Experts Get Bored Too. How to Reinvigorate Your Life With Beginner's Mind
“In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.”
~ Shunryu Suzuki
There’s something terrifying, yet magical about taking on something entirely new. You don’t know what you don’t know, and it pushes you way out of your comfort zone. But at the same time, it opens your eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. Everything is new and exciting.
And then time passes…
You get better and better at that new thing and before you know it you’ve become an expert. That thing which was once so new and seemingly difficult is now something you can practically do in your sleep.
Becoming an expert at your craft has a huge upside. It puts you in a place of comfort and competency. You no longer feel hesitant and clumsy and are now breezing through that task with ease and efficiency.
Being an expert is fabulous, right?
Expertise also comes with its own set of hidden dangers.
Once you settle into the familiarity of routine, the excitement and attention to detail that comes with taking on something new slowly fades into memory. This is when it becomes super easy to slip into autopilot, accomplishing that task without even thinking about what you’re doing. If you’ve ever driven home along a familiar route, only to arrive at your destination and not remember how on Earth you got there you know exactly what I’m talking about.
But wait, there's more...
Other hazards of mastery include falling deep into your comfort zone. You might start feeling like you're losing motivation and boredom begins to set in.
Another challenge that frequently comes up is developing a sense of rigidity when it comes to the way things are done. This can stifle growth and ends up shutting you off from exploring new ways of working and thinking.
The bottom line: Comfort feels good, but too much of a good thing can lead to the kind of stagnation that gets in the way of fully living out your purpose.
There’s a saying: Every expert was once a beginner. So, what can the beginner teach you that will keep you moving forward toward your highest potential?
Allow me to introduce you to Beginner’s Mind.
Beginner’s Mind is a concept from Zen Buddhism called Shoshin, and it can get your creativity flowing while also restoring your enthusiasm and motivation. Beginner’s mind is a way of treating everything you do as if it were brand new. Some hallmarks of Beginner's Mind include:
- Letting go of any preconceived notions or judgements
- Seeing things with new eyes, as if you’re looking at them for the very first time
- Bringing a sense of enthusiasm and curiosity to everything you do
- Being open to trying new ways of doing things
Beginner’s Mind takes the pressure off your shoulders and gives you permission to release the fear of failing. It also gives you a new perspective that can spark new ideas around things you’re already doing, as well as encouraging you to push boldly into new territories.
5 Tips for Practicing Beginner's Mind:
- Let go of distraction. Refocus on the details of the tasks you've mastered and observe what’s going on in your immediate environment as if you’re seeing it all for the first time. Avoid letting your mind wander to the past or future while engaged in the task. Instead, focus on the present and what you’re doing in the moment. Notice the colors, textures, sounds and scents of what you're doing. Engage all of your senses to help you focus in.
- Be open to trying on all perspectives. You already know what you think about the task, but how else can you look at what you’re doing? Try to see it from a new or outside perspective. Ask those around you to share their thoughts and opinions. Let go of the need for there to be a right or a wrong answer when it comes to looking at new perspectives. Ask yourself, "What if every perspective is true?"
- Go back to the beginning. Remember why you started in the first place. What motivated you to learn something new? What was so amazing and surprising about this thing when you started doing it?
- Embrace the power of play. Dr. Howard Murad, the founder of a company I worked for had a great piece of advice, “Channel Your Inner Toddler.” He had a point. Have you ever watched a toddler at play? They run in all directions, laughing and exploring. Toddlers are happy to simply 'be', without fear of judgement or reprimand. The world hasn’t taught them to stick to the rules yet. Get back to having fun with what you’re doing. Experiment with it and try on new ways of exploration without worrying about what anyone else is thinking.
- Get uncomfortable. Don’t settle for the status-quo. Dig deep and get curious. Ask yourself the questions that will challenge you to push beyond where you're at. What can you do that takes your expertise in a whole new direction gets you out of your comfort zone? Where can you expand into something that turns you into a beginner all over again?
There’s an awesome feeling of accomplishment that comes from mastering something new, but don't stop there. The key is to keep learning and growing. Beginner’s Mind gives you an opportunity to get a little uncomfortable while you keep pushing against your growing edge - and that's where you'll find the excitement and motivation around your area of expertise that you had when you first started.
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