Mindfulness: 2 Keys To Self-Reflection and Improvement

Rosh Hashanah (AKA the Jewish New Year) is always a good time for self-reflection. In this insightful piece, my good friend Denes Ban shares a few powerful strategies to becoming a better version of ourselves and living more mindfully. I enjoyed this piece and hope you do too! 

During this time in the Jewish calendar, everything around us is pushing us toward change. Lectures, articles, Rabbis, and friends inspire us to strive to be “better”. But how do we actually achieve this? How do we get through to the finish line in our busy lives? Or, for many of us, how do we even leave the starting line?

The beauty of this time of year is that we actually can do much more with less. If you have just a few extra minutes in your day, try “talking to life.” By that, I mean meditate, write a journal, review your past year, and even consider next year’s goals — these are all great. But, here’s something else to consider: If you consciously plug into the spirit of each day, you may not have to try “talking to life.” Rather, you’ll be surprised to find life actually starts talking to you.

Here’s what I mean:

When Life Talks, Listen

Everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you meet, holds a message — you just need to open your eyes to see it.

The message can be in the form of an indirect sign from a client or colleague, a fellow driver on the road, another long line in the supermarket, or even an inconsequential song or movie. If you pay attention, what do these things bring out of you? Take note, and there it is, the naked truth: You. Are you able to catch yourself? Did you get frustrated yet again by things that you know are so small? Did you react with anger? Did you mess up your time management? Or did you eat the extra cookie?

A few years ago I was on several 10+ hour flights. Normally a movie helps to turn off my mind. But, surprisingly, two simple movies (that will unlikely make it to the 1000 best movies of all time) helped me reflect on deep truths; truths I’ll always remember.

About Time

Tim, a man with a special ability to time travel, tries to change his past in order to improve his present. At one point in the movie, his father, who has the same ability, tells him to live each day TWICE in order to be truly happy. The first time to live normally, with all the tensions and worries that keep us from enjoying life. Then, the second time, go through the exact same day experiencing the exact same things, BUT accepting, and even enjoying, the tensions and worries, and start noticing how beautiful the ups and downs of the world can be. Tim follows this advice, but goes one step further: He trains himself to appreciate life the first time around, so he doesn’t need a second chance.

Danny Collins

Inspired by a true story, aging 1970s rocker Danny Collins (played by Al Pacino) cannot give up his decadent narcissistic ways, even at over 70 years old. But then his manager uncovers a 40-year-old undelivered letter from Danny’s biggest idol: The one and only John Lennon. Lennon saw what was happening with Danny 40 years ago and offered sage advice about avoiding the pitfalls of fame and wealth, and staying true to his art. Lennon didn’t want Danny to become, well, exactly what he had become. However, the letter was waylaid and never delivered to Danny — it wound up in the hands of a private collector (true story!). The letter, once finally delivered to Danny, becomes a wakeup call. He starts to wonder how life would have been different had he seen Lennon’s advice many years ago.

My Thoughts

The first movie got me thinking: If at the end of every day, I could go back and relive my whole day, how would I have acted differently? Which of my actions would I celebrate and where would I make improvements?

The second movie got me thinking: What if my biggest “idol” — who knew everything, including what’s really the best for me — wrote me a letter 10 years ago? What would it have said? Would I have led a different life or made different choices? What if it happened today? What would the letter say now?

Exercises To Help You Reflect and Improve

For those of you who are ready to go deeper, here are two practical exercises to make this lasting:

1. Practice Getting It Right The First Time

Every night before going to bed, reflect on your day and write down:

  • 3 actions where you did good and should celebrate
  • 3 actions where you messed up and could have done better (if you can’t find 3, ask your partner or your mother!)

It’s actually a great exercise. Even right now, you can stop and look at your “today” or “yesterday”. Mentally rewind back to the morning and relive your day. What would you change?

2. Stay True To You You:

How do we eliminate the noise and identify our REAL, larger goals? Think about what you want your legacy to be, and what you need to do to achieve it. For these “big” questions, use reverse engineering through this downloadable and printable chart.

So, whoever your idol is, the message is clear: Stay true to you.


Denes Ban is the Managing Partner at OurCrowd, a leading Israeli venture capital fund. As a successful entrepreneur and angel investor, Denes has invested in over 50 companies and founded a number of start-ups, while maintaining a Jewish practice and identity – even in challenging circumstances. He has lectured at universities such as Harvard, Kellogg, Insead, and CKGSB and has trained hundreds of CEOs and Founders around the world. In his spare time, he plays the blues and writes a weekly idea on Judaism. If you would like to be added to the weekly email list, please send an email to: [email protected]