Finding Your Beginner’s Mind

May 20, 2013 by Rose Cook

I’ll be the first to tell you that in business “nothing can replace sheer experience” when hiring a qualified person, but there are times when having experience can actually get in our way.  You see, while experience can be a good thing, it can also limit us when we have preconceived notions of what may happen.  These mental obstacles keep us from completely embracing an experience and cause unnecessary stress because we “think” we already know the outcome. Similar to having a conditioned response to something, we have preset expectations based on past experience, and if that experience happened to be a negative one, changing that mindset isn’t always easy.  

I recently read an article by Life Management therapist John Shukwit, who discusses cultivating a “beginner’s mind” in order to help relieve you of debilitating doubt and negative response. Having a “beginner’s mind” is like becoming a child again and entering each experience with no preconceptions, no judgments, no fears… just an open mind filled with wonder and interest.  The problem with bringing an “expert’s mind” to a new situation is we limit our possibilities when in reality, the possibilities are limitless.  
According to Shukwit, “Practicing mindfulness opens the door to the beginner’s mind.  It allows us to be open to what’s actually happening, and to cultivate a sense of curiosity.” I know this all sounds very Zen, and some of you are wondering how this ties to business and life.  Well, it really does!  For example, if you’ve just started a new work project, why not pretend you’ve never done this type of work before.  What kind of questions might you ask?  Is there a way to do it differently?  Ask your colleagues for their thoughts and ideas instead of assuming you know the best way.  You may be surprised by the outcome.

Recently, we hired a summer intern for FlexPro (he happens to be Lynn’s son, Nick, who just finished his freshman-year at the University of Pittsburgh).  As a Computer Science and Finance major, he is providing much needed support on technology projects for our company.  What a breath of fresh air to bring new insights to FlexPro!  Without prior experience to cloud his judgment, Nick is able to bring new ideas to the table that we may not have thought of ourselves.  His “beginner’s mind” allows us to explore broader possibilities.  
As Shukwit points out it’s not easy to create a beginner’s mind – however, “…you really can teach an old dog new tricks. The brain can be rewired.  Habits contain no awareness; it only takes awareness, intention and repetition to start a new, more liberating routine – one that you choose.”

Hard as it may be, I think each of us could take ourselves back to a mindset where we remove fears, assumptions, preconceptions, limitations….and experience things as though it’s the first time ever.  Whether it’s in our personal relationships or professional responsibilities, why not give it a try? I’d love to know what you discover when you try to exercise your beginner’s mind.

Here’s to new beginnings!

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