In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few. -Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki
My intention for 2018 is to have a beginner’s mind. To go into every situation wide-eyed and full of curiosity. If you have a beginner’s mind, every experience is a new experience. Imagine the saintly faces of children on Christmas morning. The boundless joy and wonder in those excited little bodies. What if you could embrace every experience with that kind of awe?
Even if you have done a thing a hundred times, this time is unique. A beginner’s mind is nonjudgemental. Because this particular experience hasn’t happened before, you cannot face it knowing what to expect. In this way, anything is possible. There are no expectations. Instead of having the attitude that “there is nothing new under the sun,” have the attitude that everything is new.
If you have a beginner’s mind you are willing to try new things and fail. A child tries and fails at many things before they figure it out. As adults, we have become afraid to fail. We believe we have too much at stake and are afraid to look stupid. Thus, we rarely try anything new and so are closed off to growth. So we are stuck. Being open to failure means we are open to learning. When we stop learning, we start to age.
Once we stop learning, we start dying – Albert Einstein
The funny thing is when we identify as an expert in something we stop learning. Whether this is because of ego or the lack of time for continuing education, it is a frightening truth. When someone becomes an expert in her field, especially if she is in a position of authority, it becomes more difficult to ask questions because experts already know everything. Right? Making mistakes isn’t an option for an expert because you could lose all credibility as an expert if you fail. “The stronger her identity is as an expert, the harder it will be to put that identity aside to become a learner again.” (1)
Imagine how having a beginner’s mind can help your listening skills. Most adults go through every conversation they have knowing what the other person is going to say and thinking ahead to what they are going to say in return. They end up not hearing what it is the other person actually said, only what they expected to hear. Everyone wants to seem smart and quick-witted to their detriment. We all want to tell our story and impress people with our expertise.
What if you brought a beginner’s mind to the table every time you sat down to have a conversation? What if you took the time to sit there and fully listen to what the other person is actually saying and ask questions to be sure you actually understand them? Sit there with no agenda of your own, merely an interest in them. Only then can you gain a full understanding and reply intelligently. How shocked would the other person be that someone was really listening to them? This is one of the most important skills a wellness coach has in her bag of tricks. Truly listening without having to be smart.
How do I plan to implement having a beginner’s mind into my life? First, I plan to continue to take in every morsel of knowledge possible in my field. If you read for an hour a day, the equivalent of about a book a week, on your chosen subject, you will be ahead of 99% of people in your field. This is a key to success.
Currently, I read a book a week, listen to at least 3 podcasts per week, attend lectures and read the assigned material at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition every week, attend lectures and do the assigned work at the Bulletproof Training Institute’s mindfulness course every week, read several personal development or nutrition blogs every day, and write about what I have learned every day. Whew! When you put it like that it seems like a lot. I love learning. The trick is to learn all of this without having the attitude of an expert. Therein lies the rub!
I also am retraining myself to try without fear of failure. I really have to work at this. When I first started writing this blog and promoting it I was hugely afraid of what people think. I would edit and re-edit, making sure nothing was obviously offensive, or worse grammatically incorrect. I still do, but I am now largely okay with putting myself out there for all to see, warts and all. The thing is, most people are too worried about their own stuff to notice your shortcomings!
My biggest challenge will be to face every experience with a saintly, child-like innocence. My goal is to listen to each client’s story with an open heart and open mind, not reading my own interpretations into what they are saying, but truly hearing them. I might hear something their doctor didn’t and be able to steer them along a new path that leads to meaningful healing. In that way, we can both achieve epic wellness together.
If you found this post helpful, please hit the follow button. For more motivation delivered straight to your inbox subscribe to my newsletter here. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram by clicking the appropriate links above. My Instagram now features my morning #coffeethoughts! If you know a friend who could use this information, please share it right away while you are thinking of it. If you find this useful, there’s a good chance your friend will, too. Thanks for reading!
(1) Lieberman, Matthew D., Ph.D. “Why We Stop Learning: The Paradox of Expertise.” Psychology Today blog. 19 June 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/social-brain-social-mind/201206/why-we-stop-learning-the-paradox-expertise