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Learn To Start Over; Be A Beginner

beginnings..
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sir Mervs [deleted]

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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”   – Shunryu Suzuki

When we are children everything is a new beginning and being a beginner is no big deal, we don’t even think about it.  Being a beginner means learning a new subject in school, practicing a new sport or experiencing a new part of nature.  As kids, these things are exciting and we have no embarrassment at being new to them.  Without beginnings we would stay inexperienced.

But as we get older, out of our teenage years and into adulthood, our attitude changes about being a beginner.  Suddenly, being a beginner  isn’t desirable, because we feel embarrassed about our lack of experience.  Especially as we begin to develop experience in other areas of life, the thought of being a beginner in another area makes us uncomfortable.  But, just like when we were kids, beginning’s mean new growth.  Don’t be afraid to be a beginner again, without it you are just standing still.

Feeling Like An Idiot

Being a beginner requires you to admit that you don’t know everything, and many of us hesitate to put ourselves in this situation.  Gaining expertise in certain areas of your life feels good – people come to you with questions, you can use your own judgment to solve problems and life feels comfortable.  This is why putting yourself in beginner’s shoes again is uncomfortable – you don’t want to feel like (or look like) an idiot in front of other people.  Beginner’s have to ask many questions and make mistakes in order to learn, and sometimes we forget that being uncomfortable is simply a part of growth.

Starting Over

Sometimes you become a beginner when you are starting over.  You left your last job, you moved to a new city, or you parted ways with your last relationship partner.  It can be uncomfortable to be a beginner again in an area that you already had expertise.  But, when you recognize that you are going in the wrong direction, starting over is the only way to go.  If you wanted to drive to Miami, but realized you were going towards New York, would you simply keep going because you didn’t want to turn around?  No, you would pull off the highway and turn your car in the other direction.  Sometimes you have to go back the way you came in order to go forward.

Always Growing

The great news about being a beginner is that beginning’s mean growth.  Sometimes, life puts a situation in your path that forces you to become a beginner, but you also need to be on the lookout for situations in which you can choose to be a beginner again.  Learning to work through discomfort in new situations is a critical life skill.  There are so many things that you can do if you are comfortable starting over at the beginning every once in a while.

Don’t be afraid to start over.  Beginners are actually experts at growth. 😉

Have you been a beginner recently?  What did you begin and what growth occurred because of it?  Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section!

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Christopher February 2, 2009, 10:20 pm

    Great message! Thank you for this.

    Christopher’s last blog post..The Secret to Happiness: Seven Ways to Savor Life

  • LifeMadeGreat - Juliet February 3, 2009, 1:29 am

    Hi Amanda

    Great post. Such an important reminder.

    I think that sometimes what also makes it unpleasant to start over with something as an adult is the fact that we may have forgotten some of the underlying knowledge in that area. Laziness!
    For example, if I were to want to build on mathematics now, gosh, I’d have to go back to some time in school to revise!

    Juliet

    LifeMadeGreat – Juliet’s last blog post..Overcoming The Barriers Of Introversion: Starting The Process

  • Daphne February 3, 2009, 1:35 am

    Hi Amanda,

    Your post is spot on. The smartest people I know never stop learning. They ask the most questions. They listen most attentively to answers from people who supposedly know less than them.

    I started blogging last August because I wanted to learn something new from scratch. I suppose that was the last time I chose to be a beginner. I still feel like a beginner, and it’s wonderful because I’m still learning so much!

    Thanks for a great post.

    Daphne’s last blog post..8 Lessons A Nearly-Dead Dog Taught Me About Living

  • Ian Peatey February 3, 2009, 3:29 am

    Amanda

    It really helps having a young child around and I’m often simply amazed when I look at the world through her eyes. If we’re not growing and learning then I guess we’re stagnating. I, for one, have no intention of stagnating so try to find new things to learn as often as I can. Learning to ski in my late thirties (together with a bunch of kids!) was a very humbling (and fun) experience.

    Ian

  • Lee Ann / Living Introverted February 3, 2009, 8:57 am

    Hi Amanda,

    I like the experts at growth idea. Instead of feeling foolish and a little stupid when I start something new that I know little or nothing about, I can now call myself a “Growth Expert”!

    This is a great post that reinforces both the need to grow and learn and that it’s really OK to be a newbie, even if you’re well past childhood and school.

    Thanks!

    Lee Ann / Living Introverted’s last blog post..Are Introverts Lucky? Maybe No, Maybe Yes.

