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Why You Should Become Curious Today

Why You Should Become Curious Today

Entrepreneurs are a curious breed. They are certainly not your average person (in my opinion anyway).

When I co-founded a start up boutique advertising agency, I discovered that I was definitely in the entrepreneurial category (in fact, I didn’t really have a choice!).

It taught me a lot about myself and my own habits and traits, one of which is a natural sense of curiosity. Now I believe being curious is a really great habit to take up. It might sound a bit odd, but being curious is essential – especially if you want to be an entrepreneur.

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A natural sense of curiosity lends itself to innovation and thinking differently, and these are crucial entrepreneurial skills.

What does being curious mean?

Think about it for a moment – when you’re curious, you’re certainly not bored. Curiosity is a natural state that stimulates new ideas and innovation. When you’re curious, you’re engaged, you’re listening, you’re AWAKE!

What I’ve also noticed is that curious people tend to consume information as a means of inspiration. They soak up information like a sponge and are consistently learning from every channel available to them. This habit is what fuels innovation and the ability to come up with creative ideas inspired by ongoing stimulation.

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Curiosity inspires new ways of doing things

Curiosity breeds a natural desire to challenge traditional ways of doing things, and this, in turn, stimulates innovation. Curious people are constantly looking for ways to improve everyday things and build upon existing successes.

They are positive in their approach – it’s not a case of showcasing other peoples failures, but a natural desire to keep on improving things.

Curiosity breeds agile minds and flexible thinking

Curious people tend to have very fast minds because they consume so much information. They have an insatiable thirst for knowledge that leads to agile thinking. When you are curious, you also tend to be more flexible with your thought processes. This flexibility is essential if you want to succeed in today’s fast-paced environment. If you look at the most successful companies over the last few years such as Google and Facebook, one thing they have in common is that they embrace change swiftly, and it’s this approach that sees them retain their leadership positions.

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Curiosity encourages problem solving

When we are curious, we naturally focus on solutions instead of problems. This leads to the development of intelligent problem solving skills. What’s great about this skill is that it can be used anywhere, from within the work environment through to solving issues in the home. Once you develop a habit to problem-solve, it follows you everywhere you go and makes it easier to enjoy life.

Curiosity turns scary challenges into fun adventures!

When a challenge pops up, do you react with fear and apprehension or do you approach it with an air of curiosity? When we’re curious, everything is an adventure! No challenge is too big and no problem is too difficult for us to solve because we approach life with a positive, solution-oriented mindset. Curiosity lends itself to asking questions, instead of getting caught up in negative thinking and “can’t” attitudes.

Here’s an example of a non-curious approach to a challenge verus a curious approach:

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A non curious approach might see us saying or thinking things like this:

  • “I can’t believe this has happened to me!”  (notice how this is lead by fear)
  • “This system is just useless!” (this is a complaint with no desire to fix the problem)
  • “There’s no point trying — I’ll never find the answer.” (negative thinking)

Conversely, when we are curious, we ask questions like this:

  • “Can we come up with a new way of doing this?”
  • “What if we were to look at it from this perspective?”
  • “Why isn’t this working? I bet there’s a better way of doing things.”

If you’re feeling bored with life and in need of a fresh approach, I would highly recommend adopting curiosity as a new habit. Before you know it you will be inspired and motivated to generate new ideas, projects, and ways of doing things differently!

Here are a few ways you can start to ignite your own curiosity:

  • Make a concerted effort to keep up to date with new innovations (research new forms of social media)
  • Make it a habit to regularly try new things (try a new recipe, route to work, or even a new exercise class)
  • Be like a sponge – soak up new information from a variety of different places (at work, home, from strangers on the street, from magazines, books, movies, your phone – anywhere!)
  • Listen to other people’s opinions and learn from them (actively ask people what they think)
  • Don’t be afraid to debate the status quo (constantly challenge things!)
  • Put aside some time to regularly brainstorm about new innovations (both on your own and with other creative, entrepreneurial minds)
  • Think of ways to improve upon things (you never know — your idea may just be better!)

More by this author

Zoe B

A strategist, coach and blogger who shows people how to stop what isn't working for them in life and to start to plan the life they really want.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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