Do you find yourself not listening, or tuning out in work meetings? Or hurrying up a conversation because you know how it’s going to go? Are you in a team where it’s easier to think yeah yeah rather than really consider what’s being said and being asked of you?
This is true in our personal lives too. You just know what your partner / child / friend is going to say, so you tune out, or have your reaction locked and loaded before they have uttered a word. I’m staying with my Mum in Perth at the moment – and man, this struggle is real! She can just sigh and I’m already alert with ‘uh oh, here we go’ and the poor woman hasn’t uttered a word!
This is where the idea of the beginners mind is really helpful.
The beginners mind doesn’t ask us to do anything new. It’s about un-doing – putting aside our automatic knowledge, our rote ways of doing, our tired beliefs and opinions, to create the space for something new to emerge.
‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.’ Alvin Toffler
You might be familiar with the Zen parable of the teacup. A brash student comes to the Zen master and asks to be taken on as a student. The teacher invites her to have a cup of tea and asks her about herself. The student immediately starts sharing and talking, full of their ideas, and excited by the possibility of learning with such a master. Meanwhile, the Zen master is pouring tea, and soon tea is spilling all over the table. Somewhat startled, the student asks ““what are you doing? The cup is overfull! No more will go in!” The master replies – “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added.”
In our work environments, we feel we need to show up knowing stuff – I mean, that’s why we were hired, right? The pressure is on to always know, and have the answers, and fill the space. So it can be difficult to cultivate a beginners mind, especially when we’re the clever one, or the leader, or the one with seniority.
We do this in part because our brain looks for shortcuts, but it’s not helping us lead effectively, or create a life and relationships that delight. The mindset I KNOW is such a blocker to anything new.
When we feel we have to keep proving ourselves this way, we are also at risk of not receiving the enormous contribution of ideas, energy, and inspiration that is available to us.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki
Constantly trying to show that you are the smartest in the room or on the team is an anathema for leadership in our complex world. We need to move beyond this egoic leadership style, and cultivate the humility of a beginners mind.
Doing so starts with noticing what you always KNOW.
Maybe this week practice noticing when you are tuning out, or already know something.
See what happens!