The Power of the Beginner's Mindset
If you don’t know the sport of Lacrosse, then you are missing out. It is an exhilarating sport and this year’s NCAA National Championship game was truly amazing. The University of Notre Dame beat powerhouse Duke to gain the title for the first time in school history. Two brothers, Pat and Chris Kavanagh were the heart of the team.
In the semifinals, Pat was hobbled by a hamstring injury which put his play in the championship game at risk. Many people thought there was no way he would be able to play at the high level required. But, play he did. He scored 3 goals and 5 assists.
When asked how he was able to do it, he said that Notre Dame’s goalie, Liam Entemann, told him the story of Navy Seal Mike Day. Despite being shot multiple times and suffering a shrapnel injury, Day was able to defend his position, direct Iraqi scouts to guard a group of women and children and make contact with the rest of his team, eventually being evacuated from the battlefield. Pat said that if Mike Day could do that, his injury didn’t seem like such a big deal and he could figure out how to run around a field and throw a ball.
This is an example of the power of mindset. Where before hearing the story, Pat was worried about how the pain of the injury would impact his performance, the discomfort became workable because he was able to perceive it differently.
Research over many years shows that harnessing the power of your mindset is an amazing tool. Think of mindset as the unique lens that you see life through. It is made up of the assumptions and expectations you hold about yourself, your life and the situations around you. Research shows that mindset plays a significant role in determining the way you think, feel and even physiologically respond as in the Pat Kavanagh example.
Developing a resilient mindset starts with something called the Beginner’s Mind. The Beginner's Mind is a centuries old philosophy of approaching everything with an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions.
Think of a young child coming across a new bug. They pick it up and stare at it and ask all sorts of questions. You know, those continual ‘Why’ questions that kids ask? They are excited and engaged. This openness and curiosity is the essence of the beginner's mind.
The benefits of cultivating this type of mindset are numerous. It allows you to be receptive to ideas and possibilities, see creative solutions to challenges, be able to ask for help more readily and view failure as constructive feedback. This type of attitude frees you from expectation which often leads to feelings of greater gratitude and peace as you move through life.
Anyone can nurture a Beginner’s Mind. Here are some practices that can get you started:
Focus on process: Focusing on what you are doing in the moment keeps you in the here and now which is essential to a healthy mindset.
Go slowly: Adults tend to operate on autopilot in a lot of areas. Slowing down and working to experience each step of an activity can relax your mind.
Avoid pre-judgement: Resist the temptation to assume. Instead adopt a wait and see attitude. This opens up your mind to possibilities.
Take a deep breath and be fully present in the moment: Checking in with all of your senses and notice what you are experiencing. It is like a mini-retreat for your mind.
Developing the Beginner’s Mind provides the foundation for a growth mindset where you see yourself as capable of improvement through your own efforts. Give these practices a try and see what unfolds for you.
Photo by Gene Gallin