Can people change?

July 14, 2015

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

The prevailing wisdom amongst most people is that people don’t change: "A leopard doesn’t change its spots." "You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks." 

I agree that we can’t change who we are–that is a function of our history; and since we can’t change our history, we can’t change those issues that challenge us.

However, I believe that we can change our behavior and that we can change how we see/interpret the world. When we change our actions and our perceptions, the world responds differently to us. For example, when your behavioral response to an old situation is different, that situation, which you may have dealt with unsuccessfully in the past, can now have a more constructive outcome.

Flip Wilson, a comedian in the 70’s, used to say, "What you see is what you get." What you see/interpret is a function of your history, which shapes your attitudes to people and to yourself. When you decide to understand your history, you open up the possibility of interpreting/seeing the world differently. Consequently, what "you get" is different.

We don’t change, but we can still change our behavior and our attitudes. I see it all the time, even with the "old dogs."