“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” — Shunryu Suzuki
Knowledge may be a powerful thing but it can also keep you from achieving true greatness. When you think you already know it all, you’ll have a hard time learning anything new, thereby becoming stuck in your own ways and unable to grow into that something great you dream of.
That’s why it’s important to experience things with a beginner’s mind. What’s a beginner's mind and how do you cultivate one, you ask?
Keep reading to find out.
What Is a Beginner’s Mind?
The beginner’s mind, also referred to as Shoshin the ancient Japanese Zen Buddhist practice, was built around the concept that an empty mind is a ready mind.
Having a beginner’s mind means having a mind that’s free of preconceptions as to how to approach life’s various situations, obstacles, and experiences. It’s something that comes naturally when we’re trying something new for the first time or learning a new skill.
Once we become knowledgeable of a certain subject or skill, our minds switch from the beginner’s mind to the expert’s mind and act accordingly to our established patterns. This includes having certain expectations for outcomes and carrying out tasks on auto-pilot.
By cultivating a beginner’s mind, you’ll gain the opportunity to see the world from a fresh perspective, which comes with tons of benefits.
Those benefits include:
- Developing a deeper appreciation for things
- Becoming more creative
- Becoming more curious, playful, and joyful
- Doing things with greater intention
It all boils down to becoming more mindful which garners a more fulfilling life.
How to Cultivate a Beginner’s Mind
As we grow and learn, it takes more of an effort to cultivate a beginner’s mind. When you become used to the things you know, thinking like a beginner can be next to impossible.
Here are some exercises you can practice and apply to every scenario you come across to help you cultivate a beginner’s mind:
Turn Expectations into Curiosities
When you have expectations for certain outcomes of a situation, those outcomes will be the only possibilities you’re able to see.
Imagine walking through New York City for the first time with blinders blocking your peripherals and only allowing you to see what’s right in front of you. Think about all the sights you’d miss out on.
This is how many expert minds walk through life, thinking there’s only one outcome or solution to a problem. To cultivate a beginner’s mind, you’re going to need to exchange your expectations for curiosities—forget the outcomes and focus on the possibilities.
As we mentioned, when you’re knowledgeable about certain things you tend to perform on autopilot, getting the tasks at hand done quickly and efficiently without much thought.
It’s time to slow down—physically—and allow yourself to be present in experiencing each step of your activities and tasks. This will give you a more meaningful experience while deepening your knowledge and skills of the subject matter.
Avoid Making Snap Judgements
In a beginner’s mind, there’s no right or wrong way to go about something. There’s only finding the best way or the most practical way possible to go about something.
When you have a preconceived notion of right or wrong based on your own internalized beliefs, you may be stuck doing things the less efficient way solely because you think you know better. So, don’t focus on what is—focus on what could be.
Channel Your Inner Child
Rather than making assumptions, children tend to ask a ton of simple questions. Why? Why not? How does it work? Why does it work that way? Why doesn’t it work this way?
The expert mind is somewhat of a know-it-all who may or may not view questions and plain language as a weakness. However, a beginner’s mind knows that there’s a lot to gain from using their curiosity as a tool.
So channel your inner child and get curious.
Silence Your Ego
The ego is self-serving and inefficient when it comes to achieving greatness. The ego is what causes the expert mind to view the childlike curiosity mentioned above as a weakness.
You need to detach yourself from the desire to “be the expert,” because being right about everything isn’t the goal. The goal is to become present and excited about what you’re doing and learning along the way.
So, focus on what you can learn, not what you already know.
Whether it’s an old experience or a new one, you need to become fully immersed in what you’re doing if you wish to gain anything from it. Take note of what you can see, hear, feel, and even taste, acknowledging what makes sense, what doesn’t, and why.
Being mindful is also a practice that takes work. Many people use meditation to achieve mindfulness.
The whole point of cultivating a beginner’s mind to learn and experience life without judgment or fear. The more you practice the above exercises, the more natural the beginner’s mindset will come to you. Soon you’ll begin to notice how much more fulfilled your life is becoming, and what the meaning of greatness really is.