Is there something new you’ve been wanting to do or try, but haven’t yet?
A new job? A new hobby? A new business? A new city? A new relationship?
As an adult, we can choose whether to try new things or to stick with things that are familiar and often we just don’t try. We don’t want to be a beginner again.
It can be scary to let go of being an expert at something.
For years or even decades we have developed an identity as someone who knows their stuff and to begin something new, you must get comfortable with making mistakes, asking questions, being a novice and feeling or looking “stupid.”
And that can be terrifying.
For many of us, that terror can also mean that we stay in situations that no longer fit or challenge us.
We stay in relationships that are way past their expiration date.
We stay in jobs that are such a poor fit that we dread going in to work every day.
We keep notebooks full of ideas for products, businesses, plays, movies or books that never see the light of day.
All to avoid starting from scratch and becoming a beginner.
While our current situation may suck, we know it, we’re good at it, it’s predictable and in that predictability we feel a level of safety even if that safety involves us being harmed in other ways.
At least we know what we’re getting.
Even if we’re miserable, at least we know what misery to expect.
I write this to myself as much as I do to you.
It’s painful to consider that we stay in such messed up circumstances because we’re afraid to be new at something, but we must consider it to decide whether or not we want to keep living this way.
Over the years I’d gotten so comfortable at being an expert in things.
One area where this fear took center stage was my career.
For almost 10 years I moved from job to job, all within the same field. I was afraid that I couldn’t do anything else and was too scared to start from scratch in another field.
I traded the known for the unknown and it left me miserable.
So what do we do?
How do we fix this?
How do we move forward?
I would be lying if I said I had THE answer.
The truth is that I’m still figuring it out.
But what I do know for sure (thanks, Oprah!) is that predictability and being an expert in something that doesn’t fit is overrated and damaging in the long run.
Being able to see this is the first step to change.
The second step is to practice being a beginner at something every day.
One of my favorite ways to do this lately has been crafting, specifically cross stitching.
If that’s not your thing, any new thing will do.
Here are some more ideas: a new sport, painting, drawing, a musical instrument, writing, film-making, sewing, photography, a new language, a new route to work.
Anything will do, the point is to practice being a beginner in some small way every day.
I’ve found that a little change can be a proxy for a big change.
Doing something on a small scale and listening and observing to see what comes up can give you information, tools and confidence to make change on a larger scale.
Here are some things to notice or ask yourself when you’re practicing your new thing:
- How does it feel (emotionally, mentally and physically) to not know what I’m doing?
- What kind of things do I say to myself and/or others when I make a mistake?
- How do I deal with mistakes?
- What kind of things make me want to quit?
- What am I learning about myself?
- What information can I use to help me with taking bigger steps?
You can learn a lot from this practice if you just look.
I’ll give you an example.
After cross-stitching since my early teens, I decided last month to design my first cross-stitch pattern. I’ve always followed others’ patterns and the idea of designing one of my own while not feeling like a Designer (with a capital D) was very scary.
One of the things I noticed was that every time I made a mistake, I would get very angry with myself.
Through journaling, I realized that the anger came from unhelpful beliefs that I should never make mistakes and if I made a mistake it lowered my worth as a person.
Since realizing that those beliefs were unreasonable, I now view mistakes in a much better feeling light.
It’s totally ok to make mistakes and your worth is not connected to what you do or don’t do.
While I still have a ways to go before being completely comfortable with mistakes (does that ever happen?), it’s been much easier to make them without getting bent out of shape.
So if you’ve let fear stop you from trying something new and you feel stuck in a situation that you know well but are miserable in, there is hope for you.
Choose a new thing to learn that makes you a little nervous and let that new thing show you that being a beginner is not be as bad as you thought it might be.
And if you keep at it, your practice could expand to how you approach the rest of your life and give you the strength and courage to take even bigger steps.
I hope this was helpful! I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Have you been a beginner lately? What have you found? Have you been avoiding being a beginner? Has this post inspired you to try something new?