I think , at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt
The Power of Curiosity
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live an adult life from the perspective of a child? Well, it’s actually not too difficult to imagine because all it takes is a little curiosity.
Yes, it’s curiosity that typically separates the childhood mind from the adult mind. Adults, of course, do show curiosity at times, but a child lives curiously every single day. A child approaches each new situation with anticipation and a plethora of unanswered questions, while an adult approaches it with fear and reservation. These two approaches are on polar opposites of the curiosity spectrum, and as such bring about very differing outcomes.
Entering a new and unfamiliar predicament a child will typically have all these questions in mind that help them explore the possibilities of the situation from a variety of angles and perspectives. As such, they will quickly adapt and make the most of the situation. We look at these children and we think “Wow, isn’t it incredible how easily they learn and adapt.” It’s almost like magic, but we, of course, should know better that it’s really all about curiosity.
As an adult entering a similar situation we will typically have reservations and fears. All this uncertainty exists, and where there is uncertainty there is the chance of failure and making mistakes. This scares us, and as a result, we tend to doubt ourselves and make excuses as to why something can’t be done. As a result, we wilt away back into our comfort zones and it’s all because we live life on the wrong side of the curiosity spectrum.
Just think about the opportunities you miss because you are afraid to step forward and ask the kinds of questions that will help you adapt to the events and circumstances of your life. Moreover, consider all the possibilities for growth and development you have said “no” to simply because you scrambled back into your comfort zone.
This is, unfortunately, the reality of an adult life, however, it really doesn’t have to be this way. As adults, we can once again find that spark of curiosity we had as a child, and we can develop the curious nature of a time long gone by. However, we must be open to the possibilities; and of course, all this begins with an understanding of what it means to live life with a curious nature.
Defining the Meaning of Curiosity
There are many ways we could explore the meaning of curiosity, however, for the purpose of this discussion let’s define it within a context that promotes high achievement.
Curiosity is an insatiable hunger to learn and understand everything one can about life and his/her circumstances. It is a hunger for knowledge, growth, and development that ignites passion and purpose. This, of course, requires a desire to solve problems and put ideas into action through a process of asking effective questions that allow one to adapt to life in optimal ways.
Now, of course, curiosity doesn’t just come to those who desire it. It comes to those who have the patience and determination to think, reflect and ask difficult questions that won’t always sprout an immediate answer. It comes to those who commit to living life with fascination and enthusiasm, and it comes to those who are open and willing to adapt to new experiences.
Making the most of curiosity is of course all about having a deep and insatiable desire to master the unfamiliar, which of course requires stepping outside one’s comfort zone and into a world filled with uncertainty and doubt. For most people, this is certainly not a comfortable place to pitch a tent, however, the rewards of living with a curious nature far outweigh the temporary discomfort one feels when placed in an unfamiliar predicament.
The Advantages of Curiosity
Living with a curious nature can be extremely beneficial. In fact, it can open doors to many insights, new perspectives, and opportunities that otherwise would not have been available to the person who isn’t willing to approach a situation with an open and curious mind.
Here is a far from exhaustive list of value-added benefits that come along with a curious nature:
- Leads to new insights that help provide fresh perspectives and ideas simply because of the fact that one is willing to ask more effective questions.
- Enhances passion, excitement, and productivity because it optimizes how we think about our life and circumstances.
- Encourages greater learning and development through the process of introspection, which helps one work through complex problems far more effectively.
- Makes one more aware of potential problems one faces in advance. As a result, one becomes more vigilant of potential opportunities and alternate courses of action that could be taken.
- Improves one’s ability to think under pressure due to the fact that curiosity tends to activate creative and critical thinking skills.
- Helps overcome personal assumptions that might hold a person back from seeing a situation clearly from a variety of angles and perspectives.
- Allows for better planning because of the fact that curiosity typically encourages forward thinking.
Can you think of any other value-added benefits and advantages of curiosity? It’s no doubt something that can cast a very wide net over our lives; helping enhance every aspect of living. And yet, it’s a skill that is never really taught at schools but could very well be the most important skill for getting ahead in life.
