Updated: May 4
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
- Shunryu Suzuki
Beginner's Mindset means that you approach things with a fresh set of eyes. When you can do this on a daily basis, it opens you up to a perspective of welcoming new ideas, accepting criticism as a means to improve, and focusing on the long term process versus the immediate success. The basics, with a beginners mindset you don’t see things as right and wrong. Instead, it’s a way to create practical solutions and focusing on the present moment.
Expert Mindset is when athletes have gained enough experience in a particular task or activity that their actions are more of an automatic response. When athletes approach things with an expert mindset, they tend to play to their strengths and formulate opinions based on past experiences. This can lead to a more rigid way of performing that can stifle creativity and improving. The basics, the expert mindset draws from past experiences to make conclusions and acts or reacts with an automatic response.
Both mindsets are important to have when competing. A expert mindset is the sum of your experiences. It’s the habits or muscle memory that you have developed to perform without thinking or over thinking. Your expert mindset fuels your confidence because it is a reminder of your approach to the game and what you are currently good at.
However, once you have develop a level of mastery with a skill, task, or sport, reliance on your expert mindset can result in stagnation and an eventual plateau in performance.
It’s for this reason why you need to tap into your beginner's mindset. Be it for acquiring a new skill or continuing to hone and increase mastery on a given task, skill, or sport.
Tips For Honing Your Beginners Mindset:
1. Deliberate Practice: be more focused and analytical by identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Then, create a plan to improve and make your weaknesses your strengths. Do this by taking the time to learn the right techniques to improve your skill sets, the tactical skills to improve your strategy and approach to your sport, the physical aspects to improve strength, speed, and endurance, and your mental game to improve focus, mindset, and confidence.
2. Varied Repetition: Steph curry does this in his pregame warmups. He works on taking shots from everywhere around the court, including shots from the entrance to the court, sidelines, full court, half court, three point line, and baseline. The goal, when you work on something, approaching it from different angles. Robson (2021) refers to it as repetition without repetition, “it forces the brain’s learned patterns to become more flexible, allowing you to cope with the unpredictable difficulties - such as a mistake in one of your earlier movements that could lead you to lose control.”
3. Coach Others: Learn and improve by teaching others will help you to increase interest and curiosity, which in turn strengthens memory and patterns (muscle memory).
4. Learn By Observing Others: Learn from experts and from others closer to your skill level. Watching experts can help you to understand and to create your long term goals and how you want to one day do things. On the other hand, observing others closer to your skill level allows you to spot mistakes and strengths in others abilities that can help you to improve your game. The reason being, it’s easier to spot what is right and wrong with a technical, tactical, physical, or mental skills when you observe someone closers to your skill level.
5. Be Aware Of Your Expert Mindset And How It Places Judgement: remember, when you place judgement or think of a good or bad reason to do or not to do something, it’s based on past experiences and what you have come to believe. In these moments understand why you're labeling things this way. For example, you can ask yourself questions like:
i. Are you acting or reacting impulsively based on habit?
ii. What do you gain or lose by avoiding something or deciding to just do it?
iii. Whether you decide to do it or not, will it be helpful or hurtful for me to take time time and put in the effort to do this?
iv. And like Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” You never really know how things will end up, until you just give it at try!
Tapping into your beginners mindset involves letting go of your expectations and preconceived ideas when it comes to things like practices and competitions. It also involves being able to see things with a fresh perspective, like when you are learning things for the first time. It’s the curiosity to make discoveries in the moment, to have a “nothing to lose attitude,” and to put forth your best effort.
It is a simple practice you can even try when eating food. The next meal you eat, take a moment to examine your food. See what ingredients you can spot, the texture, the temperature (e.g., the hot and cold elements that go into a sandwich), the colors, the different smells, etc… Then, as you eat your food, close your eyes and try to identify the different flavors and ingredients based on taste and smell.
1. Think about the last time you actually focused on just observing and eating a meal.
2. Did it taste different from what you imagined / observed?
3. Were there other flavors or ingredients you noticed while eating that weren’t noticeable when looking or smelling it?
4. Did your meal taste different or even better because you focused on it?
5. Did you feel more satiated and full after eating?
6. Imagine what insights you could gain by taking this approach to work, school, friendships, free-time, and sports?
As with any new experience, there will be a roller coaster of success, failure, frustration, and joy.
What makes it worthwhile?
The challenge of learning something new, feeling the excitement of the unknown, and being able to acquire a new skill. The biggest surprise is when you actually make the time and put in the effort. The experience is more often than not, much different from what you expect, and likely a lot more fun!
Brzosko, M. (2018, March 26). How To Cultivate Beginner's Mind to Become a True Expert. Retrieved April 28, 2021, from https://betterhumans.pub/how-to-cultivate-beginners-mind-to-become-a-true-expert-b2e82953318d
Brzosko, M. (2020, August 25). How To Cultivate Beginner's Mind to Be a True Expert. Retrieved April 28, 2021, from https://selfawareness.blog/beginners-mind-to-be-an-expert/
Council, Y. E. (2020, April 27). Council Post: The Counterintuitive Advantage Of A Beginner's Mindset. Retrieved April 28, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/04/24/the-counterintuitive-advantage-of-a-beginners-mindset/?sh=23a571ef5c53
How a 'beginners' mindset' can help you learn anything. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210222-how-a-beginners-mindset-can-help-you-learn-anything
Talansky, A. (2021, March 01). The Beginner's Mindset. Retrieved April 28, 2021, from https://www.andrewtalansky.com/blog/the-beginners-mindset
Team, G. (2020, April 17). Approaching Life with a Beginner's Mind. Retrieved April 28, 2021, from https://gttherapygroup.com/blogsandnews/2019/4/29/beginners-mind