Lifelong Learning Starts With A Beginner’s Mind by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

Most people have worked for someone who has been in the same job for an extended period of time. These leaders tend to fall into two categories, those who stopped learning and remained stuck at their current level of knowledge and understanding and those who continued to learn, evolve, and innovate.

The second group of leaders or individuals at any level has the advantage. These individuals have developed a passion for lifelong learning. They are constantly engaged in learning new things, researching possibilities, and responding to changes in the industry, process, or technology.

One of the techniques these lifelong learners have mastered is the ability to see the world through a beginner’s mind. A beginner’s mind does not hold to existing ideas and opinions as if they are the best and only possibility. Instead, a beginner’s mindset looks at everything as a unique idea that is neither good nor bad but simply another option to consider.

This is not an easy practice to learn. To help develop a beginner’s mind in approaching both novel and daily activities, consider the following ideas, tips, and strategies.

Be Present

Cultivating mindfulness is helpful in silencing the inner voice that may be critical of considering something new. Instead, take a few deep breaths and clear your mind of those “what ifs,” or “that’s not the right way,” or other similar judgmental thoughts.

Instead, listen in the moment to the information, be open to new experiences, and be willing to listen and attempt to understand the perspectives of others. Do not worry about how this will fit with a current idea or practice; just absorb the information as presented. If you find yourself mentally judging or dismissing the new information, take a few deep breaths and bring yourself back to the present and judgment-free information intake.

Be Curious

Take time to look at things around you and wonder why and how. This can be as simple as starting with why you take a specific route to work and home again. Then, think about how you could take a different route. Instead of assuming the information provided or the processes used are the only options, ask about other possibilities.

Be Free From Ego 

Many people stop their quest for lifelong learning when they think they already know everything about the subject or area. This is the ego speaking, as new innovations occur in any field on an ongoing basis.

Letting go of needing to have the answers is also freeing up the mind to learn more, particularly in areas of passion and focus.

Taking the time to explore options, ask questions, be present and curious, and let know of judgment helps you to create both a beginner’s mind and a lifelong quest for knowledge and learning.