Photo: Mikito Tateisi

This Principle Is Key to Staying Open Minded

It’s called shoshin, and it’s about cultivating beginner’s mind

Julia Clavien
Nov 19, 2019 · 2 min read

This post is all about a mental model that comes from Zen Buddhism. Don’t worry — these posts are still religiously agnostic, but that doesn’t mean I won’t shamelessly borrow useful mental models from religions! Enjoy.

What is Shoshin?

The Japanese term shoshin means “beginner’s mind” and can be further defined as follows:

Shoshin is an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even at an advanced level.

The mindset is characterized by openness — when we are in the shoshin mindset we are open and curious to possibility. We aren’t limited by our pre-existing knowledge that we develop as we reach advanced levels, we maintain a beginners mind.

Expertise is of course a good thing for the most part, but the downside is that it can lead us to be more likely to be trapped by confirmation bias — where we only see information that supports our preconceptions. Trying to cultivate shoshin is a good antidote!

I’ll leave you with this from Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

Want to go deeper?

📖 Check out Shunryu Suzuki’s original work — Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

📧 Like learning mental models? Check out the newsletter here.

Julia Clavien

Written by

Curious to a fault. Technology | Psychology | Philosophy. All opinion subject to change. ☺

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