Let’s Get a Little Curious…
In order to develop a curious nature, you must be willing to consciously take the time to practice by consistently asking a plethora of questions that will get you thinking about your life and circumstances in new and more optimal ways. This, of course, isn’t easy. In fact, at times asking the right kinds of questions might actually be more difficult than coming up with an answer. And yet, both are equally important. Asking a great question is worthless if you are unwilling to take the time to give an answer. However, it’s not always about finding the right answer. In fact, many times there might not be a right answer, or there may very well be a multitude of answers that can lead you down very different paths that can all be of value in some way. Therefore please don’t get stuck on trying to come up with the perfect answer.
Many times when you ask a question you will struggle to come up with an ideal answer. But that’s okay. It’s not about finding perfection here. It’s rather about getting the “ball rolling”. In other words, it’s all about finding a simple answer that will help move you forward. This answer will then, of course, lead to more questions, and more questions will lead to more answers, which will lead to even more questions. In fact, at times a question might lead to more questions, and more questions still. That’s perfectly okay. The deeper you go with your questions the more insights you are likely to gain and the better answers you are going to discover. It’s kind of like peeling back the layers of an onion. Each question you ask peels off a layer until you eventually get to the core of the onion (of your problem). That is where you will find your ultimate answer. However, in order to get there, you may need to ask a plethora of questions that can help lead you down that path.
In general, the best way to practice developing a curious nature is to relentlessly question absolutely everything throughout the day. Question what you see, hear, smell and feel. Moreover, question your life, question yourself, and question the habitual patterns of your day. Question also your interactions with others. For example, question people’s behavior, motivations, actions, values and the way they go about solving their personal problems. Absolutely question everything!
Keep in mind that as you question these things, you will come to the realization that “things” are not always as they seem. So often we take things at face value without ever realizing that there are a multitude of hidden layers that we are simply not consciously aware of. It is only by questioning these “things” that we gain the necessary insights to help trigger deeper understandings about our life, about other people, and about our circumstances.
As you go about your day ask:
These words will then help stimulate further questions that will lead to even deeper insights and understandings about your life and circumstances or about your interactions with others. However, asking these questions shouldn’t be a “once in a while” kind of thing. You must ask them consistently throughout your day, which is after all what a child would do.
A child spends his/her day constantly questioning everything. They question everything because they have an insatiable hunger to learn and know more about everything within their environment. And this is, of course, the reason why they grow and develop so quickly. It all comes down to their curious nature and the questions they ask throughout the day.
To give you an example of what it takes to live with a curious nature, let’s say you are walking past a telephone pole. You stop for a moment look up at the telephone pole and ask yourself the following set of questions:
What is that?
Why is it made that way?
When was it made?
Who invented it?
Why did they invent it?
What problems were they trying to solve?
What purpose does it have?
What new problems does it create?
How could it be improved?
What if it wasn’t invented? What then?
Yes, I realize I picked a very random object that’s kind of mundane and boring. However, if you actually took the time to answer these questions, then I am sure you came across some interesting insights that have sparked your curiosity. In fact, by answering these questions you may never look at a telephone poll the same way again. 😉
I would of course encourage you to choose other objects within your environment and go through these same set of questions. For instance how about a television set, a toaster, a car, a shovel, a light-bulb, a shoelace, a Frisbee, a glove, a whistle, a dog collar, a cup, etc. Pretty much anything within your environment is fair game. 🙂
Curiosity is the Key to Intelligence?
Going through this set of questions at least once per day using one object within your environment will provide you with incredible insights. Moreover, it will encourage you to think creatively. In fact, curiosity is the first step towards developing your creativity. Without curiosity, there can be no creativity. However, this does take work and conscious effort. You will be tempted to skip over questions or maybe not even bother answering them altogether. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in this trap.
It could very well be said that asking and answering these kinds of questions can help boost our level of intelligence. In fact, maybe that’s what intelligence is all about. It’s nothing more than being willing and able to ask some tough questions that can help us find effective solutions to the problems we are dealing with.
