Being a beginner… it’s a challenge. Especially when you’ve become an expert at other things in your life. Owning up to feeling confused and not knowing what to do, starting off on something and doing it poorly, being in the middle of it and feeling like it’s not a part of your “self” and finishing up with something that gives you a sense of apprehension rather than pride… these are the hallmarks of being a beginner.
Have you ever felt like this? I have.
We don’t like being beginners and, after a certain age, we like it even less because we become accustomed to doing what we do well and being recognized for these things. But growing, personally or professionally, requires expansion into new areas of awareness, skill and expertise. It requires that we put our selves in the awkward position of being beginners. How we choose to react to this uncomfortable situation can affect the way we deal with the beginning task at hand. In other words, our own anxiety over being a beginner can actually thwart our ability to acquire new skills or experience the growth that comes from moving in new directions.
Recently, I have put myself in the position of trying to learn a new professional skill. I’ve signed up for a class that requires me to work completely out of my comfort zone and puts me in state of, mostly self-imposed, “competition” with individuals who are far more advanced than I am in this arena. I know that what I will learn will improve my life in ways both personal and financial, particularly if I can become proficient at it, but I am the quintessential beginner with all its dysfunctional emotions. I have spent far too many hours in angst over this new endeavor and, so, I recently put my inner, bratty child into the corner for a stern talking to. And this is what I told her about starting something new…
1. Everything we now know how to do was once something we didn’t know how to do. Think on that very hard for just a minute… think of that thing you know so well and do so well. Think on that thing that you know so well you could do it in your sleep and teach it to someone without a second thought. Think on that thing that is so much a part of your being that it defines who you are. At one time, you didn’t know how to do this. At one time, although it may have been a very long time ago, you were a beginner at this. Give yourself the gift of being clumsy, new and curious. Let that beginner in you have the chance to learn this new thing one small step at a time.
2. Comparing our selves to others diminishes our ability to fully blossom. When we compare our selves to others and come to accept the belief that they are better than we are, we relinquish our own possibility to excel beyond a certain point. Keep in mind that, in many cases, “perfection” is a completely subjective thing and that beauty is often really in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. In your anxiety over being a beginner, realize that what looks like perfection to you might not look quite that way to someone else. Give your self the room to grow without having to keep looking over the fence to see if the grass is greener. Believe that you can fully bloom and that your blossom might be a different size, color and shape than any other flower in the garden. Let others proficiency inspire rather than intimidate you.
3. Finding your joy will exponentially enhance the outcomes of all life experiences. We have spent a lifetime hearing things like not all of life is fun, that nothing comes easily and, of course, that all good things must come to an end. What if you could believe that from this day on, anything you add to your life, anything that requires some semblance of effort, added to the overall joy you experience? Not everything we do will be easy but challenges can be filled with a sense of joy and fulfillment that improves our quality of life and drives our sense of wonder. Let yourself feel the bliss that comes from pure enjoyment of learning and practicing without constantly seeing the objectives of tasks and responsibilities.
4. Relax and remember the power of practice. There is only one thing that you do well that came to you in one day: BREATHING. The moment you got here, the first thing that sustained you was your ability to… breathe. But, everything else took practice. Weeks and weeks, months and months, years and years—all these things that make you you, took practice. Over and over, you did these things because they brought you joy and made you feel more like who you wanted to become. When you are beginning again, relax and remember the you who practiced until you got it right. Remember that not everything will turn out right the first time you do it—or even the second or the third. Relax, practice and remember to breathe.
Being a beginner… yes, it’s a challenge. But you can become an expert at many things in this life and you can believe this if you choose. Feeling confused and not knowing what to do are what all of us feel when we begin, doing something poorly is still doing something, and being in the middle of it and, all of the sudden, feeling like a part of your “self” just expanded gives you a sense of pride and the urge to carry on… Yes, these, too, are the hallmarks of being a beginner.
TRY THIS WEEK: Let yourself begin.