“The expert in anything was once a beginner.” – President Rutherford B. Hayes
I am sure you have heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: Everyone was a beginner at one point.
Take a second to consider this again and then apply it to something new that you are learning right now. Perhaps you are learning a new skill to propel you to your next role at work, a new exercise routine to hit your fitness goals, or a new marketing tool to grow your business.
In media and on TV, whenever we see the experts, stars, and leaders, we only see them now, in their current greatness. We never see them failing, stumbling, or getting rejected. We only see the end product.
This is a key reason it’s hard for many of us to start something new. How many people stop doing things because they get discouraged by seeing how “perfect” the experts are in our chosen hobby or field? I know I do.
Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “Beginner’s Mind”. It is a key practice of mindful living.
It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject (even when studying at an advanced level), just as a beginner in that subject would.
This attitude can help propel us over the beginner’s “hump” that so often blocks us from learning something new.
So how do you do that? How do you cultivate the beginner’s mind to learn something new?
Here are three ways to cultivate the beginner’s mind in your life:
1. Be curious. Focus on the question, not the answer.
Beginner’s Mind is about being open to the unknown and emptying the mind of preconceived ideas.
When we are curious, we create a learning mindset. This allows us to look at something new as an opportunity to learn, rather than to create expectations about the outcomes.
2. Celebrate falling down – and getting up.
With the Beginner’s Mind we can celebrate failures and successes as integral parts of the journey.
This quote by famed basketball star Michael Jordan tells this story well: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
I remember when I was first learning to snowboard many years ago. It took five full days of continually falling on my butt to get over that beginner’s “hump”.
Like a toddler learning to walk, we must fall and get up over and over again before we can walk on our own.
3. Be present – one moment at a time.
Experience the moment fully. One moment at a time.
Most of the time we live on autopilot in which we are either thinking of the past or dreaming of the future. Meanwhile, life keeps going on without us fully being there for it.
We miss so much when we live in this haze.
Beginner’s Mind allows us to take it all in so that even ordinary things begin to shine.
I was inspired by Karen X Cheng who started Give It 100. Thousands of people have posted their inspirational progress videos to show their improvement from day one to 100.
Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours, asks us to consider simply committing to 20 hours to start something new: “Twenty hours is long enough to experience dramatic improvements in skill, but not so long that it feels overwhelming to get started in the first place.”
Whether you commit to 20 hours or 100 days, it is the commitment to begin that is the key to stop procrastinating.
Once you get started, the momentum will help to push you over the beginner’s “hump” that is blocking you from learning. Cultivating the Beginner’s Mind can propel you to begin.
So give it a try today. It just might be easier than you think.
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