In many conversations and training sessions, I have heard about the powerful ‘beginner’s mindset’ of children. Here are some typical phrases:
“Children see the world very differently; they don’t have any biases.”
“Have an open mind, like a child!”
“Children are very creative; they don’t have assumptions like us.”
Very truthfully, I didn’t quite imbibe the meaning of these phrases till I had my own kid. I get the opportunity to observe her closely as she goes about her ‘toddler’ ways. Here are some unique things that I have observed her do.
She often reads her books upside down. Sometimes, she even pins the book to the floor and rotates around it.
When presented with a colouring book and crayons, she leaves marks on every page, identifying objects along the way. Instead of the ‘usual’ way of colouring one page as one would expect.
She is absolutely fascinated by an umbrella. She loves to spot them everywhere – on the road, in her books and even behind toys which indicate it is waterproof. And this fascination has got nothing to do with rain or sunshine, which are the primary association of umbrellas.
My toddler demonstrates all these behaviours because she has no preconceptions or assumptions about how the world is ‘supposed’ to work. She approaches her toys and situations in her own ‘childish’ way. Imagine if we were able to approach the world with the ‘beginner’s mindset? A concept adopted from Shoshin from Zen Buddhism, a beginner’s mindset refers to approaching something with eagerness and openness, keeping aside your biases and preconceptions.
In the context of learning, a beginner’s mindset plays a crucial role. It’s possible for someone pursuing advanced studies on a subject to feel closed off to new ideas in the domain. There is a tendency to feel:
“I already know this.”
“I have already tried this.”
Adopting a beginner’s mindset as a learner enables one to be open to different pieces of information coming in without getting caught up in a particular concept or style.