The 4 Gs In Action

My long-time friend and former client Devra recently forwarded me a special email she wrote to a 12-year-old preparing to celebrate becoming a bat mitzvah. This young woman has spent her life with a medically fragile sibling and the occasional crises that brings. Recently their father succumbed to depression. 

Devra herself is no stranger to crisis. (Is anyone?) In her email to me, she gave me credit for teaching her some of the tools and resources that she in turn shared as an offering of hope and comfort. I found the message so powerful that I asked her for permission to share it here.

As a leader in multiple aspects of her world – her life, family, community, and consulting practice, Devra graciously granted my request. Here is the letter.

Dear ___,

In some ways, you have life experience and wisdom prior to your bat mitzvah that others don’t have until decades later. I don’t need to tell you how amazing a hug can feel or how much it can mean to offer one to someone!

Yet an amazing thing about life is that there is always more we can learn, and there are always more ways to grow. Look back at the past several years and consider what you have learned and how you have changed over that time. You can be sure that in the next several years, you will learn and change at least that much, and probably more!

Two of the most important things I’ve learned about in the last several years are gratitude and resilience. No matter what life throws at you, you can keep these tools in your arsenal, and they will help you get through to the other side. Luckily you don’t need to be born with them – they are muscles you can build and develop. You literally can train your brain to see the good and prepare you for life’s surprises.

Gratitude is a practice – the more you make an effort to be grateful, the more you will find to be grateful for. I started my practice with a little exercise called The 4 G’s. When I needed to shift gears, get my mind to focus on my work for the day, or shake off something that bothered me, I would write down:

  • Something Good that I did or accomplished
  • Something for which I was Grateful
  • A Glitch that bothered me
  • My Goals for the day or for my work session

I loved the word “Glitch.”  I could acknowledge bad things that were happening, but by calling them “glitches”, they seemed smaller and easily overcome, able to be set aside while I did whatever I needed to do. Most powerful, though, was regularly celebrating my Good accomplishments and regularly writing down the blessings for which I was Grateful.

There are many other exercises that can build your gratitude muscle. Some people write down 3 things for which they are grateful, each night before they go to sleep. In Judaism, we strive to say 100 brachot {blessings} each day, which not only serve to bless Hashem {G-d} but also to remind us of all the ways Hashem has blessed us – with delicious and nutritious food, with clothing, with beauty in nature, with our very breath. Some people take inspiration from the negative – when you hear of people who are hungry, take a moment to be grateful for the food on your table; when you hear about war, focus on the blessing of living in a relatively safe and peaceful place. Over time you will find that you have trained your mind to automatically see the blessings, to focus on the good even in the face of challenges.

Resilience is the knowledge that you are strong enough to make it through the challenges that will inevitably arise in life. You are not defined by things that happen to you, but rather by how you respond to them; things that happen to you are but chapters in the story of your life. I wish I could offer wisdom about how to prevent challenges in life, but I can’t – so I offer a path to resilience instead. It is so important that I created a little poster next to my computer to remind me of things I can do to become more resilient, based on this article, which provides more detail:

  • Make connections
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems
  • Accept that change is a part of living
  • Move toward your goals
  • Take decisive action
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself
  • Keep things in perspective
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook
  • Take care of yourself

My bracha {blessing} for you as you join the adult Jewish community is that you continue to be a light to those around you and that you learn ways to keep your own light bright, by seeing the good in your life and building on your inner strength.

Your friend,

Based on your experience navigating crises, what advice would you share with a young person?  I’d love to read it in the comments below.


  1. Julia

    My son is graduation High School this year. I want to share this letter with him too. From the heart and with practical guidance to get us to or through the places we want to go. Thank you Devra and Debra!

    • Debra Woog

      What a great idea, Julia! I think I’ll do the same with my graduating son!