If you are someone who likes knowing, going into unfamiliar situations may be terrifying.
I get this because I like knowing a lot. I read. I study. I love challenging my mind and learning new things. I am always hungry for a new challenge. At the same time, I am terrified of being behind. There is some inner critic that says, “You should have known that”. That fear, that somehow, I should have known or am behind can shut down my curiosity, my hunger to learn. Or when I go into certain situations where I think there is some expectation that I should know, I am tense.
I know I am not alone. I work with people all the time who are striving to succeed at higher and higher levels. What often happens is they get a new position in their company or a new opportunity in their business and find they don’t know all they think they should. Fear of being a fraud is often the experience, or something of that ilk. And I know that the unfamiliar situation, for many of us, brings back memories of not belonging or of being embarrassed.
One possible antidote to this fear is to bring beginner’s mind to the situation. You might remember when you were young in school or just starting out in your career or your business, it was all new and exciting and you (and I) were curious and open and learning. I loved that process- you likely did as well.
It is challenging to be at the top of one’s game and then suddenly be at the bottom of the next game. It is like you worked so hard to develop a great reputation and achieve success. You get that promotion or you get a new opportunity in your business. It is a stretch. You don’t know what you are doing, or at least don’t have a master’s knowledge or view. That can throw you into a panic. The thing to remember is you are in a learning curve. It might mean that you have to give up that fear of looking foolish and start getting curious again.
Why does this all happen? In my view, when we master something, we frequently stop bringing beginner’s mind to the ‘something’ and our own growth stops. It may even look like we are bored. For those of us with a driven personality style, that often means moving on, starting something else or even causing a shake-up or problems to combat our boredom. However, if we simply asked the question, “What could I learn?” or “What don’t I know?” whole new layers could open up to us.
In order to fully engage your mind in a beginner’s mind posture, recognize the fear is a fear of something happening that you can survive. Then get connected to why you are putting yourself in this position and why it is important to you. This simple mind exercise serves the purpose of calming your amygdala (your reptilian brain responsible for fight, flight, freeze and appease reaction) and engaging your higher order thinking of the executive brain. From there, you can think, create, imagine and really be in beginner’s mind.
Beginner’s mind is a tool of every great scientist, asking questions and asking them again and again allows for great discovery.