Lech Lecha 5783 – Reinventing Yourself

By: Dr. Bill Sutker

This week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, is about the lifelong process of figuring out who we are and who we want to be.

In the beginning of the parshah, God speaks for the first time to Abraham.  The parshah begins with Lech lecha,” go for yourself, from your land, from the place where you were born and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you”.  According to the Zohar, the words lech lecha do not just mean” go for yourself,” but simultaneously mean” go to yourself.” This teaches us that to really know ourselves, we must temporarily distance ourselves from the influences of those around us. When Abraham embarks on his road to self-actualization, it requires him, step away from the psychological, cultural, and physical boundaries of his birthplace and forge a new trail ahead. In finding himself, Abraham found what we are all looking for: a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning that is internally motivated.

But new beginnings are hard:  a new school, a new job, the start of parenthood, for some of us, retirement or as with Abraham, the start of a new religion. Before one goes out on a journey, the journey is mysterious. We don’t know what to expect. It can be daunting to leave the familiar and go forward into the unknown. Abraham understood the limitations of the old and the possibilities of the new. Rather than focus on the frightening and unknown, he was able to imagine the possibilities of a new situation and feel invigorated by the challenge.

All of us can remember what it was like when we chose to depart from our parents’ home on our journey toward the future. Often bittersweet, the journey simultaneously causes anxiety and excitement as we start an adventure for a fresh start. It might be traveling to a new location for a job or some other new adventure. It might be a journey of self-discovery or a move toward emotional freedom. Living without your parents will help you become your own person. Getting a healthy distance from your parents gives you space to decide what you believe in. You will have the opportunity to become the mature and fully formed adult you are meant to be. Helen and I hoped to accomplish this when we moved from Chicago to Dallas with our infant daughter, away from our families, for me to start my residency. But while living without your parents comes with new-found freedom, it also comes with new responsibility and a good measure of loneliness. Whether physical, emotional, or intellectual, our journeys call us to leave the comfort of home behind and to venture forth into the unknown.

Part of any mission which any one of us hopes to accomplish is to take a step back, look at oneself, and figure out what each of us needs to do to become the person we need to be to fulfill our purpose in life.

Do you ever find yourself questioning who you are or wondering how you got to the point where you are today? Maybe you achieved some goal or success, but it is no longer satisfying. Do you daydream about doing something completely different? Maybe you’ve been thinking about pursuing a different career, something unrelated to what you do now. Maybe you don’t have any experience in it but believe it would help you find true happiness and success. Or perhaps your life has changed. With different needs and expectations, you may be motivated to forge a new path that will provide new opportunities. 

It’s natural for us to get stuck in a rut now and then. We get used to our routines and habits, which sometimes become boring. But if you find yourself in that rut too often – especially if it’s affecting your self-esteem or making you feel like you’re not living up to your full potential – maybe it’s time to start a process to reinvent yourself.

As I mentioned, there are many possible reasons why it could be time for you to start reinventing yourself. Examples include looking for a career change because you’re bored or feel burned out, going through an existential crisis, needing a change to something in your life, or seeking more fulfillment out of life. But when it comes down to it, you don’t need a reason to justify wanting to change some areas of your life.  At age 60, I changed from direct patient care to becoming the hospital’s medical director of patient safety and quality to improve patient care for all patients.

The first step to reinvention is to figure out exactly what you want for yourself. This means thinking about what makes you happy and what things in your life would bring you closer to happiness. The second step is to determine how realistic these goals are given your current situation.

Reinventing yourself means identifying patterns, values, or activities that no longer serve you and making a conscious effort to change them for better options. It can involve external characteristics, like job, personality, habits, hobbies, appearance, relationships, and location. True reinvention also happens inside, in how you think and behave.

Reinventing yourself takes time and isn’t easy. It requires self-knowledge, honesty, and a willingness to change. But it’s possible, and it’s worth it.  It will help you become more confident and happier with yourself, which will affect all aspects of your life. In addition, reinventing yourself is an extremely exciting process. It allows us to explore new ideas and learn new things about ourselves, both good and bad.

The point is that reinvention doesn’t mean turning 180 degrees and becoming a completely new person – it means understanding yourself as a human being and using all your qualities to achieve something greater than what you are now.

Reinventing yourself takes courage and commitment because it’s a challenging journey of self-discovery that leads you to understand your past successes and failures. In the process, you’ll have to face your fears and figure out how to overcome them.

Reinventing yourself provides you with a platform to build the best version of yourself. In turn, this enables you to lead a healthier, happier life. It allows you to continue exploring new parts of yourself. It helps you realize what you truly value in life. It encourages constant learning. It makes you resilience and agile in an ever-changing world. It builds your sense of purpose. It boosts your positivity and lust for life.

Abraham’s success in his new mission depended on his ability to reinvent himself. Rather than focus on the negative aspects of leaving his home and family, he was able to imagine the invigorating possibilities of a new challenge.

In my reading, I found this quote:  You’ll never see all the awesome things ahead of you if you keep looking at all the bad things behind you. Sometimes you just have to turn around, give a little smile, throw the match and burn the bridge. Live, learn and don’t look back.

We need to stop worrying about what the world wants from us, and start looking within, to our soul, to know what we want for ourselves.