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When the Going Gets Tough

Rabbi Yisrael Roll

Part 1.

When the going gets tough… the tough do not get going. And they certainly don’t go shopping.

They don’t?


Then what do they do?

They get… thinking.

So when I lose my job, my marriage is on the rocks, my kids are on drugs and I am two months behind on my mortgage or rent payments, I am not supposed to “get going” and push myself to solve my problems?


Just “think”?


And that’s supposed to help?

It’s the first step.

How, exactly?

When I am faced with a crisis, the first thing I need to address is my “thinking” or “mindset.” If I see the issue before me as a crisis or problem, then I have adopted an adversarial or “fighting” attitude towards it. A more productive attitude is to view the crisis as a challenge or puzzle to solve, or, if not to solve, at least to deal with. It is not there to “break” me, but to bring out some hidden strength or ability from within me. It doesn’t make me evil or bad or a loser. These difficulties are not sent only to me. Everyone faces difficulties in life. If I am willing to adopt this attitude, then I can “make friends” with the challenge, and then I am much better equipped to deal with it.

Isn’t that just a mind game? By calling something a challenge instead of a problem, aren’t I just fooling myself?

Not really. By abandoning the attitude that the world is out to get me, I transform debilitating negative energy into positive practical energy, which I can then use to help me solve my problem. My challenge is to harness as much of the mental and emotional energy at my disposal and make it work for me, instead of letting my pent-up anger and negativity drain me. This “mind game” has very real effects. Look at it this wayit takes thirty-eight facial muscles to frown, and only eighteen facial muscles to smile, so it makes sense to save my physical and emotional energy, and smile at my problem.

But, why me? Always me! Why does everyone else have it so easy?

First of all, it’s not true. Even though it may appear that everything goes smoothly for my neighbor, friend, or boss, it is simply not true. That person may not be going through what I am, but each person faces challenges tailor made for him or her to bring out their unique hidden strengths and abilities. Each person has a unique array of inherited DNA, genes and chromosomes and a special set of parental, social and economic circumstances that make up his or her personality. Just as there are approximately six billion different human faces in the world, so too there are six billion different, special and unique individuals in the world, each with his or her own challenge. I am unique in the universe. No one else has my set of abilities and weaknesses, therefore no one else has my set of personal challenges.

Now, when a difficulty or problem comes my way, I must realize that it has never been presented to a person with my genetic or behavioral makeup ever before in world history. This is my special project or mission, for better or worse. It has my name on it. Only I can solve it or deal with it, in accordance with my unique set of abilities and weaknesses. My neighbor’s marriage, job, house, and all of his or her issues are his to deal with. Looking over my shoulder or envying the situation of my neighbor is merely a waste of personal energy that I should be conserving to deal with my own challenges.

Now, when the “going gets tough,” I consciously step into my “thinking mode” and view the difficulty as my unique challenge. I will be able to factor out any “why me?” issues and be able to focus on the task at hand of dealing with my challenge. I will not waste physical or emotional energy by comparing myself to others, but I will harness all of my special strengths and abilities to enable me to concentrate and deal with the issues before me. Therefore, when the going gets tough… the tough get thinking, and step into the positive mindset that is best suited to help meet the challenge before them.

Excerpted from Rabbi Yisroel Roll's new book "When the Going Gets Tough." Published by Judaica Press and available at



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