You Are What You Believe – So, Believe You Can Change & Grow

By Shlomo Maital      


  Carol Dweck is a Stanford Univ. psychologist who has an important message for us all, with evidence to back it up.  *    Here is her finding, in her words:

     “It matters whether people believe that their core qualities are fixed by nature (fixed mindset) or whether they believe that their qualities can be developed (growth mindset).  …An emphasis on growth  not only increases intellectual achievement but can also advance conflict resolution between long-standing adversaries.”

  Who we are is not built in, Dweck says, and shows.  “The hallmark of human nature is each person’s great capacity to adapt, to change, and to grow….according to the world you find yourself in.”

    She uses a principle by social psychologist Karl Lewin (the proof of a theory is not data but whether you use it successfully to create change), to show that ‘teaching a growth mindset to students can boost their motivation and achievement…and can help prevent negative stereotypes from undermining achievement”. 

    What this means for you and for me is this.  If we believe we are fixed, and cannot change, then we are. Because we will never seek to use our potential to change and grow. But if we believe we can change and grow, if that is our mindset, then we can, because the belief itself can spur us to do difficult things that in the end pay off.

    Dweck has used her Mindset principle to change tough embedded bitter stereotypes between Israelis and Palestinians.   I find this very hopeful.  Tomorrow Israel holds national elections.  Every poll predicts a right-wing victory.  This bodes ill for our future.  Those on the right of the political spectrum have, in my view, a fixed mindset.  The ‘bad guys’ in their eyes will remain bad forever. We are all the ‘good guys’ and always will be, no matter what we do.  Those on the center and left, have a growth mindset.   How can we either migrate voters toward the center and left, or somehow, induce a growth mindset in those tough stubborn aggressive and sometimes hate-filled rightwingers?

 * Carol Dweck.  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. Ballantine Books;   (December 26, 2007).  And “Mindset and Human Nature: Promoting change in the Middle east, the Schoolyard, the Racial Divide and Willpower”.  American Psychologist, Nov. 2012, p. 614-622.