The nature of a journey is that it has its ups and downs and just as there are no straight paths when you travel so too there are no straight paths in life, because life is a journey.
One of the reasons we feel despondent is because we don't see our own growth or progress. It's like being on a diet - you don't get to see your own weight loss.
It takes other people to see change because we are with ourselves every day and the nature of the world is that we change gradually. The guy on the diet will need to see a photo from the previous year to truly believe that he lost weight.
The same can be said spiritually. We need to see the picture of our spiritual selves and ask “Am I the same person as I was last week/month/year? Am I angry about the same things? Am I more or less grateful for the people that are closest to me? Am I spiritually on a rise or on a fall?”
This is one of the great messages of Jacob’s dream. Jacob sees a ladder with angels going up and down. These angels are the spiritual energies we create in this world and they are either going up or down. It's interesting to point out that the angels that were the furthest from G-d were the ones that were closest to G-d but on their descent.
In Judaism it’s not about where you are on the ladder, it’s about what direction you are moving. Judaism doesn't want us to look at anywhere besides for the mirror and ask ourselves what direction are we facing on this ladder?
By Rabbi Jack Melul, Aish Lit