According to Maimonides, there are three steps to teshuvah / repentance. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg frames them in his book about the holidays, The Jewish Way, as the "Three R's":
1. Regret - One who seeks teshuvah must first admit that he or she has erred. This may very well be the most difficult part of the process, as most of have a great talent for self-justification. Part of the process of regret is the Vidui, the confessional prayer that we recite publicly on Yom Kippur.
2. Rejection - We cannot continue the offending behavior and expect to achieve teshuvah. As in many cases in Jewish law, intent matters here. Rejecting one's past wrong choices is an essential part of teshuvah.
3. Resolution - Here is where one's willpower is crucial. To complete the process of teshuvah, we must be resolved not to make the same choice again, given the opportunity. Our habits are very strong, and to change the ones that should be changed requires steely resolve.
Of course, true teshuvah is an ongoing process. Perhaps the first two steps can be accomplished during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance that are bracketed by Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But truly changing one's behavior requires vigilance that applies not only to those days, but to the rest of the year as well.
Good luck! Shanah tovah!
This post is one in a series of thoughts for Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah; I am trying to post one every day of the month, except for Shabbat Here are links to the previous posts:
Elul 9: Vidui and the "Jewish Science"
Elul 8: The Two Types of Forgiveness
Elul 7: The Sounds of Elul
Elul 6: If you had only one request from God
Elul 5: High Stakes Accounting
Elul 3: Teshuvah Inventory Questions
Elul 2: The Spaces In-Between
Elul 1: Resonances of the Shofar
Rosh Hodesh Elul: What's more important than electricity?
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