometimes all of us need something tangible and physical reminders or talismans to remind us why we’re working and what we hope for.

Just take a break

Much of the Jewish New Year is spent in prayer and contemplation, which Weber likens to meditation which allows you to both “take a break and be still – connect with the person in you.”

It can also connect you to a higher power or place outside yourself.

“Life consists of inventory of events and emotions. When we learn to rotate – let go of yesterday’s emotional weight – embrace the newness and take action in the present time, we don’t get burnt out. We enjoy our life journey and take the driver seat moving forward,” Weber says.

It doesn’t have to be your holiday to inspire you. Take a day (or hour) to take a break and try to connect with something outside of yourself or at least outside your daily routine. It’s a tiny way to recharge on a daily basis.

There’s almost always room for a do-over

Rosh Hashana is part of the High Holy Days which culminate with Yom Kippur, 10 days later. The reason for this slightly extended break between the two is that sometimes no matter your best intentions, you just don’t get it right. Maybe your concentration is off, or you just couldn’t tap into the feeling you’d hoped for. In the Jewish faith, you have 10 days to change that and to unseal your fate and try to make things better. Maybe you’ve screwed up at work. Maybe you keep screwing up at work – but perhaps if you give yourself a set time limit (10 days anyone?) to try to improve, you’ll take the pressure off yourself to try to be perfect on the first go-round.