I want to share with you an experience I was privileged to have today.
You know how we're taught in school that whenever there is great potential for good, there is an equal potential for evil/not-so-good? (I can't quite remember what context I learned this in, so if you never heard it before, just trust me on this one.) For example, at a time of great simcha, like a wedding or a Yom Tov, when there is opportunity for mitzvos to be fulfilled and relationships to be developed (both bein adam l'chaveiro and bein adam l'Makom) the Yetzer Hara/Satan/whatever-you-call-it is working extra hard to trip us up. (It is not uncommon to have things go wrong in the last few busy and stressful hours before Shabbos, Pesach, a wedding, etc.)
And throw in to the mix the fact that the Yetzer Hara is one tricky guy - he doesn't work in a direct manner. He'll make you think you're being a tzaddik when in reality, you're unwittingly playing his game exactly the way he wants.
In short: Being a ben/bat Torah in this world is really hard! You try your best, and have the potential for immense improvement, but then mess up. To the degree that you are determined to do good is the degree that the Yetzer Hara will go to make you do wrong. And when you do mess up, that nasty little blighter tells you to forget it, don't bother fixing yourself - after all, isn't it much easier to wallow in self-pity and then hide your now fragile self-esteem from the world under the guise of cynicism (which is lauded by pop media as an attractive trait, for some strange reason) than to risk another failure?
Everyone has certain mitzvos that come naturally to them - like avodas Hashem b'simcha, ahavas Yisrael, limud Torah (for guys), chessed, whatever. And on the flipside, everyone has certain mitzvos that (for whatever reason) aren't their forte - lashon hara, limud Torah, emuna, kibud av v'em, tznius, just to name a few.
The important thing to remember is that Hashem didn't give us mitzvos that we couldn't possibly keep - that isn't just ("zeh lo fair!") It is important to make a distinction I recently heard an adult telling a child: "Don't say 'I can't' - say 'It is difficult for me.'" It is difficult, not impossible, to keep some mitzvos.
My particular "tough mitzvah" has been, to say the least, extremely challenging for a while. And at some point in the past year, I made a neder to really work at it. But I'm not perfect - I messed up a number of times. Sometimes, I really messed up and went through a lot of emotional pain. Case in point - I messed up today, and I feel horrible about it. I sat on my bed and self-pitied (/gave in to the YH) for an hour, then got fed up and needed to be productive. I talked to myself and worked it through. Told myself that just because I messed up already doesn't mean I should give up. I try again. And I'm prepared to mess up again. But I should keep trying.
We are taught that in Elul there is a koach in the world to really make change for the better. Elul is the time that has the power for teshuva (that's my new definition of "Elul zman"). What better time to re-make a promise to work on your "tough mitzvah"?
So go for it. You know what your "tough one" is - promise yourself that you will work at it. Say the words out loud (and check out Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's book "Conversations With Yourself") - "I will work on X." Take action to confront your challenge - fight back! Your arsenal is filled with the best weapons and gadgets to fulfill this mission (to the best of your ability) - Torah. On the web, anything is accessible - just do a Google search, check out SimpletoRemember.com or YUTorah.org for shiurim. (Notice how I provided links so you can't possibly avoid going to the websites!) Learn about your "tough mitzvah," and how to do it properly. Get chizuk from shiurim. Share your mission with a close friend, who can be a cheerleader. Be prepared to mess up, but also be prepared to brush yourself off and try again. Ask Hashem for help! He wants to help.
Remember - "Sheva yipol tzaddik v'kam" (Mishlei 24:16) - You WILL mess up, and you WILL make it! Like riding a bike...
May we all be zoche this Elul to achieving teshuva shelaima, and build our relationship with Hashem so that we can overcome a Yezter Hara, and be a step closer to truly reaching "Ani l'dodi v'dodi li."