There’s a special trap we can get into when we get good at something. Whether it’s work, a hobby, or a spiritual practice, when we experience positive results from our actions, we can start to believe that what we’re doing is the best way, or the only way. We can dismiss ideas before really considering them.
To be totally honest, I easily fall into this way of thinking. When things are going relatively smoothly in my work, I think, “I’ve got this figured out.” Or if I experience some spiritual clarity, I think, “this is the way.”
While it’s good to understand how what we're doing is related to the fruit of our efforts, pausing the learning process once we begin to understand will stagger growth. I recently saw this when I went on a 10-day meditation retreat. I’m a pretty good meditator now and I feel like I have quite a bit of understanding in this area. BUT, feeling like I knew everything actually slowed me from learning all that I could be learning.
To remedy this, there are a few strategies.
Being curious and interested with what is happening. Connecting to what’s happening will keep you interested in the process. What we often do is just go through the motions of whatever it is we're doing whether it is making dinner, sending an email, writing a report. You might even repeat to yourself, “I don’t know the best way to do this, but I’m going to try it this way…”
Brainstorm new ways. If you’re starting a creative project in business, work, or just for fun, you might want to stream-of-consciousness brainstorm 20 different ways of approaching a problem. Let some of the solutions be goofy and ridiculous. This will help you get outside the routine way of thinking.
Experiment with suggestions. I’ve collaborated with other teachers in the past, who have different ways of running workshops and retreats. Sometimes I work with teachers who do things totally different than I do. I'll admit it’s a challenge to let go of something that has worked well in the past, but sometimes I’m surprised at how well something new and experimental goes that I would have never considered before.
You may be wondering if you’ll lose confidence experimenting with Beginner’s Mind. You don’t have to lose confidence knowing that you don’t know. Beginner’s Mind is more about being open to possibility rather than set in routine habit.
You may be surprised how much more there is to learn when we let go of thinking we have it all figured out—I know from my experience. As adults, the majority of our thoughts are the same each day. So, it makes sense that we can easily fall into ruts in our thinking and the way we move through life. When we open up to “Beginner’s Mind,” there are many creative possibilities. It also helps us to feel freer too—understanding that we don’t have it all figured out.