Consider for a moment all the inventors and brilliant scientific minds of days gone by. For instance Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, or Nikola Tesla. What do you think is the probability that these three brilliant scientific minds asked these kinds of questions each and every single day? I would say the probability is quite high. Only by asking these kinds of questions were they able to find the answers to the toughest problems they faced. Therefore, is this essentially the reason why today we recognize them as geniuses? I will let you answer that question. 🙂
Developing a Curious Nature
Let’s now take a look at some simple daily habits and rituals you can partake in to help you develop a curious nature. These daily actions in combination will shift how you think and how you approach the events and circumstances of your life.
Create an Idea Scrapbook
Curiosity is driven forward in two ways: Through ideas and questions. Asking questions expands our understanding and awareness. This expansion process helps us gain new insights and perspectives, which essentially allows us to generate new ideas that can help us move forward in a better way. This is, of course, all well and good, however, the problem is that as adults we tend not to give these areas the attention they deserve.
For instance, we don’t over-indulge in asking a plethora of questions, and instead we typically just accept the status-quo. This is how the majority of us live our life, but that’s certainly not how to live with a curious nature.
The problem here is getting into the habit of asking questions and generating new ideas on a regular basis. This is rather difficult to do unless of course, you have a process/ritual in place to help you do just that.
A very helpful method that can get you into the habit of thinking curiously about your life and circumstances involves the simple process of keeping a scrapbook. Within this scrapbook or journal you are tasked to write down general questions you have about life, about other people, about things, or about your circumstances. Pretty much anything goes. The key is to help capture these questions so that you can refer to them at a later time.
Questions of course lead down the path towards ideas. As such, it’s important to jot these ideas down into your scrapbook as well. These ideas will lead to more questions, and more questions will lead to more ideas, and before you know it your scrapbook will be filled with clever insights that can help you move your life forward in a better way.
Ideas and questions can also evolve from the use of visual imagery. Therefore feel free to take a photo, or cut a picture out of a magazine article that peaks your curiosity, and place that into your scrapbook. Then work on expanding this concept in your own unique way.
The more focus and energy you give this process, the more curiosity you will tend to generate throughout the day. And with more curiosity come further questions that can help you gain even deeper insights into your life and circumstances.
Continuously Challenge Yourself
One of the most effective ways to develop a curious nature is to continuously be challenging yourself. This might mean learning a new skill or studying a diverse set of topics. Or it might simply mean doing something different or something difficult that you haven’t yet dabbled in before. The key is to seek out creative pursuits that will help spark your curiosity where you are learning, relearning, and even unlearning things in a variety of ways.
Challenging yourself in this way will encourage you to ask a new set of questions about aspects of life and about aspects of yourself that you otherwise may not have considered asking. Moreover, every challenge will provide you with relevant knowledge, ideas, and perspectives that will expand your understanding and awareness of the world around you. And that’s essentially what it takes to develop a curious nature.
Now, of course, in order to spark an even deeper sense of curiosity, try turning your challenges into games. Turn your challenges into something that you can have fun and play along with. Within this “state of learning,” you will be far more inclined to ask deeper and more insightful questions about your life and circumstances. This approach will also separate you from falling prey to boredom, which is effectively at the polar opposite end of the spectrum to curiosity.
Become a Detective
One of the most effective ways to eliminate falling prey to boredom, and to spark your curiosity is to play the role of a detective.
Yes, I actually mean to go about your day taking on the persona of a detective, or scientist, or an explorer, or even a child. Each of these four personas are curious by nature. Each of them sees life as a continuously shifting canvas of endless possibilities and unexplored opportunities. Moreover, each of them is willing to ask the tough questions that help them learn more about their world and circumstances.
I personally enjoy the scientific persona. As a scientist, you are continuously running experiments. And in order to run these experiments successfully, you need to continuously ask yourself a plethora of questions that can help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the experiment and the environment. Moreover, scientists are flexible in thought and action, and these are key traits required to help you develop a curious nature.
