Action & Momentum

Starting Something? You Need to Be Willing to Embrace a Beginner’s Mindset

September 15, 2015
Starting Something? This post shares how to get comfortable with adpoting a beginner's mindset

This post on embracing a beginner’s mindset is part of the blog tour for One Woman Shop’s Solopreneur Success Bundle, a roundup of e-courses, e-books, and subscriptions designed to help you succeed in all aspects of your solopreneur biz. Your chance to grab over $1,500 in products at just $99 is only here from September 14-18th — learn more and get yours now!  

Everybody has their “thing” about business they find most challenging.


Feeling like a beginner. Over and over again.

As a typical type-A raised to believe in results and gold stars, being a beginner has historically been an awkward, uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing phase to get through as soon as possible. Although this approach protects our ego, it causes problems in business and life.

When I’ve been unwilling to embrace the fact I’m a beginner in my own business, I’ve closed myself off to new opportunities. I’ve avoided doing the work I need to do to improve. I’ve dropped projects prematurely.  Hardest of all, I’ve looked back with regret at things I didn’t do for no other reason than because they just felt too uncomfortable.

The fact is everyone starts as a beginner. And, it’s only through a willingness to embrace a beginner’s mindset that we can find creative fulfilment and joy.

The Four Stages of Competence

The Stages of Competence (1)Whenever we learn anything new, there are four key stages we go through. We don’t always reach all these stages. Sometimes, what we’re learning isn’t a huge priority. Sometimes, we decide that where we are is good enough. Sometimes, we get discouraged and give up, losing the opportunity to progress to the next stage. In order to get started on this path, though, we need to embrace a beginner’s mindset.

When we first start out with a new activity or skill, we have unconscious incompetence. In other words, we don’t know much—and we don’t yet know just how much we don’t know!

The next stage, and the one that poses the most challenges for creatives, is conscious incompetence. When we’re in this stage, we’re aware of how much we don’t know. Especially in the initial stages of this phase, however, we might not yet know how to change that.

If we’re willing to do the work, eventually we will move to conscious competence. This is where we are more competent in what we’re doing, but we still need to think about it to get it right. Although we can feel buoyed by progress, the amount of energy this stage takes can be draining.

Finally, if we stick with it, we reach the stage of unconscious incompetence. This is the hallowed stage where the skill or activity in question becomes as natural as riding a bike. It becomes second nature and something we can do on autopilot.

But our journey doesn’t end there.

Growth is a constant process. If we want to keep growing and improving ourselves and our business, we’re going to keep cycling through these four stages. Once we’ve reached conscious competence in one stage of our business, as soon as we decide to level up, we’re going to be thrown right back into unconscious incompetence again.

So how do we get comfortable with a beginner’s mindset?

1. Remember the stages. I’ve found it helpful just remembering the stages of competence and realising “Oh, I’m in the conscious incompetence phase right now and that’s why this feels so hard.” I also know that if I’m willing to keep going, then it will start to get easier.

2. Deliberate practice. In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport talks about the importance of deliberate practice. This is the kind of practice that stretches us past our comfort zones and invites feedback on our performance. It’s not comfortable, it’s not always fun, but it’s necessary to move to the next stage of competence.

3. Be open to detours. Remember there isn’t just one right path to a destination. When life and work gets challenging, it’s tempting to look at other people and assume they’re further ahead than we are. Appearances, though, can be deceiving. Whatever path you’re on is the right path for you, so embrace it and make it your own.

Over to you: how do you deal with being a beginner in life and work? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Starting Something? This post shares how to get comfortable with being a beginner

Image: Brennan Erhardt

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