Watch a group of children while they are engaged in creative play, and you’ll see a beginner’s mind in action.
Children make all sorts of unexpected and abstract connections between the familiar, and the new and unknown. As a result, they achieve remarkable possibilities and creative solutions that most adults simply wouldn’t see. Why? Because by the time we reach adulthood, we’ve got the ‘right way to do things’ imprinted in our minds for just about everything, leaving very little room for alternative and creative ways of thinking and doing.
Our society places a great deal of importance and value on the experts; we pay top dollar for the ‘expert’s opinion,’ and we gain respect from our peers when we know something so well that we become ‘an expert’ in the field. And of course, at times there is merit in looking to the those with expertise.
But great breakthroughs and innovations in just about every field imaginable – including science, medicine, and the arts – often come about as a result of happy mistakes and a beginner’s perspective.
What is Beginner’s Mind?
Using children as an example again, you’ll notice that kids approach life with openness, curiosity, and enthusiasm. Because they lack experience and knowledge in most situations they encounter, they also lack hardened preconceptions and expectations of how things ‘should’ be.
Children live in the moment, unencumbered by the regrets of the past or the fears of the future. They do not judge, instead accepting others with the same curiosity and openness with which they might view a new toy or interesting insect. They are more free to follow their hearts, and most young children exude compassion and trust effortlessly.
How to Reclaim and Nurture Your Beginner’s Mind
If you’d like to be more creative in your field of work, or become a more expressive artist, or just develop better problem-solving skills, you need to reclaim that childlike mindset.
Adopting a beginner’s mind enhances your creativity, reduces stress and worry, and generally makes life easier to handle. When you’re not busy worrying about the past or future, you’re free to be in the moment, and to accept things as they are instead of resisting and struggling.
Creativity dies under the weight of fear, self-doubt, and the voice of our inner critics. Have you ever tried putting paint brush to canvas or hands to clay when you’re in the grip of that critical voice? It doesn’t work – the critic will dismiss your efforts before you’ve even begun. Watch a small child color a picture, choosing purple for the grass and apple green for the sky. Kids are not concerned with what ‘should be’ or ‘what’s correct.’ Nor are they overrun by a voice in their heads telling them how silly their handiwork looks.
Imagine being able to view new people and situations without judgement; instead embracing them with curiosity, openness, and a willingness to learn from them. Picture the wonder of seeing things as if for the first time, and of appreciating the little things we’ve long taken for granted. Remember a time when something as simple as a daisy growing between the sidewalk cracks could make us ludicrously happy.
If you only had room for one significant change, one mindset adjustment for the year, make it adopting and nurturing your beginner’s mind. When we choose to embrace this mental shift, we create a life filled with greater compassion, more fun, and far less fear.
We will be more inclined to take chances, to push past the tight confines of our comfort zones, and to explore new ideas and new options. Our problem-solving abilities, and our capacity for learning new things will grow and expand, and our creativity and passion for life will know no bounds.