If however, you decide to take on the detective’s persona, then this will allow you to dig deeper and more curiously into the problems you are dealing with. A detective is never satisfied until the case is closed or in this instance until the problem is solved. They will study their environment, and then continue asking a wide variety of questions to help them gather all the information they need to solve the problem. Typically the more they find, the more questions come to mind and the more curiosity is required to keep working on the problem successfully.
The key is to have fun with these personas. Play around with different types to see which one works best for you. You really can’t go wrong no matter which one you choose. All have a tangible curious nature. 🙂
Associate with All Types of People
When we go out into the world and meet new people, this naturally sparks our interest and curiosity. This is especially true when we interact with people with diverse backgrounds, passions, and interests. There is just so much to learn, and the best way to learn new things is through the thoughts and experiences of other people.
It’s easy though to fall into the trap of hanging around people that are just like us. Here, though we know what to expect. There are no surprises and there is very little to learn because we are just too familiar with these peoples’ passions, interests, and perspectives.
The key therefore to sparking your curiosity is to expand your reach by befriending people who aren’t like you; where being around them raises questions you haven’t asked before. These are the kinds of people that will challenge your viewpoints and give you insights and perspectives about your life and circumstances that you maybe never considered before. These are exactly the kinds of people that will help you develop a curious nature.
Within the previous section, we discussed the habits and rituals that will help you to naturally develop a curious nature. Within this final section let’s have a look at what lies on the other side of the coin. This list includes all the things that we must avoid doing that will tend to subdue our curious nature.
The Danger of Fear
When we live in fear, we often tend to second guess ourselves. The possibility of failure, uncertainty and making mistakes constantly sits at the forefront of our mind. As a result, we tend not to take risks and we most certainly avoid thinking outside the box when it comes to solving our problems. In fact, fear has a tendency to shut down the “questioning” faculties of the brain. No longer are we inclined to ask questions, but instead tend to throw blame, complain and make an endless array of excuses that keep us stuck. As a result, curiosity tends to take a back seat to the uneasiness we feel inside.
If you find yourself struggling with fear, then please have a read of Understanding Fear and Conquering Fear. Both these articles will help show you how to more effectively work with your fears to allow room for curiosity to flourish and grow.
The Danger of Pride
The other danger of developing a curious nature, of course, comes in the form of pride. Pride is essentially a deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements. On the surface, this doesn’t sound all that bad. Having pride in something that can certainly be a measure of the value we see in ourselves through our daily actions. However, as great as this sounds, it’s often the Achilles heel of curiosity because when we feel pride we tend to settle. We rest on our laurels, and as a result, we refrain from asking further questions that will help us to expand the possibilities.
When it comes to living a curious nature, there must always be more. There must always be more possibility, unanswered questions, unexplored frontiers and unresolved problems. Curiosity thrives when faced with the unanswered and unknown aspects of our life. Yes, of course, you can be proud and resist the temptation to rest on your laurels. However, pride in-and-of-itself tends to close the mind to these possibilities.
So if not pride, then what? The simple answer to that question lies in fascination, wonder, and curiosity. No matter what you accomplish just keep asking the tough questions that can help expand the possibilities of your predicament. Yes, things are the way they are, but why are they this way? How else could they be? What possibilities lie ahead? Certainly, use your accomplishments to help build your self-confidence, then use that self-confidence to ask some tough questions that will help you keep moving forward and expanding the possibilities of what you can do, be, have and accomplish in the future.
Above all else, never settle on pride as the final pit-stop along your journey towards your destination.
The Pitfalls of Ignorance
Ignorance is typically defined as a general lack of knowledge and awareness about a subject matter. However, I would say that it’s a little more than that. Ignorance to me seems very much like a selective form of awareness. We consciously and at times unconsciously choose to select what we give our attention to. Therefore, it’s not that we are lacking in knowledge, it’s rather that we are lacking the awareness necessary to make full use of that knowledge. In other words, we kind of tend to take things for granted and accept the status quo.
