My eldest girl pushed off and hurtled down the bunny slope, arms out, knees touching, her skis turned inward in the “pizza wedge” stance she had just learned that morning. Her first time skiing was going much better than I had expected.
Suddenly she lunged sideways and fell, hitting the snow, rolling over and over, and finally coming to an awkward stop.
Here we go, I thought.
But instead of collapsing into a wailing heap of tears, she clambered back to her feet, looked at me and yelled with glee, “Did you see that wipeout?” She then hurried to the lift, ready to take another run at the hill.
There she was, completely engaged in the joy of learning something new. She was having a ball, staying in the moment, and not letting any number of falls deter her from practicing and improving.
So why is it that we, as adults, beat ourselves up when we “fall,” and often decide not to even stay in the game anymore?
I can tell you – it’s this judgment of ourselves, because we have stumbled, as not capable, not good enough, etc., and it’s based on a severely limited and actually self-sabotaging belief. That we should somehow, at the point, “know what we’re doing” already!
What a crock!
In Zen, they have an attitude that’s called the “Beginner’s Mind.” And in fact, they argue that by staying in the place of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions – well, miracles can happen well beyond if we “knew it all” already!
As I watched my kids employ the Beginners Mind in the purest of ways (that is, being real beginner skiers) I remembered some valuable lessons:
Take One Step at a Time – Climbing up a snowy hill in skis forces you to slow down and literally take one step after another. However, in life, it’s easy to get caught up in the destination and ignore or rush through crucial steps along the way.
Fall Down 6 Times, Get Up 7 – You must remind yourself that missteps are part of the “learning curve.” The truth is, we often learn more from our mistakes than we do our triumphs. So when you take a spill, shout happily “Wow, what a wipeout!” And go again.
You Don’t Have To Know – One of the pitfalls of knowing a lot already, is believing you know everything. It takes courage and self-confidence to admit you don’t know something. But it is the only gateway to learning. What you know belongs to the past. This moment, however, brings new challenges, insights and wisdom.
Ask – Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell was asked how he found such interesting things to write about, his reply was, “I ask good questions.” Pay as much attention to the questions you ask as you do the answers. And don’t stop asking.
Color Outside the Lines – Every great innovator has been told more than once that his or her idea will not work or that they are “doing it the wrong way.” Be open to unconventional ways of doing things. Common sense is highly overrated.
So I encourage you to cultivate your own Beginner’s Mind and consciously approach new endeavors from an open-minded “not knowing” that is devoid of limiting preconceptions. You’ll be amazed at the freedom you’ll feel.
And who knows? You might just learn something.