Curiosity, the desire to know things, is a necessary human trait. Strong in young animals and children, it propels them to learn about the world and their place in it. They question, explore, play and have fun. Curiosity is essential for all kinds of learning.
It is enables and encourages creativity, learning and problem-solving skills.
People who excel display unlimited curiosity and they question continually. It keeps them, and us, interested and interesting. But, unless constantly fed, curiosity can fade. When that happens, people become less involved in living. Their learning skills diminish.
Without curiosity, boredom replaces lifelong learning.
Feeling flat recently, I noticed that I’d also become less inquisitive. Uncertain times and a world in turmoil took away the edge of my usual interest. The inclination to question diminished. Boredom crept into my life. My energy diminished. I decided it was time to invite Curiosity into my life again.
Twin aspects of being curious
According to Liggy Webb in her article Why the key to lifelong learning is developing curiosity,
‘Curious people have an ongoing, intrinsic interest in both their inner experience and the world around them.’
When these paths are activated, minds become active and smart. Curious people look for new opportunities to learn and ideas to explore.
Here are a few things I decided would help me regain my zest for life and learning.
Intrinsic paths to stimulate curiosity
Cultivate a curiosity mindset. Try some of the following ideas.
- Be prepared and willing to learn and grow. Even basic abilities develop through struggle and hard work. (I wrote a blog about this: Struggle and persistence lead to new ideas.)
- Ask open questions. These are the queries that enable others to answer in depth. Closed questions elicit a yes-or-no answer. Open questions start with words like, why, when, who, how and which.
- Seek answers from diverse sources. Invite and welcome the opinions and ideas of others. Engage with people older and younger than you. My grandchildren are sources of much wisdom, knowledge, and experience. I love to talk with them.
- Listen with focus. Turn off your mobile. Listen actively. Use inviting body language and interpersonal skills. Encourage others to share information, knowledge and wisdom.
- Admit you don’t know. There’s no such thing as a ‘dumb’ question. In groups, the dumb question is often the one on everyone’s mind. If you ask, you take responsibility for the group’s learning. You can find information when you admit you need it.
- Welcome surprises. Too much certainty inhibits learning.
- Try not to do what you’ve always done. Practise doing ordinary things differently and look for new things to enjoy. Welcome newness into your life often.
- Challenge old patterns and traditions. Get out of the rut of the old values and belief systems, whether your own or that of your society.
Ways to actively stimulate curiosity
The above section tells about cultivating ways of being. This section suggests action.
- Watch less television and social media. Instead, read. Read many genres. Include self-help, educational and self-improvement material. Set a realistic target for the number of books you’ll read in a year.
- Use social media platforms and podcasts to break patterns of thinking. Think big.
- Meditate. This declutters our minds. It makes us open to the magic of novelty. Think about your thinking. Daydream.
- Enjoy conversations with different people. Listen to other viewpoints and ideas.
- Play and have fun. Einstein says, ‘Creativity is intelligence having fun’. Play structured games to increase strategic thinking. Enjoy the moment in fun to experience creativity.
My questioning about the process of curiosity led me to new goals for the next few months. Already, some ideas have fallen into place. The list seems manageable. I look forward to becoming engaged, inquisitive and learning again.
It seems like an important alternative to my vision of an old woman. She’s the one sitting in the rocking chair in the sunshine. Her only task – to shell peas for the family dinner.