When it comes to living a curious nature, there is nothing that can be taken for granted. A curious individual is always aware and open to a multitude of possibilities that lie ahead of them. Taking things for granted or accepting the status quo are certainly not qualities of a curious mind.
Things are never stagnant unless of course, we see them that way — things are constantly shifting and changing even if they don’t appear that way. To accept how things are, or to ignore the fact that things could be another way will only limit the possibilities that lie ahead. And with limited possibilities, a curious nature cannot grow and evolve. You must therefore always stay vigilant and aware and never accept that how things are is the way they should be. Always reach further and always expand the possibilities. That is what it takes to cultivate a curious nature.
Have you ever mindlessly gone through an activity? Have you ever mindlessly gone through an entire day? Yes, you know what I mean… it’s when you typically just go through the motions of your day without ever challenging yourself or questioning what you do. That is what I mean by “mindless living”.
Mindless living is certainly not the same as mindful living. In fact, it’s the opposite. When living mindlessly you may typically go about your day surfing the web, watching television, reading fiction books or involve yourself in a plethora of other activities that tend not to challenge you in any way. This is what mindless living is all about, and it is the kind of “living” that will tend to subdue your curious nature.
You can typically pinpoint the days when you’re not being challenged in any way through the types of questions you tend to ask yourself.
We all typically ask and answer questions throughout the day. This is essentially the “thought process” in action. In fact, asking and answering questions is a reflection of our thought process. And when you’re not challenging yourself you will tend to ask very simple questions that lead to straightforward answers. These questions tend not to spark your curiosity as they are typically predictable questions that don’t challenge your perspective, understanding and/or awareness of a situation. For instance, you might ask what you will eat for dinner, or what television program you should watch while you’re eating dinner?
These kinds of questions are a result of mindless living where you make absolutely no effort to challenge yourself in any way. In fact, mindless living goes completely against the habits and rituals we discussed within the previous section. It’s a passive kind of living where we just tend to absorb knowledge and information without ever questioning it.
On the other hand, when we are living mindfully, we are more aware of our life, predicament, and circumstances. Yes, we might still very well be watching a television program, however, no longer are we passive observers. We’re instead, active participants.
When living mindfully we tend to question everything that comes through our five senses. As such, we challenge ourselves in new ways, which helps expand our perspective and understanding of our life, world, and environment. And this is in essence what it takes to cultivate a curious nature.
The Boredom Trap
It could be said that boredom is at the polar opposite end of the spectrum.
On one end you have boredom and on the other curiosity. This, in fact, couldn’t be further from the truth, because when we’re feeling bored we cannot experience curiosity. Likewise, when we’re curious we cannot experience boredom. One simply does not go with the other. Therefore, it’s probably safe to say that in order to eliminate boredom one must simply cultivate a little curiosity. And to cultivate curiosity requires a little fascination.
A bored mind is a mind with very few questions. It’s a mind trapped within an empty space of nothingness where there lie no other possibilities. Fascination, on the other hand, encourages questions, and questions help expand the possibilities by adding doors and windows to that empty space. Now that possibilities exist, one can use those doors and windows to explore alternative perspectives and new frontiers. As a result, there are now more options available and better choices can be made moving forward. However, you do have to be willing to challenge yourself by initially asking that first question that will help expand those possibilities.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. It’s kind of like implanting a thought into your brain – an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas. 🙂
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 4 Reasons Why Curiosity is Important and How to Develop It @ Lifehack
- 5 Ways Thinking Like a Child Can Change Your Life @ Dumb Little Man
- 5 Ways to Ignite and Nurture Your Curiosity @ Huffington Post
- 7 Ways to be More Curious @ Psychology Today
- 10 Reasons Why You Should be More Curious @ Marc and Angel
- 33 Ways to be Childlike Today @ Tiny Buddha
- A Curious Mind is an Active Mind @ The Guardian
- Curiosity and Creativity @ Psych Central
- Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence @ Harvard Business Review
- How to Stimulate Curiosity @ Time
- The Power of Curiosity @ Scott H. Young