Choose Higher Thoughts (Don't Be a Nebbish)

Through the Clouds 

Through the Clouds 

When unhappy, one doubts everything. When happy, one doubts nothing.
Joseph Roux

When life feels dark and overwhelming, become aware of your thoughts and actively choose to think better thoughts. Get out of a negative mental rut and decide thatyou can choose your thoughts, and those thoughts can be focused on the good that is already in your life. It may be a simple thing, like the warmth of a cup of coffee or a helping hand or a soft bed to tumble into at the end of a long day. Stop going over why things went wrong or how someone hurt you or why life is hopeless. 

When you find yourself dwelling on what’s wrong, look for hidden blessings in troublesome situations. Choose to move from negative stories into more positive and creative possibilities. Replace complaints with praise. When you find yourself thinking negatively, create a positive affirmation to replace the negative talk. 

Notice when you begin to lose perspective. Sometimes going to bed earlier is the best antidote to a poisonous mood. Remember to take care of your body, for a brighter outlook can come after a good night’s sleep or a comforting meal. Take care of the physical body with rest, exercise, and good nutrition, and your psychic energy will improve as well.

Two Yiddish archetypes illustrate the difference between empowering high thoughts and disempowering low practice. First there is the Nebbish, a character that drains the energy from life, a person whose nothingness diminishes everyone and everything around. A classic description of a Nebbish says, “When a Nebbish leaves the room, you feel as if someone came in.” Jeanne Houston says in The Possible Human, “when all present human characterological types have gone the way of evolution and transmutation, the Nebbish will probably remain along with the cockroach and termite—mankind’s representative of the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy principle incarnate.” 

We all have an innate talent for being a Nebbish. You’ll hear your own Nebbishness when you say things like “If I try, it won’t happen. If it happens, I won’t want it anyway or it will cost too much. Why bother? Nobody wants me anyway. And anyone who did want me around is probably not the kind of person I would want to be around. So, I don’t feel so hot, but why should I? I think I’ll just go home and eat ice cream and cookies, and flip the channels, though God knows there’s nothing on television worth watching.” The Nebbish is the personification of all the gloomy, sad sack, limp, drooping, whining, persistent thoughts that sap hope, drain energy, and make you feel that nothing is worth doing, even if you were capable of doing it, which of course, you are not, because you are nothing special and nothing in particular. This addiction to negativity and inertia is a familiar “frienemy” that erodes confidence with its continual vapid criticism and willed passivity. 

Then there is the Mensch. A Mensch is alive on all levels, a complete person who walks into the room and makes everyone feel better. A Mensch not only sees the ideal in others, but also brings out that quality in each person he or she interacts with. A Mensch has staying power, is willing to laugh freely and feel sorrow deeply. An archetype of the human possibility in full blossom, the Mensch is an artist of high practice, expressing a whimsical, unconditional love for life. A Mensch is an authentic “person” in the larger sense of personhood; a social artist and a human being who is awake to beauty, wonder, and the art of high play.

There is power in recognizing the many facets of the self, and how the lower self and higher self are both part of your experience. A Nebbish lives in each of us, and can only be disarmed by love and laughter. A Mensch is the awakening of the possible self, the higher, more joyous and aware being that also resides in our hearts and minds. Being able to identify when you are sinking into Nebbishness is a marvelous, whimsical way of looking at those negative thoughts that can darken a day and make the world a gloomy place. A consciously chosen High Practice offers opportunity for growth and experimentation, leaving room for mistakes and mirth, wonder and love. The Mensch laughs at the Nebbish, but also understands what makes a Nebbish a Nebbish, and consciously chooses another way of being in the world. 

Every day you have a choice between the low cockroach thoughts that scuttle around in dark places, seeing only the dreariness of life, and the high practice of seeing beauty, potential, and meaning in even the most commonplace life. You can fall into a Nebbish vortex with defeatist, critical, low thoughts, and watch your life spin down the drain. Or you can choose the daring high road of believing in yourself and others, staking your claim to the sunny side of the street, and being willing to accept and appreciate life in all its glory and sorrow. Nebbish or Mensch? It’s always your choice. 

What kind of thoughts are you entertaining? Who would you want spend time with—and what mental commentary colors your day? That mental commentary, positive or negative, is the person you live with all the time. What attitudes make you feel that life is worth living and lift you into a clearer, more bracing atmosphere? What attitudes and mindset hold you back, locking you into a grey fog of negativity and nothingness? 

Allow the light of love to transform your thoughts and illuminate your life. You can do this even on dark days. Meditate, pray an affirmative prayer, then release your cares to the loving hands of God. Believe that the Universe will make a way where there seems to be no way. Focus on what needs to be done in this moment, trusting Spirit to guide you. 

Indeed, the Mensch is the ultimate musician, the Artist of the High Practice. The Mensch is ourselves whenever we go into the High Self. And having experienced ourselves as High Self, we are enchanted by the beauty and the wonder of this memory, by this glimpse of the possibility within.
Jeanne Houston 

Life is like a 10-speed bike. We all have gears we never use.
Charles Schultz

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away any shadows.
Saint Francis of Assisi

Follow your bliss...if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. 
Joseph Campbell

Argue for your limitations and they are yours.
Richard Bach

It’s hard to defeat an enemy who has an outpost in your own head.
Sally Compton

Heavy thoughts bring on physical maladies; when the soul is oppressed, so is the body.
Martin Luther

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.
Aldous Huxley

Introducing an inspiring friend:

We are moving out of the Age of Information into the Age of Inspiration. It’s no longer practical to rely on sagging facts and the criteria of the past. Everything is changing too fast. This is the time to listen to Inspiration, the cutting-edge technology wired within you. It’s time to attend the instincts you were born with, your feelings, truth, and sense of purpose, and the boldest intelligence within you. You were born with wings. It’s time to take those feathers for a ride.
Tama Kieves

I first heard Tama Kieves at a writer’s conference in Nashville. Her first book was newly out, her career was just beginning to take off. She was one of the most inspiring and funny speakers I had heard in a long time. She will definitely help you get in touch with your inner Mensch. She also helps you laugh at your inner Nebbish. But most of all, Tama believes in your potential to change the world, to make a difference, to be a magical person expressing the fullness of your gifts in talents in exciting ways. Sign up for her monthly newsletter. I read it every month and am always reminded of what great writing and a willingness to cultivate higher thoughts can do. Her new book, Inspired and Unstoppable, is being released in August 2012. Look for it in bookstores. 

Here is the address for her blog.
her website

Tama Kieves has been featured on Oprah Radio and is the bestselling author of This Time I Dance! Create the Work You Love. She is a sought-after speaker and career coach who has helped thousands worldwide discover and live their true work in the world. Sign up at to receive the free monthly email newsletter with Tama’s latest articles (and events). Look for her new book Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work (Tarcher/Penguin) in August 2012.

[This is an excerpt from my e-book, The Translucent Heart: Inspired Choices for Challenging Times]


  1. July 17, 2012 2:39 PM CDT

    Wow! I so appreciated this article. I am a former Nebbish who is learning to be a Mensch! Not excusing the old Nebbish me, but understanding that it came from circumstances that seemed out of my control at the time. Learning that I created many of those I've cut the cord to my past...Woohooo! I'm free

    - Debora

  2. November 10, 2012 9:36 AM CST

    Awesome! Keep em coming Candy! I read Art of Abundance, and it really opened my mind and changed a few not-so-helpful perspectives. Gonna aim to be a Mensch. Don't stop writing, you're a great and truly inspiring author. God bless!

    - Glenn