Where do you go when you want to get in touch with yourself? What do you do when you want to feel every pore of your being pulsate? Do you go for a run, paint, dance, sing, or do something that pushes you to your limits? Do you try a new experience, or do you revert to what is familiar to you?

One of the oldest debates in psychology is that of nature versus nurture. Are a person’s actions predisposed by DNA, or do life experiences create a lasting influence on our behavior and decisions in life? Are we born this way, or have we become this way due to our environment?

And does the debate perhaps go deeper? Are we merely products of our genes and our environment, or is there a higher self that we can strive to be that’s totally independent of both our natural instincts and background?

In this week’s Torah portion, Abraham is told to leave everything that is familiar to him in order to find a deeper part of himself.

“Go you from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.”1

The Chassidic masters explain:

Eretz, the Hebrew word for land, is etymologically related to the word ratzon—will and desire; so “your land” also translates as your natural desires.

Your birthplace, moladetecha, is a reference to the influence of home and society.

And beit avicha, your father’s house, refers to man as a mature and rational being, forging his mind-set, character, and behavior with the transcendent objectivity of the intellect.

Just as a seed develops into a thriving plant after it first decomposes in the ground, sometimes we need to leave everything familiar to us—our natural environment, our automatic responses, our usual inclinations, even our rational self—in order to find greater growth. Away from the lights and observations of others (and free of our own self-imposed predilections), we experience the unbounded power of a new self.

Leaving behind the old “I” of everything I know and love can be really scary. The seed buried deep down in the earth seemingly decomposes into nothingness. But, like the seed, free from these limiting expectations, we can also produce our greatest yield.

Want to unshackle yourself from the limits of both nature and nurture to discover your greatest self? Choose one area to release yourself from external and internal expectations to reach unknown terrain—and unbounded potential!