Rabbi David N. Young
In his TED Talk, “The Psychology of Your Future Self,” Harvard Professor Dan Gilbert explains the phenomenon of the “End of History Illusion.” He explains that humans think that at any given moment in our personal development, we are finished developing. We believe that our taste in music, our favorite vacation, our level of extroversion, etc, will stay relatively stagnant for the rest of our lives. At the same time, Professor Gilbert explains, we understand fundamentally that change happens to us at every age, but we don’t imagine it is happening to us as fast as it is. Our illusion of what we imagine the future will hold can get in the way of our own progress.
In Judaism, that is why we have T’shuvah. We acknowledge that our imaginings that we cannot change is a human failing. We are changing every day, every moment, and our tastes and styles develop as much as our ability to make ourselves better. If we deny our own ability (or according to Professor Gilbert, our inevitability) to change, we prevent ourselves from taking the steps necessary to embrace the T’shuvah process and turn ourselves into the future selves we know we can be.