Change is difficult. It requires us to admit that things might not be perfect and that we may need to look at the world differently. Having our preconceived notions challenged is anxiety-provoking and makes us uncomfortable.  Yet, at this time of year, we are faced with change all around us as the season shifts from the warmth of summer to the uncertainty of autumn. Perhaps it is fitting that Yom Kippur falls at this time of year, encouraging us to look inward for change just as the outside world changes. 

Change for Yom Kippur is embodied in teshuvah, repenting or returning, but this requires more than just changing our actions; it requires changing how we think. If we approach teshuvah without the belief that we are capable of change, our teshuvah will just be lip service, rather than meaningful. Standford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, describes this as the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

At the start of the school year, Schechter staff began exploring Dweck’s work. With a fixed mindset, a person sees effort as fruitless, gives up easily, and often dismisses or feels attacked by useful negative feedback. Growth mindset, on the other hand, sees effort as a path to success, learns from negative feedback, and persists when faced with failure. Mindset, we learned, can predict future achievement. The messages that we send can have a strong impact on the attitudes of others and on achievement.

Effective teshuvah, therefore, requires us to be in a growth mindset.

While we may collectively admit that we have sinned this Yom Kippur as we say the words of the Vidui, the confessional prayer, we approach teshuvah as an individual because our own mindset will determine the effectiveness of our actions. Dweck’s research shows that believing that we can change is a component of effectively changing. So, if we believe that we can engage in teshuvah, we have a higher likelihood of actually doing teshuvah.

As you enter Yom Kippur, think about how you are approaching teshuvah and the mindset – fixed  or growth – that you bring with you.

G’mar Chatimah Tovah (may you be inscribed for good),

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

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