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How we kill our innate curiosity (and how to stop doing that)

How we kill our innate curiosity (and how to stop doing that)

“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.

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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

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“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.

1. Listen

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.

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Until we meet again!

Featured photo credit: Kazutaka Sawa via flic.kr

More by this author

Haim Pekel

Haim Pekel is an entrepreneur and shares tips on productivity and entrepreneurship at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

3. The PEW12 Method

Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

Here’s how it works:

Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

At the end, burn the pages.

As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

The Bottom Line

For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

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