Beginner's Mind, also known as Shoshin hails from the world of Zen Buddhism. Essentially, Shoshin refers to cultivating a mental attitude of openness and enthusiasm, while releasing notions of preconception or assumption, when studying something, even at an advanced level. The concept of Beginner's Mind is best encapsulated by the following quote,
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." ~Shunryu Suzuki
The Dunning-Kruger effect , as per Wikikpedia, is: "a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes." Essentially, the less expertise we possess, the more inclined we are to overestimate our skills. wah wah, right?
Though these two theories, may on face value seem to contradict one another, I actually think that they share a lot of common ground. Let's ask ourselves, what it means to be an expert at something, or to consider ourselves accomplished at something? Clearly, we believe that we have above average skill and knowledge pertaining to the subject at hand and this often garners us respect, deference and prestige. In this framework, there is a distinct danger that we will A- believe we know all there is to know about our chosen field, followed by B - as a result of "knowing it all" we will stop asking questions, learning and exploring in our field, leading us to rest on our laurels or stagnate in our field.
When we rather consider that we might be average or even below average, we are instead drawn to A - become more ambitious in our pursuit of learning, and B - work harder to make gains in our field.
Have you ever noticed how hard it can be for some people, usually those who have the most seniority or tenure, to handle changes to infrastructure in their work environment? Perhaps it's a new system of invoicing or a new software program. It could be as trivial as a new policy or rearranging desks, but this is where we can connect these two theories. There's nothing wrong with being an expert, as long as you can retain that hunger to learn and avoid the complacency that often arises when we assume we know what the outcomes of our actions will be.
Remember, a master never stops being curious or continuing to learn, and neither should we. I personally love the dichotomy in my life of being both a teacher and student of yoga. I want to have my assumptions and beliefs challenged, I want to learn more, grow more and I want to share my learning experiences with others, to inspire, to incite, to provoke thought and challenge preconceptions.
I hope this crisp Monday morning inspires you to experience the enthusiasm, creativity and openness we feel when we are at the beginning of something new! Dive in! Namaste!