3 Reasons to Stay in the Beginner's Mindset

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Just when you know it all…

For a moment, imagine the first time you got on a bicycle. You are just a wee one about to hop on your little blue bike with streamers on the handle bars (yup, that’s what mine looked like). And just as you sit down on the seat—some asshole has taken off your training wheels. You come crashing down to the ground. Your knee is skinned. Your ego is bruised. And if you are like me, it was the 80s, so you weren’t wearing a helmet. Now, you have a concussion. But your mom said it’s fine. Just don’t come back in until dinner. It’s amazing you survived.

It’s amazing we all have survived. After all, we’ve played out this same scenario countless times as we’ve moved up and down the ranks of life. We’ve crashed and burned in jobs and relationships. We’ve been on the losing end of life more than once. But, somehow, most of us have picked up our shit and tried again. Luckily, we humans have the capacity to learn and the resiliency to keep on keepin’ on.

However, along the way, some of us may have forgotten all the work it took to get there. Or forgot what it felt like to be a beginner. It’s normal to lose sight of the beginner’s mindset. When we finally learn to balance on the bicycle, the skinned knee becomes a distant memory. And eventually, being on that bike is second-nature. We never again think about what it took to learn how to ride that bike. The tears. The blood. The practice. The fear.

But, sometimes, it is important to pump the breaks on mastery and get back to the beginning of things. In Episode 2 of Dharma Drops: Yoga, Life, Whatever, I talked about the importance of remaining in the seat of the beginner. To expound upon that conversation, here are 3 reasons to stay in the beginner’s mindset.

The Beginner’s Mind Takes Off the Pressure

I went to a training for Women’s Studies and Online Learning many years ago. And in the training, we briefly discussed what to do when you don’t know the answer to a student’s question. Ultimately, we agreed the best course of action is to say, “I don’t know” and offer a follow-up. In response to this, a professor began to cry, telling us that, for three decades, she has lived in a daily panic about what to do if a student asks a question for which she doesn’t have an answer. She was completely unaware that it is okay to not know something.

Embracing the beginner’s mind takes off the pressure to know it all. This isn’t to suggest we stop there. The beginner’s mind also asks us to keep learning. But we don’t have to know it all, all of the time. Whew!

The Beginner’s Mind Offers a Chance to Practice

When we have arrived at a feeling of mastery that’s when it is time to be the most open to more practice. Imagine the possibilities beyond what you have mastered. Taking the seat of the beginner gives you the chance to experiment and expand into unchartered territory. Imagine if when scientists discovered cancer they just stopped there. They didn’t say, “Cool, now we know.” They took the next step forward into a new beginning—treatment and cure.

Consider the areas in your life that you have mastered. How can you expand your practice into a new beginning?

The Beginner’s Mind Builds Empathy

When we are able to remember what it was like to be a beginner—the frustrations, the fear, the excitement—it’s easier to empathize with other beginners. I know it is really frustrating sometimes when the new cashier at Target doesn’t know how to void your sale. And now you have to wait for someone to come help. But consider what it was like to have your first job. Or try to reflect upon the last time you felt new and overwhelmed. The saying “we all start somewhere” isn’t really true. We all start at the beginning. Even you. The next time you meet a novice, lend them a helping hand or a bit of encouragement.

Here’s to being a beginner, friends! Listen to the podcast, check out the recap, and keep the conversation going. Comment below with your thoughts and experiences of being (or not being) in the beginner’s mind!