The Beginner's Mindset
Though it's easiest to bring a beginner's mindset to new activities, an activity need not be novel in order to bring curiosity to it.
This past weekend I enjoyed taking photos (I took the photo above), going for the longest bike ride of my life, and golfing. Though I've done each of these things before, I'm what you would call a beginner. Being a beginner is THE BEST. One of the reasons I love being a beginner is because I bring a certain mindset to what I'm doing, one that I ought to carry with me into other areas of my life, even areas I feel I'm no longer a beginner. With each activity I was grateful enough to be with someone more experienced who could guide and inspire me.
I love being a beginner because I get to lean into one of my top virtues: curiosity. Though it's easiest to bring a beginner's mindset to new activities, an activity need not be novel in order to bring curiosity to it.
There are three things I do when I remember to be a beginner:
1. Ask Questions
Knowing my golf skill is minimal, I had no problem asking a friend for advice on how to best swing my driver. (My swing is not yet cured, I was told it will take a while.)
In golf and otherwise, I'm curious and I want to learn. When one is a beginner it's easy to acknowledge that we don't have the answers and we must instead seek them out. Asking questions of those who know more helps us to satiate our curiosity and learn quickly.
2. Wonder & Appreciation
I went for the longest bike ride of my life on Saturday: 35 miles. It made me wonder, could I do 50? What if I trained? Where could I bike?
Beyond the wonder of my potential, I felt extreme appreciation for the accomplishments and hard-work of others. My girlfriend has been training hard and has quickly built her stamina and speed in biking, she kicked my butt on the second half of our ride. And to triathletes, bike racers, and those who do cross-country bike trips...it's truly astounding.
3. Mis-takes Are Perfect
The sun is out, I take a photo, and...the picture is dark. I adjust my settings and take another...still dark. But eventually, I find my way to a decent photo. It turns out my first two attempts were simply mis-takes. (Note the hyphen, these are not mistakes.)
Imagine if my dark photo caused me to quit or to think I'm inept or incapable of improving. Imagine if an actor, having missed their line, thought they could no longer act.
We hear how a Director was willing to do 38 takes in order to get the scene we fall in love with right. We're inspired by that in others but have trouble accepting mis-takes of our own.
The final and 38th take required 37 mis-takes and each one was used, in some small way, to contribute to the most important scene of what becomes an Oscar-winning movie.
Each dark photo I took gave me information about how to improve. Not expecting to know what I'm doing, I had no trouble accepting these mis-takes and adjusting course.
Taking This Mindset With Us
Though it's easiest to do these three things when we're a beginner, we could benefit from bringing them into everything we do.
- Asking Questions shows we're curious and that we want to learn and improve.
- Wondering what we're capable of and appreciating the hard-work and determination of others will always serve to inspire our efforts.
- Mis-takes are a part of life and guide our improvement. We need to know that we will continue to make mis-takes and remember that mis-takes are not harmful to our growth, they’re helpful.
Write down one thing, activity, or routine you do often.
Now, pretend you're doing that thing for the first time. Get creative here and block out all you think you know about doing this thing.
I'm going to bring the beginner's mindset to my morning routine.
Get Curious and Ask Questions
What do I want my morning routine to look like? What morning routine would best serve me and make me happy? Would I meditate right away, or would I have coffee first? Would I move in some way? What type of movement?
What's the best way for you to do this thing? What would best serve you?
Or maybe the question is for someone you know who is awesome at this thing, shoot them a text or email, ask questions.
Bring Wonder and Appreciation
I wonder what it would feel like to enjoy my ideal morning routine. I wonder what that would unlock for me. I so appreciate those who have a consistent morning routine that works well for them. I know it's not easy so I appreciate the dedication it takes to rock a morning routine.
What's possible for you? Who or what can you appreciate as you pursue what's possible?
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. - Shunryu Suzuki
Mis-Takes Are Perfect
I know I won't have a flawless routine. I'm going to miss the mark and I can just note what caused my morning to go awry and adjust course next time. Mis-takes happen.
Acknowledge now that you're going to make mis-takes. What mis-takes might you make? How can you use these mis-takes to improve?
We are all beginners in most (if not all) things we do. The more we can bring these three components of the beginner's mindset to everything we do, the faster we'll improve and the more fun we'll have doing so.