“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki
I enjoy training martial arts. Over the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to train many different styles of martial arts. One of the things that impress me when I am training with someone that has dedicated their life to mastering a particular style of martial art apart from their grace, skill, and power is their humility. After 20, 30, even 40 years of daily practice, these masters step onto the mat each day with an expectation to learn something new and improve their skill. Even though they have reached the highest levels of achievement in their discipline, they still step on the mat with the mind of a beginner that wants to learn.
You can learn an important lesson from the martial art master’s. Every day offers you a new opportunity to learn, grow, and develop. Regardless of what your current position or life circumstance may be, you can always continue to improve. By cultivating a beginner’s mind, each and every event in life is like a training mat upon which you can practice your life skills.
The beginner’s mind starts with a mindset shift. It has been said that a cup that is already full cannot have more added to it. The know-it-all assumes they have no need for any more input. The beginner recognizes that there is much they still need to learn. Beginners are aware that they do not even know what they need to learn. Remember the last time you started to learn something new. Maybe it was playing a sport or an instrument. Everything was new, and you were open and eager to learn and try different things.
Somewhere along the line, most people lose that perspective. Whether through success or failure, people tend to become rigid in their thinking and their behaviors. They say this is the way I do it because this is the way that I have always done it. The beginner is free of the expert’s limitation. The beginner’s mind is at the heart of innovation and novel breakthroughs. As an application exercise of this concept, try seeing the problem you are currently facing in your business or your life as a complete outsider. Imagine seeing the issue for the first time with beginner’s eyes. The beginner’s mind will give you a different perspective that will probably result in a new insight for you.
The beginner is not caught up in trying to prove how much they know and impress people. The beginner’s focus is on making the most of each opportunity to learn. Take some time this week and give yourself permission to be a beginner. Whether it is sitting in a meeting, handling your daily workload, or talking with friends or family, let yourself see and hear and feel with the beginner’s mind. Set your intention to learn something from these encounters and then immediately practice the new skill. Living life from the beginner’s mind is never boring. It may be just the spark you need right now to help you step out of your comfort zone and reach new levels of achievement and success. Empty your cup and allow yourself to be filled with fresh insight.