Our children are growing up in a bold new world. As always, we strive to pass on important traits to them, such as lovingkindness, charity and compassion. But what about the new traits that modern psychology has introduced? I mean those two particular traits that are quickly becoming synonymous with success: grit and the growth mindset.

Grit is a term made famous in academic circles by Angela Duckworth, MacArthur Fellow and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies the result thatThere were spies who were “gritty” and spies who were not happens when you combine “passion and perseverance [to reach a] long-term goal.”

The growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, is the belief that our “basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.” This is contrary to a fixed mindset, the belief that our basic abilities are founded on set characteristics that are unable to be altered.

Looking at this from a Torah perspective, there are a few questions that must be addressed:

  1. Is there a Torah precedent for these traits? If so, what is it?
  2. What motivates us to have the perseverance to reach our long-term goals?
  3. How exactly does hard work enable us to transform our basic abilities?

A Torah precedent exists for these traits. If we take a deeper look at the episode of the spies, we see the commentary on grit and the growth mindset that emerges.

There were spies who were “gritty” and spies who were not. The majority of them did not have the grit it took to conquer the Land of Canaan. Yet, Kalev did, as did Yehoshua. How did this happen?

For the spies who succumbed, one sentence tells us where the mistake occurred. In speaking about the inhabitants of the land, the spies relate: “In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so they considered us, too.” The key here is “in our eyes.” How we perceive ourselves and our abilities is crucial to our success or failure.

Those who often succeed have a growth mindset, believing they are capable of improvement. These spies lacked a fundamental belief in themselves and their abilities, being made in the image of G‑d.

Yet Kalev first silenced the people, and then proceeded to expound: “We will surely go up and take possession of the land; we can surely conquer it!” He assures the people that they could conquer the land. How are these two accounts—the one of Kalev and the one of his fellow spies—so different, so opposite?

Unlike the others, Kalev speaks about himself in a positive way that connotes certainty and confidence, as we see through the repetitive language of “we will surely.” He has the grit it takes to succeed, the passion for the land of Israel and the perseverance that must accompany the long-term goal of living in our land.

Even as the minority opinion, Kalev is steadfast in his conviction. How is it that he has this perseverance? It is his steadfast faith in G‑d, who has already promised us the land, which enables Kalev to persevere through scary circumstances.

To answer our questions, let’s recap what we have learned from the episode of the spies:

  1. There is, indeed, a Torah precedent for grit and the growth mindset embedded within the episode of the spies.
  2. We are able to persevere to reach our long-term goals, like Kalev did, when we have faith that G‑d is with us, supporting us and guiding us through the challenges we may encounter along the way.
  3. Hard work enables us to transform our basic abilities when we understand that we are made in the image of G‑d. This knowledge helps us to develop a positive image of ourselves. Moreover, when we know that our goal in this world is to grow and become the best version of ourselves that we can be, we are able to stretch ourselves to reach greater heights.

Now, practically speaking, how do we replicate the traits that Kalev displayed so we can pass them on to future generations? Let’s look at some of the ways that we can cultivate these traits in our children:

  1. Model the behavior you wish to encourage. Show your children that you don’t give up, and failure is simply a stepping stone to success. If we show them we are not afraid of failure, they won’t be either. Tell them about the trials of our Imahot (“foremothers”) and Avot (“forefathers”), and the challenges of our bubbys and zaidys. Teach your children how those before them forged ahead through turbulent times, exercising grit and the growth mindset. In essence, you are telling your children that no matter how hard it is, it can clearly be done.
  2. Think about how you praise your children. Strive to focus on their efforts instead of the outcome. Furthermore, mistakes should be embraced as learning opportunities. According to Tracey Tokuhama Espinosa, professor of mind, brain and education science, learning is a “collection of corrected errors” and should be celebrated as such.
  3. Our brain is highly plastic and malleable, with the possibility of rewiring and strengthening our neural networks. Teach your children that we can literally change our brain through the practice of new habits and positive attitudes. Our brains are hardwired to grow; this is the way G‑d made us. Our children should know that no matter the undesirable habit or trait, they are constantly able to change to become the best version of themselves.

Encourage your children to keep a growth journal, or routine cheshbon hanefesh (“accounting of the soul”), which identifies and tracks the progress of what they want to work on. Parents who keep a cheshbon hanefesh journal will inspire children to constantly strive upwards as well. Growth will be seen as an opportunity and a necessity. Foundational to our religion, we should constantly be asking ourselves how we can increase in our faith and make ourselves better for tomorrow. By exercising grit and the growth mindset, we are well on the way to becoming that better person of tomorrow.