When I went to France for the first time, backpacking after med school, I thought: I’ll be able to speak French to the locals —no problem! I studied French all through high school, and I even took the enriched stream. Surely it will all come back. Pas de problème.
The people in France speak fast. And they speak with a different accent and dialect than the one I learned in high school.
I made my way just fine—but only because anyone can. I only caught a fraction of what was being said. I could barely formulate a sentence. I was so irritated with myself for not at least brushing up a bit before I left—or even bringing a French-English dictionary with me!
So I have, over the years since then, made it a mission to not just learn French but to become fluent. I improve all the time—but only because I have put myself in the path of learning. I have adopted a growth mindset, a beginner’s mind, and rather than rest comfortably in my false sense of expertise, I have constantly challenged myself.
And truth be told, it’s the only way to grow.
The thief of growth is a fixed mindset. The brain that says: “I know this already.”
And nowhere is this more important than when you’re moving into a new career, in the field of coaching. Coaching demands that we become truly open, flexible learners. We need those characteristics to be present in both ourselves and our clients.
Here are the ways we block ourselves and our forward progress:
- when we fall in love with our past learning, our known expertise, and our way of doing things…and then that becomes very difficult to make change or to grow
- when we consider ourselves experts, we think we know everything
- when we feel like once we’ve learned it, there’s no sense going back and revisiting.
So how to adopt a beginner’s mind? It starts by recognizing when we don’t have it.
Here’s how to spot your own resistance to embracing learning:
Do you find it difficult to admit you don’t know how to do something or haven’t mastered it yet? Do you let your disappointment about your situation stop you?
Do you want to be clear all the time, about everything? This often shows up as losing patience with ambiguity and messiness—even the chaos—required for great learning to occur.
Do you live in a permanent state of judgment? This often shows up as judging yourself and your adequacy, your mentor or teacher and her adequacy, etc. Do you find it hard to simply stop judging and start appreciating people (ourselves included) and opportunities for what they can offer?
Do you resist granting others the authority to teach or coach you? Do you instead tend to make them wrong and inadequate? Try on a different choice: see them as having a unique perspective—and allow yourself to be the beneficiary of their uniqueness.
Do you have a need to look good (perfect, right, sensible, smart)? This often keeps professionals reactive to life instead of responding to possibilities.
So when you’re in a program or learning something, get curious. Ask yourself: What are the obstacles I create that block a full engagement with my learning? How might they appear as I do the work I’m here to do?
Now, I’d love to hear from you: what do you think of this concept of a learner’s or beginner’s mind? Have you caught yourself slipping into “expert mind” mode? How did you pull out of that? Go ahead comment below to let me know what you think!