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How adopting a beginner’s mindset enables lifelong growth

You may have heard the terminology of fixed vs growth mindset.

It’s insanely popular in the self-help and self-improvement culture. You’ll find the digital highway known as the online world, littered with everyone and their dog’s opinion on why it’s better to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed one.

I’m not here to give you another captain obvious statement. I mean, we all know that having a fixed mindset isn’t going to get us far in, well, anything really.

Instead, I want to focus on how one would achieve this approach of cultivating a growth mindset. And, it actually all starts with one simple thought – assume you know nothing.

Now you might be thinking it’s really stupid to assume I know nothing because I do know something – I get that.

However, when you want to continue to grow and be the best version of yourself, it’s useful to have an open and unbiased mind. Even those of us who claim to have a growth mindset, can easily fall into the trap of close mindedness and indulge our egos.

An approach I’ve found most helpful in cultivating a growth mindset is to look at everything through the fresh eyes of a beginner. I like to become a student, seeking knowledge and experiences from others.

This is by no means a new approach. The concept of a beginner’s mindset has been around for a very long time. It first arrived in the works of Zen Buddhism and came to me in my experiences with the practice of martial arts. 

For years I’ve heard coaches at martial arts classes I’ve attended speak about always having a beginner’s mind and to always be the student. The premise was that when you start to think you’re the master, you will succumb to ego and lose your understanding of the art of life.

Heavy stuff, I know.

Anyway, in Zen Buddhism the word Shoshin means “beginner mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.

So basically, even if you have decades of experience in a particular topic, always try to adopt a beginners mindset as you continue your education.

Why is this approach useful?

Here’s a few reasons:

It’s great for problem solving

I’ve often found that knowing too much about one thing can sometimes cloud your ability to solve a problem. I experience this in my own work at times because I’m so fixed into my field of work on a 24/7 basis, I can miss a simple solution to a complex problem. It’s on these occasions I task myself with assuming I know nothing, thus allowing myself to look at the problem with fresh eyes and asking myself, what would this look like if it was simple?

It helps with new idea generation

Again, knowing so much about your chosen domain can mean that bringing new ideas to the front and moving away from what you’ve already done a hundred times over can be troublesome. By adopting an approach through fresh eyes, you can allow your thoughts to entertain ideas that might have been blocked before.

You’ll learn more stuff

I mean, if you have an open mind and manage your biases, who knows what you could learn. In order to cultivate that growth mindset you’ll need an approach of openness, curiosity and discovery. Adopting a beginners mindset can help with just that.

It can make you a better human

No promises here but taking the role of a student in all things and trying to look at events with fresh eyes can help your personal relationships, career and even your relationship with yourself. How many times has a close minded approach created an argument or relentless anxiety that has harmed you? Perhaps this could have been different if you embraced an open mind and looked to discover another way.

No doubt they’ll be many more reasons why adopting a beginners mindset can be useful in navigating life. These are some of the areas I’ve found it has been effective in my own experiences.

How do I do this?

The great thing about adopting a beginners mindset is that it doesn’t involve any fancy process. You can start right now if you wanted.

Just try these things next time you need to solve a problem or take a different approach to something in your life.

  • Be curious.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Manage your biases.
  • Try to look at things with fresh eyes or if you can’t, find someone else who can help with that.
  • Position yourself as the student and not an all knowing master, regardless of your experience level.
  • Ask yourself, what would x look like if it was simple?

I’m not saying it’s going to be the answer to all your problems because it’s not. Yet, you cannot claim to have a growth mindset if you don’t adopt the approach of a beginner. It’s an essential habit for life-long growth.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

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