“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” ~Albert Einstein
When speaking to a parent recently, she said, “I have made it a rule that my kids read every day for an hour. There are no two ways about it. They now do it and it is great, but I have noticed that they have stopped asking questions, they have stopped being curious, and they look dull, and that bothers me.”
Strange that reading would dull their curiosity instead of sparking it. But beyond that, this conversation got me curious—about curiosity.
Why is it important to be curious? And is it even possible to stop being curious?
Do you remember when you were a child, just grabbing anything and everything and looking at it from all angles, exploring what it was?
Do you remember being obsessed with asking “Why?” till the crack of dawn because you were fascinated with the mystery?
Do you remember feeling the wonder in your eye, the sparkle of fascination as you looked at an ant or a worm as if it were magic?
As I think about it, I feel like there are two fundamental aspects of living—“being” and “doing.” Curiosity, I feel, is a quality of “being.”
Curiosity is taking the time to know something, to revel in the moment with wonder and fascination, to go beyond the limitations of the mind, time, perceptions, rules, and expectations.
A curious mind is a mind that expands and grows, a mind that is fascinated with life, that is fully alive and bubbles with questions and wonders. It is a mind that is keen and observes and is limitless. It is a mind that is sharp and sees beyond the obvious.
People with curious minds seem to lead fuller lives. If you think about it, they are likely to explore and seize more opportunities because they’re curious about where it could lead, they are likely to connect with more people because they are curious about who and how they are, and they try more new things because they’re curious about how much they can do.
I actually think we are born curious, born in wonder, born into this magical place of being. So then, at what point do we stop being curious?
My answer was—when we get caught up in the “doing”!
Running from pillar to post, taking care of family and work, making ends meet, keeping up with the demands of the world and the ones we place on ourselves, it is not so difficult for the balance of life to tip toward “doing” and more “doing.” Curiosity can take a back seat and monotony can set in sneakily.
Curiosity, in my opinion, is that polish that adds a shine to each and every single activity, to the “doing.”
Like Brian Grazer says in his book A Curious Mind, we are born curious and no matter how much battering curiosity takes, it’s right there, waiting to be awakened… and that, to me, is fantastic news.
So if you would like to awaken your curiosity, feel fascinated, and share this fascination with others, here are a few simple tips.
1. Drop the label.
This is a story about the famous Nobel Prize Winner, scientist Richard Feynman. One day when walking in the garden, he asks his father, “What bird is this?” His father says, “It is a brown-throated thrush” and then goes on to say the name in many different languages. Then he looks at Feynman and says, “Now you know absolutely nothing about the bird except the name.”
A label closes the mind to an exciting world of possibilities.
He is an “alcoholic,” She is a “liar,” I am a “failure”—all these are labels that can trap us into one way of perceiving the world around us and, in fact, our own selves too.
There is a lady I know whom I had unknowingly labeled as “annoying.” Every single time she would call, I would say, “She is so annoying.” So it was no surprise that I would get annoyed because I was interacting with the label I had given her and closed doors to any other way of experiencing her.
Dropping the label helped me notice that she is so much more—she is funny, she is loving, she is dedicated, she is curious, and much more! Now I still get annoyed sometimes, but it is not the only way I experience her. It feels like a buffet of experiences with her, and I feel freer within myself and more loving toward her, and we in fact share a few laughs every so often.
And all I did was get curious and ask myself, “What else is she?”
So how do you describe the people and relationships in your life, your work, your circumstances, yourself?
And what if you could drop the label of something you think you already know? Look at it as if it were new, as if you knew nothing about it. Drop the label and allow your mind to journey through a world of possibilities. What else could it be? How is this happening?
Think wild and think free!
2. Go beyond the limitations of “I am bored” and use the power of “but.”
Have you found yourself saying, thinking, or feeling “I am so bored”?
Boredom, in my opinion, is poison to curiosity. It limits the mind.
Oftentimes, feeling bored is not the problem. The problem is when we stop at that and look no further, when we close the door to an exciting world of possibilities.
A little trick is to trick the mind using the power of “but.”
Every time you find yourself saying, “I feel bored,” quickly and emphatically add the word “but” after it.
I am bored, but let’s do something fun! I feel bored, but how do I even know I am feeling it?
“But” negates everything that is before it and brings focus to what is after it.
Even if you don’t find a filler after the “but,” just say “but”… and pause…. and see what happens next. Leave that door open.
If you think about it, “I’m bored” is such a useless thing to say, isn’t it? We like in such a vast world, and we have barely seen anything, how could one get possibly bored? Look at any situation with curious eyes and allow your mind to wander and create what you want to experience.
3. Question everything with pure fascination.
Why are the trees green? Why do birds fly? Why is the sky blue? Why am I not getting that pay raise? Why can’t I lose those ten pounds I want to lose? Why am I doing the job I do now?
The key is asking questions with pure fascination, as if you were trying to solve a mystery.
Remember, millions of people saw the apple fall, but Newton asked “Why?”
Growing up, I was teased about having a flat-ish nose. I felt like I had to have a sharp nose, and my grandmother and I would try to stretch my nose out every morning with oil, as if it were made of clay. Then one day, I remember curiously asking her, “Why is a sharp nose better than a flat one? Do they smell things better?”
Now, I don’t remember what she said, but I can tell you that I love my nose now and am quite curious and fascinated by what a funny thing it is.
Can you imagine looking at life, relationships, and work with pure fascination? The world becomes a playground of endless possibilities for the mind that is curious and fascinated.
So what is one thing in your life you could be fascinated with and curious about, and how could that change things for you?