In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
– Shunryu Suzuki, Zen teacher
Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning Beginner’s Mind.
To have a Beginner’s Mind means to remain open to new ideas and concepts, to retain a sense of wonder and curiosity. When one has a Beginner’s Mind, one has a willingness to have one’s beliefs and knowledge challenged. The Beginner’s Mind remains eager to learn, still marvels with amazement.
The Beginner’s Mind is a mind that is not already made up. It is a mind that is open to whatever occurs; it observes without expectation. In its ultimate form, it is similar to a child’s mind, innocent of judgments, preconceptions, and prejudices.
The ability to have a Beginner’s Mindset is powerful. The ability to free one’s mind of the constraints of all previous conditioning and view a person, situation, experience with fresh eyes sparks creativity, innovation, and invention.
Retaining the Beginner’s Mindset is the equivalent of unlocking the mind. It allows us to remain approachable to new ideas, new concepts, new information, without dismissing them out of hand.
We pre-judge things for a reason. Every day we are presented with an overwhelming amount of data and experience. We do not have time to evaluate each occurrence from scratch. Without some type of sorting mechanism we would spend our lives in data gridlock. However, for most of us the “categorization habit” is so ingrained that the greater danger lies in “throwing out the baby with the bath water,” in discarding useful inputs without realizing their game-changing potential.
Having the ability to invoke the Beginner’s Mindset is a potent tool to possess in your life skills toolbox. Just being aware of the concept, having a memorable name tag for it to help you recall it in the moment of decision, the time of action, will help you internalize the skill and use it appropriately. Remember, to learn and not apply is to not learn. One of the most common ways of not learning is to dismiss something as too simple to be useful or as something already known (but never used).
What have you closed your mind to lately? How skilled are you at opening your mind? Can you adopt a Beginner’s Mindset? Do you have the ability to drop your pre-conceptions, your expectations?
“There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” — Charles F. Kettering (American engineer, inventor of the electric starter)
“An open mind, like an open window, should be screened to keep the bugs out.” – Virginia Hutchinson
“You can have such an open mind that it is too porous to hold a conviction.” – George Crane
“The open mind never acts: when we have done our utmost to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, we still must close our minds for the moment with a snap, and act dogmatically on our conclusions.” — George Bernard Shaw, “Androcles and the Lion”