ALERT! CURIOSITY DIDN’T KILL THE CAT!
Here Are 5 Ways To Develop It
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein
We live in a target-rich environment. As a result it’s easy to get distracted from a strategic life and chase after so many things that seem important. This can lead to behaving like a puppy in the park – chasing after everything that looks interesting.
Yet the other extreme is that we can become so goal oriented and focused that we lose our curiosity. When it comes to learning, curiosity is the lever that starts the process as well as the energy that keeps it going. The best learners are naturally curious. I will confess that my curiosity can lead to impulsive behavior. So I must manage it, but not eradicate it. That comes with practice.
We know through studies of the brain that curiosity is associated with learning, memory, and motivation. The flipside is that when there is a neurodegenerative disease (eg. Alzheimer’s), curiosity levels seem to drop in the same proportion.
So we can simply define this complex word as “inquisitive”, “eager to learn”, “arousing interest.”
Curiosity has scared people down through the centuries. There has been a bias by some to shut down this basic innate emotion. There are pundits and philosophers who have denounced it as a trait leading to moral decay. And who hasn’t heard the phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat.” Research would show that the opposite is true.
If you own a cat, do some observing. A cat displays curiosity around 80% of its waking hours. Most domestic cats live between 12 to 14 years. So it wasn’t curiosity that lead to the cat’s end. With the amount of curiosity behavior displayed, cats wouldn’t live past a few months!
The reality is that curiosity has a bias towards survival and achievement. It also has some cousins that stay close by. Their names are patience, perseverance, resourcefulness, imagination, and problem solving. They assist curiosity, perpetuating health and promoting life.
To some, curiosity sounds like an attribute of a daydreamer, staring off into space. The truth is that being curious takes work. The lack of it has personal consequences. It is easy to get stuck in our ways and repeat the same old counterproductive behaviors. This leads to a regression of the imagination where we think things will always remain the same. We are stuck.
It has professional consequences as well. How many organizations have struggled because leadership refused to embrace new approaches to their processes or products?
In short, it can dull life by robbing us of the wonderment and awe of our journey.
Here are 5 mindsets that will strengthen this human emotion.
1. Ask the right questions. Posing the right question(s) throws us in the direction of the answer. Curious questions lead to personal development. The more you practice this, the better the questions get. This is more than aimless thinking. Good questions are aimed at seeking meaning and discovering insights that make you fully alive.
2. Develop your peripheral vision. Some of the best discoveries in life come when you least expect them. They show up in places you would have never thought to look if it weren’t for curiosity. Having goals is good, and seeking them with diligence is admirable. But tunnel vision can blind us from a lot of wonders, surprises, and opportunities passing our periphery.
3. Avoid the “wet blankets”. The wet blankets drain our energy and short-circuit enthusiasm. They don’t have time to be curious because they spend so much time being a critic. Don’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. At times you need to throw things back. If someone tosses you a blanket, catch it, evaluate it, and be willing to throw it back. There is a difference between a warm blanket and a wet blanket. The first helps, and the second hinders.
4. Nurture the attitude of thankfulness. “Thankful” is a word that comes from “thinkful”. As you think and reflect on all the benefits of your life, your heart and mind are opened to anticipating the future with a healthy curiosity.
5. Make a daily goal to decrease your ignorance. Some days I learn a lot, and some days I learn a little. But each day I look to decrease my ignorance by maintaining a curious frame of mind.
As one man put it, “If you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only that the cat died nobly.”