  • Amanda Linehan February 3, 2009, 9:44 pm

    Christopher – Thanks! Glad you stopped by.

    Juliet – Great point, I forgot that one 🙂 Having to re-learn previously known material is tedious!

    Daphne – Yes, the best beginners ask a lot of questions. Starting a blog definitely made me feel like a beginner too – it’s been worth it!

    Ian – Right, if you are not growing then you are just standing still. (I don’t want to do that either!) Skiiing sounds like a great way to be a beginner.

    Lee Ann – Haha, yes we are all “growth experts” when we are beginners.

  • Peter | The Change Blog February 4, 2009, 2:16 am

    Nice article Amanda.

    I’ve started over a number of times (eg moving from Australia to Canada), and each time has been both challenging and exciting. Having said this, I haven’t started over for awhile now and I’m starting to get the itch to again do something new.

    PS – I like the new look. The Thesis theme is definitely showing up on a lot of blogs these days, but for good reason IMHO because it is such a nice, clean design.

    Peter | The Change Blog’s last blog post..What Do You See?

  • Amanda Linehan February 5, 2009, 12:03 am

    Peter – Thanks for the comment! Yes, that “itch” can tell us when it’s time to start over again. Thanks for the compliment on the new theme.

  • Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching February 5, 2009, 3:42 am

    Thanks for this post. I think another great thing about staying curious in our lives is that it makes life more interesting and fun. If I am feeling curious I can look at the stucco on my wall and see amazing patterns I hadn’t noticed before. Experiences like that show me that our relationship to life, not the content of our lives, is the most important factor in keeping us fulfilled.

    Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching’s last blog post..Guest Article At The Positivity Blog: “How To Get Comfortable With An Empty Mind”

  • Juan Bielsa February 5, 2009, 10:32 am

    What a beautiful and original post, Amanda! What a wonderful possibility, having the privilege of starting something new, what a blessing when we can start over another time, regardless our mistakes, age, regarless anything.

    You point so interesting thoughts and suggestions… You are right, when we start something new we are truly growing, we are not in our cherised comfort zones. So we have humility, we have now the great opportunity, as you say, to really grow.

    When someone begins something new there is enthusiasm and, as you say, ask many questions (that’s the way of learning…), and make so many mistakes, but a mistake is positive if we are willing to improve and learn from it.

    When we begin something we are humble, so our ego is so tiny… and for that reason we are then in tune with the Infinite.

    Thank you, Amanda, for this article. We certainly must have “the spirit of the beginner” to go ahead growing. You are so right and write about it so wonderfully.

    Amanda, in my blog Poetic Painting I’ve nominated you for the Scribble Award. I imagine you are very busy, but if you have the time, you can visit the post where I link to your blog. You can find it here :

    Poetic Painting – Scribble Award

    You write very well, so you deserve this nomination. My friend the great artist Kim Rodeffer, who have received the real award, bestowed on me a nomination, so I can now nominate some other people who are great writers. People who have won this award are great writers. I am not interested much on awards, for me the real award was to receive the nomination from the hands of Kim Rodeffer, an extraordinary person and painter.

    Another time I said to you that I had added a link to your blog from a list of motivational blogs, the very best blogs on the matter I know (and certainly yours is among them). I forgot to tell you where it is. Just for curiosity, you can find it here:

    Motivational blogs

    Sorry for the length for the comment.

    Keep the great work. All the best,

    Juan Bielsa

    Juan Bielsa’s last blog post..Thanks a lot

  • Hi Amanda

    I wholeheartedly agree. I start all my teleclasses with an agreement that everyone keeps a beginner’s mind. It’s a real gift to be humble enough to let go of your know-it-all status and really soak up the new info.

    Even as a fan of beginner’s mind I read this post with one when I could have been like “yeah, yeah I know all that” and as a result took in the journey to NY analogy at a whole other level.

    In love, light and abundance x x x

    Lola Fayemi / Nourishment for your spiritual awakening’s last blog post..9 Ways to Free Yourself from Old Wounds

  • Brenda|Soul Realignment February 5, 2009, 12:20 pm

    What a wonderful post!
    I have been experiencing this type of phenomenon more and more lately. I will be trying to come up with a resolution to a feeling, situation, or problem, and I suddenly realize that the answer is not what I require. What I actually need to do is to sit with the unresolved nature of the issue. To enjoy the curiosity and wondering phase, so to speak. To be ok with not knowing the answer. Then, I remember, that most often it is the question that is more important than the answer! Although uncomfortable for the ego at times, this state of not knowing or being a beginner, as you so sweetly coined it, is actually fun and a bit of a relief!
    Thanks,
    Brenda

    Brenda|Soul Realignment’s last blog post..Are You Ready to Serve? Yes!

