How to escape from the slavery of old habits

Ever since the birth of mankind, humans are trained to observe and follow. 

When football coaches get their first job, they are given the role of an assistant coach with their alma mater or a team they once played with. After a couple of years, when they get promoted, they tend to replicate the same drills that they learned from their coaches. 

Our political and religious beliefs are largely inspired by our parents. Similarly, the way we work is a result of what we learned from our last mentor.

We tend to repeat the behavior that we are exposed to. This holds true for almost everything we learn in life.

Because the people we imitate are not experts in the field but just in a particular style. In this manner, we fall prey to the practice of being the slave of our old beliefs. 

However, ask yourself is there only one way to do things? Is your way the optimal way or is it steeped in your beliefs?

Shoshin: The Beginner’s Mind

Zen Buddhism has a concept called Shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind”. It refers to the idea of letting go of preconceptions and learning with a fresh perspective. 

As a beginner, you have the curiosity to acquire more information. However, as you gain more expertise, your mind won’t be open to new learning. 

The Zen master Shunryo Suzuki has coined it beautifully “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

The danger of expertise is related to the way it blocks the information that doesn’t coincide with the old learnings. 

Be mindful when you know 98% of something and remember you still have to learn the remaining 2%.

Here are a couple of ways to rediscover your beginner’s mind.

It’s not always about adding values: Very often, high achievers have a need to provide value to people around them. 

While a great intent, it can backfire. Not only will it make others question their thought process, it will also handicap your progress. Simply because you never step back and listen.

So, step back every now and then and just observe and listen. 

You don’t need to win every argument

Ben Casnocha, a famous author and entrepreneur once said “Others don’t need to lose for me to win.”, which explains the theory of Shoshin. 

Not agreeing to something doesn’t always mean that you have to end up in an argument. You can listen to other’s opinions and it will open doors to a new perspective without the need for anyone to lose.

Letting go of the need to prove a point opens up the possibility for you to learn something new. Approach it from a place of curiosity.

Be a good listener

Challenge yourself to stay quiet and listen. This will enable you to open your mind to a new perspective.

There is no harm in calling yourself an idiot

“I try to remind my group each week that we are all idiots and know nothing, but we have the good fortune of knowing it.” –

Nassim, Author 

We all learn information from someone and somewhere. The key is to realize this influence.

If we know what influences us, we can change it by letting go of our preconceptions and approach life with a beginner’s mind.


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