The Beginner’s Mind, for Personal Growth.

You are highly educated with years of experience to support decisions every step of your life, why would you want a Beginner's Mind, haven't you worked hard for your achievements? Critical thinking requires a level of expertise and competency; you gather information from your environment alongside your experiences and make tough decisions in seconds, and you make these countless times in a day.  This expert level thinking can stop you from a bad choice, and it can also lead to you to amazing opportunities! 

What Happens When You NEED to Know Everything?

But what happens when the need for knowing everything stifles you from ‘seeing and feeling’?  What transpires when assumptions get in the way of completely assessing a situation in an unbiased and open manner? Well...you miss things, errors occur, you don’t feel well, you become stagnant and potentially even lose your purpose for living a vital life.  There is such pressure in knowing it all!

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A New Way of Thinking

Aaaah, but there is relief!  There is a ‘new’ way of thinking called the ‘Beginner’s Mind’ (in truth it’s been around for thousands of years).  In Zen Buddhism, it’s known as Shoshin and can be defined as living with openness and allowing things and people to be, without any judgement.  Shoshin is exploring a situation without already knowing how or what to do, even if you ARE the expert. 

For example, imagine you and a three-year-old child are playing in the park, you both find some pebbles. He picks it up, investigates it, rolls it in his hands, smells it, and maybe even licks it.  You already know it is a rock, so you don't bother to pick it up.  The child turned the rock into a play toy, feeling it's textures and seeing its potential, but you had already decided the rock was useless. Do you notice how the child saw possibility in the rock, and you did not, because you already knew it was a rock, and because you were 'all knowing', you missed out on the prospect of its fun.  How exhausting to have to know everything!

Let Yourself Explore

Maintaining a sense of wonderment, curiosity and vulnerability by letting yourself explore as a Beginning Mind can open your heart and spirit to opportunities you’d miss as a continuous expert.  Plus, you know what they say about a know-it-all. ;)

Vulnerability Helps Develop Humility

Murphy-Shigematsu a professor at Stanford University medical school states, “…the experience of vulnerability helps to develop humility for a lifelong commitment to self-reflection, rather than a detached mastery of a finite body of knowledge”.   So when you allow yourself to be unattached to knowing the outcome, you will always continue to learn!

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This past year, I have committed to stepping away from being a critical care registered nurse expert, and I've moved into the role of new entrepreneur.  I have never been exposed to business, which was terrifying.  At first, I felt dumb and inept, like a fish floundering on land, because I was trying to be an instant expert.  Once I exposed myself to the vulnerability of having a Beginner’s Mind, because I really am a novice, I have felt exuberance, satisfaction, calm, awareness, curiosity, and mostly I have learned that as I honor my lack of expertise, I learn more, because I am open.

Tips for Practicing Beginner's Mind

Here are some tips I have discovered while continuing this practice as a Beginner’s Mind:

1.    Accept there is no way to know everything.  No one knows everything. There is freedom when you say, “I am excited to learn!”

2.    Ask for help.  There is safety in numbers, and reaching out to someone for assistance creates an instant bond of trust.

3.    Be open to possibility.  When we are exposed we can experience in completeness, because we had no expectation.

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4.    Be vulnerable.  Vulnerability can be a sign of strength as you open your heart to opportunities around you.

5.    Be curious.  Ask questions, be patient, uncover hidden truth.

6.    Get rid of the word ‘should’.  Eliminating should allows you to stop wishing you had a different reality.  It's really ok if you didn't exercise, or meditate, or get the house cleaned, or feel jealous. Instead, change your self talk towards exploring the benefits of exercise or meditation, or discovering why you felt irritated or angry, so you may acknowledge the reality of the situation and uncover hidden knowledge.

7.       Use the phrase, “I’m still relatively new in my position”, no matter how long you’ve worked there.  Say this with a smile.  It diffuses potential negative energy when you really don't know, and will bring alive the patience needed to learn.

8.       Be kind to yourself.  You will fall and you will make mistakes, but believing in your own humanity will have you standing back up, prouder than ever before.

Have you ever been in a situation where you could have used the skill of the Beginner's Mind?   How did you overcome?  What can you learn from being a newbie?  Please share in a comment below.  

Thanks for visiting us at Brave Mind Living.  We would love to help you prioritize your lifestyle to prevent brain and body disease, helping ensure you thrive in all stages of life.

Nicole Vienneau

Nicole A. Vienneau MSN, RN, NC-BC and has been a Registered Nurse for over 20 years.  She is Executive Director of the 501c3 Brave Mind Living where their mission is to share lifestyle strategies with active, older adults to prevent diseases of the brain and body.  She loves people and in her work as a board certified Integrative Nurse Coach, she strives to personalize every interaction and plan to ensure her clients are recognized for the unique strengths they bring to the world.  To Contact her click here.