As adults, it’s easy to stay in our comfort zones, and trying something new can feel more than a tad challenging. But there are many benefits to adopting a beginner’s mindset, says psychologist Lana Hall, author of The Slow Life Project.
First, she says, when we’re about to embark on a new experience, we tend to shed our usual judgments about ourselves. “We don’t expect to do well at something when we’re a beginner, so it can help us feel more of a sense of self-compassion and a sense of being taken care of; a kindness towards ourselves.”
Adopting a beginner’s mindset allows us to practise mindfulness.Credit:Getty Images
Being a beginner also allows us to practise mindfulness. Because there is so much fresh information to take in, we become finely attuned to our environment and how we feel within it, allowing us to really lose ourselves in the moment.
Stepping outside our comfort zone can also do wonders for our self-esteem. “Although it’s scary doing something new, once you’ve done it and realise, ‘I can do that,’ you feel more confident,” Hall says. “If you want to grow in life, you need to embrace the new. That’s how you’ll find your next friend or get that next promotion.”
Esha Thaper, a 37-year-old who works in marketing, knows all of this from experience. In the past couple of years she’s tried her hand at everything from playing squash to singing, learning guitar and even starting her own hemp seed oil business, Khush Mountain.
Thaper wasn’t always enthusiastic about trying new things. But during the pandemic she became more introspective and began to realise her life mainly consisted of work, socialising and dating, with little time dedicated to pursuing her interests.
While she was keen to learn new skills, she felt “daunted” by the idea of being a beginner as an adult. “You sort of feel like there’s an age cut-off; that if you didn’t start something by the time you’re 25, there’s no point. Many people also probably wonder, ‘What’s the point? You’re never going to be great [at it].’ ”
But “being great” was never her aim. Instead, Thaper wanted to experience the childlike joy of simply learning. If you’re interested in taking your first swimming lesson or dabbling in the drums, it’s natural to feel apprehensive about pursuing those goals. Hall says people often interpret that discomfort as a sign we shouldn’t give the new experience a go. “Reminding yourself that you have that feeling because you’re doing something different, not something wrong, can help you manage,” she says.
But if you’re not veering outside your comfort zone because you don’t have the time or resources to splash on a new hobby, tweaking your approach can help. Hall says taking baby steps, such as watching short YouTube videos or attending free talks, can be a gentle way to move towards your goals, minus the time and financial commitments.
Just don’t expect to shine in your new challenge straight away. While Thaper was all bright-eyed when she first picked up a guitar, she didn’t realise how hard it would be at first, and how much she’d need to “push past” the feeling she’d never improve.
She’s glad she persevered. Since adopting a beginner’s mindset, Thaper is bouncing around with a new-found zest for life. “I feel more confident, happier and well-rounded … and like I’m a more interesting person – not just to other people, but to myself.”
Evelyn Lewin is a GP and freelance writer.
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