A woman happily embracing a beginner's mindset while going for a jog in nature.

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4 Benefits of Adopting a Beginner’s Mindset (Especially for Your Fitness Goals)

Embracing new things can be a serious game-changer.

By Jihan MyersMarch 26, 2024


Many high performers often dread the B word. No, not that one. We’re talking about being dubbed a beginner. It can be intimidating and discouraging to feel like you’re out of your depth or at a disadvantage compared to everyone around you who seemingly has it all figured out (spoiler alert: they don’t). 

“Once we reach adulthood, we are often treated as if we’re supposed to know things, and there aren’t many places where continued or new learning or growth is encouraged or praised,” says Kensa Gunter, PsyD, a licensed clinical and sport psychologist and certified mental performance consultant in Atlanta. “Mastery, however, is born out of trying, learning, failing, and trying again. Adopting a beginner’s mindset can contribute to feeling less weighed down by pressure and expectations during the growth process and create more room for enjoyment versus self-criticism.”

And we’ve got some good news for you: Embracing a beginner’s mindset when it comes to health and fitness goals can actually help you improve. Read on to learn more about how to adopt a beginner’s mindset, why it matters, and how it can help you reach your fitness goals.

What Is a Beginner’s Mindset?

A beginner’s mindset is exactly what it sounds like: It requires you to try something without feeling like you already know how to do it. “Curiosity, fresh eyes, and motivation to learn new things are some of the main characteristics of a beginner’s mindset,” says Isaac Zur, PhD, a sports psychology expert in New York. 

This means you have to get comfortable with asking for help, making mistakes, and learning as you go. Whether that’s taking a shadowboxing or cycling class for the first time or experimenting with cooking new healthy meals, embracing a beginner’s mindset can help take some of the fear out of the unknown. If you don’t expect yourself to know everything, then you’re less likely to beat yourself up if you have to ask for help. When you lean into being a beginner, you have a chance to truly learn without judgment—from yourself or others. 

And the nice thing about a beginner’s mindset is that anyone can adopt this way of thinking. “You don’t have to be a beginner to adopt this mindset, but it does involve embracing the process of learning, exploring, and discovering something new,” Gunter says. “Having a beginner’s mindset simply refers to your willingness to explore without prescription—to approach and engage in situations and experiences without being confined by your expectations or ideas of what something is supposed to be.”

Benefits of Adopting a Beginner’s Mindset

“Some benefits associated with a beginner’s mindset include high curiosity and greater openness to learn new things and explore different approaches,” Zur says. This way of thinking can translate into more results when it comes to health and fitness, including:  

1. Greater Consistency

Think about when you first learned to ride a bike or taught your kid to ride one. You didn’t tell them to throw in the towel after a wobbly first ride, did you? Of course not. Instead, you probably laughed it off and told them to go again. That’s the beginner’s mindset in action. 

Oftentimes, when we feel like we should have things figured out, we’re more likely to get frustrated and give up when things don’t go as planned. When we mess up—like say, failing to keep up during a dance class or missing a crucial step in a new recipe—it can be harder to keep going when you don’t have the ability to show yourself grace. 

But with a beginner’s mindset, on the other hand, mistakes are expected and embraced. You’re more trained to think, “I’ll remember this next time” or “I’ll keep practicing,” which helps you stay consistent—and that’s exactly what you need if you’re going to stay the course with your goals. “Consistency is more important than perfection and speed,” Gunter adds. 

2. Less Stress

Let’s face it: When we think we should have things figured out, it can cause a lot of undue pressure. The stress of not wanting to “look silly” or do it “wrong” can make it hard to even get started. 

But when it comes to learning something new, giving yourself the space to make mistakes can actually be freeing. And the less stressed you feel, the more likely you are to actually enjoy the learning phase of any new activity, whether that’s trying to master sitting still during a meditation class or finding your balance with a challenging new yoga pose.

3. More Improvement

When you try to shake off the beginner label and get to “expert status” before you’re ready, you may actually derail your goals. Leaving behind a perfectionist mindset can actually help you make more incremental progress. 

“Having a beginner’s mindset is an opportunity to learn about yourself and expand your perspective in terms of what's possible and what you’re capable of,” Gunter says. “In terms of exercise and performance goals, this mindset increases your focus on the process rather than the outcome which can promote confidence, motivation, and subsequently help with adhering to your fitness plan.”

4. Greater Neuroplasticity

When you learn something new, your brain has to rewire itself in response to the new stimuli, which is known as neuroplasticity. This helps your brain form new connections, making it stronger and more adaptable to challenges (yes, please!).

Tips for Embracing a Beginner’s Mindset

Many of us view being a beginner as a disadvantage, but there are plenty of benefits that come with the practice. That said, it isn’t always easy to shed societal expectations that you should somehow already know everything. Here’s how to incorporate the beginner’s mindset into your way of thinking:

1. Let Go of Your Ego

In order to adopt a beginner’s mindset, you have to “understand the importance of patience, gradual change, and having no ego,” Zur says. “When you do that, you can maintain the mindset and experience lasting changes instead of quick fixes, making the whole journey more enjoyable and fulfilling.”

2. Ask for Help

Think back to our bike example. You wouldn’t send your kid out to learn to ride a bike without helping them, would you? Obviously not. Well, the same applies to anything new that you’re trying. Don’t be afraid to seek out support as you’re learning something new. 

“Beginners sometimes need more support due to the discrepancies between their enthusiasm and their actual performance,” Zur says. “However, when they approach it with patience and resilience, it becomes a valuable space for development.”

3. Start Small 

When you’re adopting a beginner’s mindset and trying something new, resist the temptation to dive into advanced-level activities. Instead of leaping headfirst into a 45-minute meditation, for example, start with five minutes and build from there, Gunter advises. This can set you up for quick early wins that build confidence with less pressure.

4. Embrace Mistakes

Zur points out that with a beginner’s mindset, there’s often a lower fear of failure because mistakes are an accepted part of the learning curve. “As a result, your self-esteem will be less threatened when you mess up,” he notes. “Overall, there’s greater mental adaptability.” 

5. Bring Back That Child-Like Wonder

“Think about a young child encountering something for the first time—the awe, delight, and pure joy of discovery,” Gunter says. “This is the approach that we should strive to have when starting a new fitness regimen or activity. Ask yourself: What can I learn about myself? How can I make this enjoyable? Who can I ask to join me on this fitness journey? Think of it as an adventure and an exploration of what your body and mind can do.”

6. Remove Any Self-Imposed Pressure

“There’s no shame in being a beginner,” Zur says. “Everyone, even the best athletes, has been at this stage, and it’s a stage where the pressure is lower and it can be a lot of fun when you’re in the right mindset.”

One way to do this is to take stock of the voice in your head: Is it cheering you on through mistakes or beating you down? Focus on positive self-talk to help keep the pressure low and the fun high.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re trying something for the first time or the 100th time, adopting a beginner’s mindset is often one of the best things you can do to reach your goals. When you don’t need to be “perfect,” you actually give yourself permission to learn and get better along the way and have fun doing so. “Remember, the road to being an expert runs through the land of being a beginner,” Gunter says. And that’s exactly what you’ll need to keep in mind as you strive to reach new health and wellness goals. So embrace the mistakes, the missteps, the questions, and the setbacks—it’s all part of the process.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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