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The beauty of a Beginner’s Mind

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The other day, my Toastmaster’s club was invited to  the local Scouts group, to introduce them to public speaking.

It was a daunting prospect!  The idea of getting a rowdy group of 8 to 14-year olds to make speeches was very much out of my own comfort zone! My audiences are usually a lot older, a lot more reserved and a lot more experienced. At the best of times, speaking in front of a load of people you don’t know can be a scary experience for most people. How would this younger audience respond?

But as I am the President of Camberley Speakers, I thought it best to keep my reservations to myself, and to hope for the best. We had a task to fulfill, and we had to support the cause, after all. I could see that the other experienced Toasties harboured similar fears, especially when the boys (And one girl!) started rough housing before the event. There was a lot of unspent energy in that room!

But this ended up being one of my most uplifting Toastmasters experiences to date. We showed them three prepared speeches and three evaluations, all delivered expertly by experienced Toastmasters and appropriately selected for the audience. Then, we asked them to get involved with the impromptu speaking section of the meeting. The boys (And one girl) of the First Aldershot Scouts Group engaged with the topics as though they delivered impromptu speeches on a daily basis. They were witty, they were quick, their humour was appropriate, they were exceedlingly well-behaved and respectful. And above all, they were not scared or frightened to have a go.

The gusto and exuberance with which they played, laughed, spoke, listened, responded and reacted created an uplifting and joyful experience for all of us there. The fun and excitement was contagious, and impossible not to respond to.

Driving back home after giving them all certificates and sharing a nice cup of tea, I marvelled at how their innocent approach to something they have never done before, made such light work of it. As adults, we have a tendency to overthink things. We worry and stress ourselves with questions about “What if” and “What about”. Children just get on and do things, without worrying too much about the outcome. As long as they can rely on the responsiblity of adults to make a safe and secure environment for the activity, I believe most kids will have a go at most things.

The one lesson I took from that evening was how cultivating such a fresh and untainted approach to life’s challenges, will make life so much easier for us adults.

In the words of Shunryu Suzuki (Author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind): “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” 

As we speed towards the end of 2013, my intention is certainly to use the opportuity of a New Year to take a fresh view on my own life and goals. I aim to discard my old hackneyed spectacles in return for an innocent and fresh pair of eyes. I want the excitement of newness to permeate my life, and to make everything I do full of hopeful anticipation.

In my mind, I want to be a beginner still – Ready to learn and grow and develop even more. What an amazing opportunity!

What will you do with a beginner’s mind?



Written by Cathy Richardson

December 13, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Recruitment

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