When I first started practicing yoga, I had a lot of preconceived notions about what I could do physically. One teacher introduced me to a concept called beginner’s mind where you let go of assumptions and open yourself up to learning new ways of doing things. For example, the first time I tried to do a handstand, I worried that I didn’t have enough upper body strength to hold the pose. When I approached the handstand with a beginner’s mind, I let go of my fear and followed my teacher’s instructions step by step. Before I knew it, I was doing a handstand.
We can learn a lot by adopting a similar approach to our writing. By questioning assumptions about what you can say and what your readers need, your writing is more likely to be clear, concise, and persuasive.
Here are some tips to help you apply the beginner’s mind to your writing:
Spell it out
Remember when you first started working at a new company and everyone used acronyms you didn’t know? As a beginner in both business and yoga, acronyms make learning more challenging. Look at these examples and decide which is easier to read.
The Senior CSR needs to submit an up-to-date CNA list to the CSM by COB Friday.
The Senior Customer Service Representative needs to submit an up-to-date Customer Name and Address list to the Customer Service Manager by close of business Friday.
Watch for jargon and buzzwords
Many yoga teachers use Sanskrit terms for poses, which is challenging for those who are new to the practice. Jargon is the business version of Sanskrit. Look at the following examples and decide which is clearer:
|move the needle||create a reaction|
|shift the paradigm||change the way we think|
|use a core competency||use a strength|
|gain some buy-in||agree on an action|
Use examples, analogies and imagery
Analogies are often used in yoga to help create a visual for an action, such as, “fill your lungs with air like a balloon being inflated, then release your breath slowly as though the balloon has a small pin hole.” Imagery helps learners visualize and physically connect to subtle sensations. Analogies, examples and imagery in business writing can help our readers understand complex ideas like financial data. Here’s an example of using an analogy in business writing:
A computer has memory just like your brain. You can expand both types of memory: a computer relies on computer chips to expand its memory; the human brain expands memory by strengthening synaptic connections.
When you take on your next writing assignment, try adopting a beginner’s mind approach. Let go of your assumptions about your reader and consider what the reader needs to know—they will thank you!
Do you have any writing tips to share that are from the yoga mat?