Staying the Course – Parshat Lech Lecha
How many people do you know (not you of course) who have made New Year's resolutions or Rosh HaShana resolutions and not kept them for at least one year? You're in good (?) company - well, at any rate, at least you're not alone. According to a recent survey, only about 12% of people kept resolutions that they made the previous New Year.1 So what happens with the rest - do they just give up on resolutions? How badly do people judge themselves for not staying the course? Is there a way to "win"?
We find in this week's parsha, Parshat Lech Lecha that even highly motivated people may need extra motivation. When Avraham was preparing for war in order to rescue his nephew Lot, the Torah adds an interesting yet seemingly superfluous phrase. As he sends off his soldiers, it says: "He armed his trained men."2 Shouldn't it be obvious that he would arm his soldiers? Would he send them to battle unarmed?? In addition, the verb used to describe their being armed is an unusual verb (vayarek) which is rarely used in the Torah. That in itself tells us that it was not a simple act of handing out swords and spears. The Gemara mentions two differing opinions. Rav says that the unusual verb means 'he emptied into them' (reik). And what did he empty into them? Torah. Shmuel believes that the verb comes from coloring (yarok) – he gave them gold.3 The Maharsha explains that according to both opinions, Avraham needed to give them something extra – they would have difficulty staying focused and motivated on their own even with the important task of saving Lot. What?? Isn't motivational work part of an army's training? The soldiers of Avraham needed extra motivation? Apparently yes, says the Maharsha. They needed help to stay focused on the objective – saving Lot.
I remember the first time I heard that Olympic teams have motivational coaches as part of their staff. Shouldn’t that gold medal be enough of an incentive? Apparently not.
So, staying the course is not as simple as it may sound. In fact, sometimes it can be downright, frustratingly difficult. There may seem to be so many things going on at once that staying focused seems like an overwhelming task. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to feel vulnerable. It is okay to not be perfect.
In addition, I believe that we underestimate ourselves and focus more on what we have not accomplished than on what we have. Look first at what you HAVE accomplished. We have all done things in life that we can find pride in. We all have that strength already within.4
Sometimes we need to trick ourselves into succeeding. We turn to coaches or therapists who offer ways to bypass our conscious mind and try to "fix" us. In a quick search on the internet you can find 3, 5, 8, 9,or 10 keys, paths and ways to remain focused on goals. And they may even work. And we may need those aids. It is a legitimate way to work towards your goals. We are not alone in this struggle.
Make goals that are important to you. Be clear on your goals. Stay focused. Invest in them. After all, the next goal you set will enable you to continue to grow and develop into who you can still be.
Have A Great Shabbat!