  • Amanda Linehan February 5, 2009, 8:42 pm

    Chris – Thanks for your comment. I like your point about our relationship to life being more important than the content of our life. You can be curious about anything 🙂

    Juan – Thanks very much for the compliment on my writing. I will certainly take some time to check out your blog. I enjoyed what you said about being “humble” when we begin something. That’s true, and it puts us in a good frame of mind.

    Lola – That’s great that you remind your students of beginners mind at the beginning of your classes. We all need to be reminded often!!

    Brenda – Thanks for your comment. Sitting “with the unresolved nature of the issue” is difficult to do, but sometimes we need some confusion so we can become clear.

  • Gennaro February 5, 2009, 11:03 pm

    Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is one of my favorite books. Best on meditation itself. It’s very true that a blank slate can learn a lot more easily than a person’s with years of experiences and knowledge. As the ancient saying goes: wisdom is knowing what knowledge to lose.

    Gennaro’s last blog post..Hawaii Hotels Empty: Deals?

  • Andrew February 6, 2009, 9:38 am

    Hi Amanda,

    Based on what I have seen in this post, which is the first one of yours which I have read, I concur with the comments of Juan about your writing. The thoughts and ideas which you have expressed here are very well laid out in a clear and logical manner.

    The biggest experience which I have had in starting over again was about four years ago, when I changed occupations (from accounting to teaching English) and moved from the city of Melbourne in Australia to a rural area in the countryside in South Korea.

    The process was extremely daunting at first, particularly as I did not know a single word of Korean when I came, and because I live in a rural area, there are very few people in my town who speak any English.

    Nevertheless, the four years I have spent in Korea have simply been a great experience for me, and I have been able to expand my horizons to a degree which I would never have imagined possible when I was living back in Australia.

    Andrew’s last blog post..How healthy is Apple’s disclosure?

  • Liara Covert February 6, 2009, 11:49 am

    Ever notice how children do not second guess or doubt their intuition? It is adults who condition notions of right and wrong, acceptable and unaccpetable. Once new ideas are ingrained, children often move away from listening to themselves. Some people believe the physical existence is the way to evolve back to the core self. It is the path to remembering how to listen to soul.

  • Amanda Linehan February 6, 2009, 11:24 pm

    Gennaro – Thanks for your comment. I will have to add Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind to my reading list. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Andrew – Thanks for your comment and thank you for the compliment. Your move from Australia to South Korea sounds daunting! It’s great you made the best of it.

    Liara – Children are wonderful examples of a lot of things. We need to observe them more often.

  • Trey - Swollen Thumb Entertainment February 7, 2009, 1:39 am

    I appreciate the zen like approach to this subject. Right now, I am a beginner in a lot of things. Blogging, cutting vocals, networking, but I’m immersing myself in these things, and approaching them as a beginner, walking before I run.

    I believe that if more people were willing to accept themselves as beginners at things, then they would be able to achieve their dreams, and accomplish many things.

    Trey – Swollen Thumb Entertainment’s last blog post..Top 10 Problems With The Movie Industry

  • Roger February 7, 2009, 2:50 pm

    Another great topic Amanda,

    As one who spends most of his life feeling like an idiot, I appreciate the wisdom in what you are saying. For me, there is nothing better than a new experience. I feel for those who somehow feel the do not deserve or feel incapable of trying new things.

    Your driving analogy especially strikes a chord with me. Normally I have a great sense of direction but once drove for six hours in the wrong direction before seeing an exit sign pointing to another country. Although I felt a little stupid for not taking a better look at the map, we did see countryside we would have missed without the error.

    Namaste,
    Roger

    Roger’s last blog post..The Moments That Shape Us

  • Arswino February 8, 2009, 4:27 am

    Hi Amanda, great post.
    As long as we live, we are always compelled to learn new things, for example the fast technology development compelled us to adjust ourselves.
    Thanks for sharing, Amanda.

    Arswino’s last blog post..Life That Can Be Explained In One Sentence

  • Amanda Linehan February 8, 2009, 10:42 pm

    Trey – Right, in order to reach our dreams we have to start at the beginning. 🙂

    Roger – Wow, 6 hours! I guess even when we are going the wrong direction there are positives (seeing the countryside).

    Arswino- Absolutely, technology is a great example. We are always a beginner at some new technology.

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