“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it,
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” - Goethe
Worrying about what others think, fear of failure and imperfection, not knowing how to do something are key ingredients that stop us from starting. We trod along, accepting the inevitable, which is only made inevitable by our own mindset and preconceived notions that are embedded in our stories. The past. The future is always a clean slate if we choose and the past has had its turn. And the future is a result of what you do today.
We can change the stories, those narratives that don’t serve us well. In Redirect, Changing the Stories We Live By, Timothy D. Wilson defines strategies to change up those stories through story editing approaches including the Pennebaker Writing Exercise and The Step-Back-and-Ask Why Approach. When we identify and examine those defining moments that we carry with us that create boundaries, we can understand them, gain perspective, let go and move on.
Each day brings a new opportunity to begin again, to create a new chapter. When we adopt a beginner’s mindset, starting becomes easier. A beginner’s mindset comes from Zen Buddhism concept called “Shoshin,” which is an openness, eagarness and no preconceptions. With a fresh perspective and no concern for mastery at the outset, we can start on that list that lingers in our mind ready to be put into motion. And with deliberate practice, we gain confidence and mastery through focus, time and attention.
Children are masters of the beginner’s mindset until we make them “grow up” with rules and requirements of perfection, performance and self-consciousness. When we remain open at all ages and pursue learning long after our formal education ends, we can enter the ease, joy and gift of a taking on new things by diving in, daring to look stupid and making progress through action.
In Brené Brown’s 2010 Ted Talk on The Power of Being Vulnerable (43+ million views), she talks about research that she’s done on shame and vulnerability, “No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it, the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this "I'm not good enough," -- which, we all know that feeling: "I'm not blank enough. I'm not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough." The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability. This idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.” And part of being seen and vulnerable is a willingness to be real, flaws and all.
In her research, she found that a change in our mindset can make all of the difference in the world: “There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy.”
Her research was the foundation for her seminal book Daring Greatly which starts with her favorite quote from Teddy Roosevelt that reminds us to stay in the arena of life, trying and daring to begin again and again. Being a participant rather than a spectator.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”― Theodore Roosevelt
The path to life-long learning often begins with unlearning, letting go of our preconceived notions, challenging our assumptions. In her article Adopting a Beginner’s Mind: Unlearning as a Learning Strategy, Sara Whitman offers six ways to adopt a beginner’s mindset:
1. Question everything;
2. Try a perception shift;
3. Challenge convictions;
4. Consider a lateral approach - Who already does this well?;
5. Find a reverse mentor – hang out with someone younger and less experienced to gain a fresh perspective;
6. Travel the least likely path
Dare to look stupid, to open up, to discover new and exciting activities and experiences that push you to grow. A beginner’s mindset is the jolt that you need to start doing things by taking small steps every day, risking and daring, failing and falling and always getting back up further ahead than if you had never started.
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”― Karen Lamb