“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 should be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt
We are a naturally curious species; we are born with an innate drive to explore new ideas, open ourselves to new frontiers and wonder about possibilities.
But that drive to explore disappears for some reason when we mature. Through the years, many have attempted to explain why this change occurs.
Socrates targeted hubris as the cause, suggesting that it’s the main reason behind our dissipating curiosity, strengthening the notion that one should always be on the pursuit of knowledge i.e., “I know that I know nothing.”
Albert Einstein was a severe critic of modern methods of education saying that:
“It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. For this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.”
There’s a growing movement nowadays that supports Albert Einstein claims and in this wonderful video Sir Ken Robinson, a world-renowned education and creativity expert explains why our current educational system is fighting an uphill battle for our children’s attention.
No matter the reason, the fact remains – we are getting less and less curious and as a result dumber.
Our IQ score, (at least the crystalized part of it) is plummeting since almost all the knowledge in the world is currently outsourced, crowdsourced, and cloudsourced.
Questions that once could have filled our lives with wonder and purpose which would have sent us into the library to do some exploration are now easily answered online. In the past, lack of knowledge and the drive to attain it pushed us to cultivate our curiosity. Often, the search for the answer led to many useful discoveries along the way.
Taking a step back and actively cultivating curiosity again will grant us several lost abilities; some pretty obvious, other quite surprising…
People who explore, learn better
Pretty obvious when you think about it, right? When you’re interested in something, feel motivated about it and invest extra time in exploring it, you’ll get better at it.
There’s even research that suggests that it’s a required criteria for success among students.
According to Sophie von Stumm of the University of Edinburgh in the UK curiosity is as important for learning as intelligence, putting curious students at the top of their class.
“Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration, if you’re intellectually curious, you’ll go home, you’ll read the books. If you’re perceptually curious, you might go traveling to foreign countries and try different foods.” Both of these, she thought, could help you do better in school.”
Curiosity enhances creativity
Some people believe that creativity is a single moment in time, a sort of eureka moment. In fact, creativity is more of a deliberate repetitive practice that we need to pursue actively to be really good at.
In order to become more creative, we need to invest in our creativity and the best way to invest in something is to be genuinely interested in it.
Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago says in his book “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” that
“To free up creative energy we need to let go and divert some attention from the pursuit of the predictable goals that we are naturally inclined to pursue and use it instead to explore the world around us on its own terms.”
He also adds that this investment in our own creativity starts with an investment in our curiosity.
“The first step toward a more creative life is the cultivation of curiosity and interest.”
Cultivation of curiosity can actually fuel our passion and passion fuel our creativity.
Curiosity can create better relationships
Todd D. Kashdan and Paul Rose, psychologists from the University at Buffalo suggested that the degree to which people are curious actively influences their level of intimacy.
“Highly curious individuals tend to experience more positive interpersonal outcomes than the less curious in different social contexts as a function of the way they process rewarding or “appetitive” stimuli during the relationship process.”
In other words, being more interested in your partner constantly stimulates and fuels your passion.
There are several habits and behaviors you can adopt to become more curious.
Listening is the one life skill you can’t learn in school or anywhere else for that matter. Listeners absorb more information than non-listeners. While non-listeners are interested in expressing themselves, listeners are more interested in the information the other party offers. You’ll be surprised what you can learn just by listening.
2. Resist the pull of cognitive biases
Your mind is constantly trying to play tricks on you. It does that so you won’t get fatigued and keep your energy for decisions that really mater. It has good intentions but you know what they say about good intentions…
If you assume or dismiss things without checking them first, if you have prejudices then you’re probably under the influence of some sort of cognitive bias. If you start paying attention to the things that you normally dismiss, you might find that you’ve been missing out on an entire world of possibilities.
3. Ask more questions
Never take things at face value, always dig deeper, turnover a few stones and explore. Questions open possibilities, possibilities give you new directions to pursue, and as you pursue new directions curiosity takes over.
Until we meet again!
Featured photo credit: Kazutaka Sawa via flic.kr
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