‘Beginner’s Mind’ is about dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something, and seeing things with an open mind, fresh eyes, just like a beginner. If you’ve ever learned something new, you can remember what that’s like: you’re probably confused, because you don’t know how to do whatever you’re learning, but you’re also looking at everything as if it’s brand new, perhaps with curiosity and wonder. That’s beginner’s mind.
You might ask why you would want to go back to being a beginner? Isn’t the whole point to become an expert?
In one way, yes, sure. But the more you think you know about something, the more you are likely to miss.
I’ve recently been helping clients on my group programme, Switch off Stress, Switch on Success, write their social media profiles, and it reminded me how easy it is to forget that a potential client may not know what ELT stands for, for example, or what certain industry jargon means.
If we assume we know best, we can forget to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, or automatically dismiss great options because we’ve ‘tried them and they didn’t work’. But, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Beginner’s Mind can also help us to be more fully appreciative of everything around us. I still remember my mother coming out of hospital after a long stay and gazing in wonder at the beauty of nature as we drove home.
And who wouldn’t enjoy more child-like play and wonder in our lives?
How can you develop Beginner’s Mind?
The classic mindfulness exercise to help develop Beginner’s Mind is the raisin. This takes you through a process of fully noticing everything about what you can see, smell, touch and taste as you eat a raisin. if you want to try it, there’s a full description here.
But, of course, this careful focused attention can be applied to anything.
To go back to social media profiles. Ask yourself, would a 9 year old understand what you do? How can you distil it down to basics, so that everyone is SUPER clear about what you offer, including yourself?
Whenever you find yourself making assumptions, as yourself, ‘Is that true?’ Do I really know that? How would it be if it wasn’t true? Particularly if you’re hearing things like, ‘Everyone….’, ‘No-one…’
What might you experiment with if you weren’t constantly worried about the judgement of others? Or didn’t already ‘know’ that you ‘couldn’t’ do something, or that it ‘wouldn’t work’?
That’s the beauty of Beginner’s Mind.