What is a “Beginner’s Mind” and Why Should You Adopt One?

Do you approach each day, each new patient appointment, with a beginner’s mind?

Beginner’s mind, or shoshin as it’s called in Japanese martial arts and Zen Buddhism, may seem like one of those obviously defined terms. Surely it describes someone new at learning a task or skill, one who is a novice — right? But the term is more nuanced and meaningful.

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According to Wikipedia, shoshin or beginner’s mind is described as having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

The phrase is also used in the title of the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, who says the following about the correct approach to Zen practice: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Unless you are a newly practicing chiropractor, you probably approach each day with a high degree of familiarity and comfort. Your routine is pretty well set, and your practice runs smoothly with a staff you trust and enjoy. Many of the patients you see may be new, but the adjustments they require are typical of the treatments you provide on a regular basis.

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At best, being too familiar and comfortable can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for what you do. At worst, it may result in boredom and bringing less than your best self to your practice and patients.

Pushing the ‘reset button’ and adopting an air of curiosity about the people you interact with, and how your practice operates has several benefits:

  • Adopting the attitude of a beginner’s mind allows you to focus on the unique needs of each patient, and connect with them on a more individual basis.
  • You’ll be able to apply a fresh pair of eyes and ears to how your practice is running. Are there complementary services and treatments that could be integrated into your practice? Are there inefficiencies that can be corrected? Is it time to freshen up the décor in the reception area of your office? Is your staff interacting with patients with warmth and kindness?
  • Remaining open and curious paves the way for making your staff feel valued. It helps you build rapport with your employees, and also allows for them to be comfortable with approaching you with new ideas and suggestions.
  • Applying shoshin to each day will help you maintain enthusiasm and passion for what you do. There will always be more to learn about the chiropractic profession, the people you work with and the people you care for.

American author Brian Herbert said this, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”

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A beginner’s mind is open and eager to learn, every day. Choose to have one, and put it to good use. Your practice and patients will benefit, and you’ll be happier, too.

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