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From the coaching couch

A beginner’s mind
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From the conversations I’m having with coaches everywhere, there’s a consistent theme that keeps emerging about people wanting to try something new. In some cases, this relates to their personal lives, but what I’m seeing above all else is a massive shift happening with careers.

We’ve talked before about the great resignation, but this latest trend goes beyond just switching employers; people are wanting to start a new business, or explore an idea they’ve had for a new career. Yet many are finding themselves stumped by one small (but significant) factor: they don’t know where to start.

I get it. Believe me, I do. You’ve taken years to become an expert in your field and now that you want to try something else, you doubt your ability to make it happen. You might be at the top of your game in a big law firm, but would you know how to run a small business? You might have always longed to write a book, but does the prospect of putting that first word on the page (let alone getting the damn thing published) send shivers down your spine?

First, let me reassure you that it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. If you’re being brave and taking the leap into a completely unknown space, then sure, there are probably some gaps in your knowledge. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When my clients create a new goal, I like to talk about the importance of having a beginner’s mind. This is where you clear the decks of everything you know from your former career. From my experience, people who hang onto all their old knowledge, thinking, habits, expertise, fears and insecurities sabotage their ability to start their new venture with a clean slate. Yes, all of the transferable skills and experience you have will be leveraged, but in the beginning you need to think like a beginner.

Pretend you’re at the launching pad of your career. Be playful and allow yourself to be creative. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. Read, research, reflect and brainstorm. Reach out to people and have new conversations with people out of your network. Allocate time to your plan. If you want to write a book, enrol in writing courses, speak to a published author, read prolifically. If you want to run a small business, seek out a mentor, find a work experience position, join a network, do some brainstorming. Be prepared to be committed and to immerse yourself deeply.

To find your beginner’s mind, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who do I know or could access that could help me learn and accelerate my growth and understanding?
  • How do I know what I don’t know?
  • How can I get myself out of the way of my old beliefs, habits and attachments to what success is meant to mean?

If you’re someone who wants to design a new chapter and do something really brave and different, the best thing you can do is embrace a beginner’s mind. After that, by all means bring in your transferable skills and tap into your existing network; you’ll be amazed by how much of what you already have relates to your new project. But in the initial stages, it’s beneficial to create a clear space that allows you to take some pressure off yourself and be OK with the idea that you don’t need to have all the answers right away.

– Lisa Stephenson

Image by @Windows

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