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Beginner’s Mind: Vaccination Against Burnout

Beginner’s Mind: Vaccination Against Burnout

Regardless of where you are in Brenner’s Stages of Clinical Competence, Novice, Advanced beginner, Competent, Proficient or Expert, having a Beginner’s Mind can be a vaccination against burnout.   A Beginner’s Mind refers to an attitude of curiosity, a lack of preconceptions,  and of non judgement and openness. Nurturing this attitude, which is so essential to self care,  enhances your clarity and courage to explore your comforts and discomforts. With this approach you increase your ability to learn from mistakes, see new options and find creative solutions to your challenges.

Are you experiencing burnout because you are not in the right place for where you are in terms of Brenner’s 5 stages of competence? Putting yourself into new situations, challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone can trigger feelings of insecurity, fear, worry and anxiety. These feelings are usually the result of you judging yourself.  In cultivating a Beginner’s Mind you can develop 3 antidote habits.

  1. You congratulate and celebrate yourself for stepping into the new.
  2. You engage with others who support you in your stretch towards the unknown.
  3. You label your experience of the feelings… fear, anxiety, worry, etc which takes out the judgement. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky,” and there is no need for criticism.

When you were a baby learning to walk, it was not easy, and you kept trying and probably had the encouragement and support of others until the time when you were able to take your first steps. In the beginning no one judged or criticized you and you did not do that to yourself.

Remember the last time you started something new- a job, a course, a hobby. There is an initial excitement and then your new learnings push you into uncharted territories where you need to ask for help and guidance to expand your understanding and mastery. Being a newbie generally takes more time to complete tasks and often triggers a sense of vulnerability with feelings of insecurity, fear, worry and anxiety. However, being new, with a Beginner’s Mind, you have an opportunity to see things in a fresh way. Singer, Songwriter, Phil Ochs, said he relished the first time he went to a new place because the first time can never be repeated- it was special. Cultivating patience and understanding for and with yourself now is so helpful in embracing whatever is new for you.

Choosing to value your vulnerability and the special vision of being a beginner, your Beginner’s Mind, deepens your experience of humility and opens you to seeing in fresh ways. Your preceptor, mentor or even the institution may actually appreciate your fresh perceptions and insights.

Over time, taking one step at a time, you learn the ropes, navigate the system, and become comfortable again. For the expert nurse, your Beginner’s Mind is probably already working because although each situation is new, you use your nuanced experiences to see a bigger picture and intuit the next step in a procedure, a leadership direction or piece of education you are offering a colleague, student or client. An expert, using Beginner’s Mind, discerns rather than judges between or among choices to find fresh perspectives.

As an expert using your Beginner’s Mind, new questions evolve when you check in with yourself.   While there is comfort in being an expert, is maintaining that emotional comfort keeping you from actualizing your own potential? Are you so comfortable you are stuck and becoming part of the institutional furniture? Are you enjoying your work? Are you enjoying where you work? Are you appreciated by the institution and those you work with? Do you belong where you are at this time and why? If it is time for a change, are you making it or are you risking burn out? Remember, burnout can happen at any stage of your practice and career. A Beginner’s Mind can help you figure it out because you are not judging, you are taking one step at a time and honoring all your feelings and experiences by labeling them and addressing both fear of success and fear of failure.

At the recent National Nurses in Business Association meeting several speakers mentioned the idea that “You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone.”  Recently a nurse colleague took the current burnout survey and remarked in our follow up call how happy she was that there is a community of nurses supporting each other; that nurses are empowering themselves as they heal from burnout “because it is so needed”. I am taking a new per diem position in order to devote more time and energy to Integral Nursing Solutions. The 3 antidote habits of a Beginner’s Mind  have vaccinated me against burnout and strengthen my courage and commitment to the changes I am making. I am hoping that my survey colleague will use her Beginner’s Mind to see opportunities for herself as she develops the courage to make the changes she is anticipating.

I am looking forward to partnering with you on your journey to strengthening your commitment to your own self care which can begin by appreciating and developing your Beginner’s Mind and begin the vaccination against burnout. The next Vitality in Progress: Healing and Preventing Burnout for Nurses will support your development of your Beginner’s Mind attitude and consequent abilities to live outside of your comfort zone.

Early bird registration ends 12/31/17

Course starts 1/21/17

Self Care for Vitality              Free Virtual Connecting Weekly Call-in for Nurses

Join us on our weekly zoom call.

We present practical tips and strategies for Self care on a variety of topics to heal and prevent burnout such as: setting boundaries, balance, healing, self love, vulnerability, and other topics as they arise.  There is a short guided relaxation, followed by a short time for silence in community and optional sharing to prevent and heal burnout. It’s free to all and you can join in with a share or just listen in.

Wednesdays 6:30-7:00 pm EST

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/759784768

Or iPhone one-tap: US: +16468769923,,759784768#  or +16699006833,,759784768#

Or Telephone: Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):

US: +1 646 876 9923  or +1 669 900 6833

Meeting ID: 759 784 768


Have a great week, take good care of your precious self in these most challenging times.

With love,







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