Seeing with a Beginner’s Mind
If you had to stop every single program except for one, what would it be?
In my experience moving forward requires entirely taking stock of your organization’s situation. No critical judgment needed to good or bad, only a fresh set of eyes on how things are.
Seeing problems or opportunities is a choice, but acknowledging reality is necessary for survival.
You may see obstacles and limitations. Leave behind assumptions and look with the beginner's mind. We find what we look for and expect. Our experience colors our perspective.
What Is Your Core Mission?
The most powerful action you can take every workday is asking yourself this fundamental question.
Are your actions and programming in line with that mission? Can you and your team answer this question in one sentence?
If you are doing this mission well, that’s great! If not, there is no better time than now to analyze why you have strayed.
One way of taking an honest look at your assets and your goals is by taking a step back to gain perspective.
That Is the Advantage of Using Beginners Mind
Here are some suggestions on achieving beginners mind.
- Before going to work, check your knowledge at the door as if you were using a coat check. Don’t start over but enter the space with new eyes.
- Associate the action of opening the door to your business with opening your mind and leaving behind any preconceived notions.
- Pretend (in your mind) to meet each person as if you were meeting them for the first time.
- Look at the contents of your workspace. What do they convey?
- Meet those you serve with fresh eyes. Walk in as a new client one day, as a donor the next, and as an independent, neutral observer with nothing to gain or lose.
- Reread the words and messages present in your company’s materials. Are there certain words that occur repeatedly? Revisit their meaning.
Words can often take on a life of their own and solidify concepts that are obstacles to improvement.
Make this a regular practice and your perception will become more flexible and open.
In beginners-mind, drop what might have happened in the past, what could have happened, the politics and the personalities.
Every day is a new beginning. Every quarter is a new beginning. Every fiscal year is a new beginning. Every calendar year is a new beginning.
We might think others don’t understand the dilemmas we face, but we are not as readily willing to admit the possibility that we have not seen all the angles.
Benefits of a Beginner’s Mind
You will have stepped back enough from the issues to have a shift in perspective.
In many areas, your mind will be able to see more clearly: staffing, fundraising, board development. You may not even view them as issues anymore.
You may question why your organization had been pushing so hard to find funding for a project before your team has presented a compelling reason for the creation of the plan.
Prior you may have seen a lack in staff resources as insurmountable, and now you may see untapped resources.
You might have perceived a lack of funding, and maybe now you realize you have strayed from your core mission.
Perceived barriers are opportunities to organize and get back to basics.
Instead of seeing an inability to meet the needs of the population you serve, you realize how badly you are needed! In business, that is market demand! There is a demand for your services, and you have many customers. That is a fantastic opportunity!
When you are looking for donors, guess what? It will be easier to convey your messages to outsiders. You will have escaped jargon and insulated thinking.