How to cultivate a sense of curiosity – and why we should
As we head into a new year, the Lemonade Hub team has set itself a collective intention for 2019 – embracing a sense of curiosity. Albert Einstein famously (and profoundly, if you break down the message) noted: “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” We think the brilliant physicist wished to explain that being curious is the drive behind all discovery, innovation and achievement (rather than just his own humility). Curiosity – the constructive kind – is the spark that ignites creative endeavour, learning and experimentation.
If you are not curious about how things work or why things are as they are, why would you bother to learn anything new? We’re going into our year of positive curiosity, and we’d like to invite you along for the journey.
Let’s get out of our comfort zones. Let’s read more about what’s going on out there. The internet has its pitfalls, but it’s also brought affordable learning opportunities. Whether it’s science, tech, art, politics, history, cooking, fashion or travel that excites you, try to learn something new every week. If you’re stuck for ideas, chat to a friend or colleague about what they’re interested in.
Teach yourself a new skill or enroll for a course. Try a yoga class or a dancing or surfing lesson. Join a club. Start gardening or knitting. Learn to change a car tyre. Studies show that lifelong learners are happier, more emotionally well-adjusted, and they tend to live longer. Lifelong learning has also been shown to stave off dementia, especially if you choose to learn a new language or keep dancing (or learn how to) in later life. So get cracking on those Xhosa/French/Mandarin/binary coding classes!
Experiment and challenge yourself
It’s human nature to fear failure, but it’s also fundamentally important to challenge oneself every now and then. Stepping out of our everyday zone can be daunting, but the results are mostly gratifying. Whether you choose to redecorate a room in your house, learn how to cook with kale or introduce meat-free Mondays into your meal plan, go on a date with someone against your usual type, join a theatrical, archery or book club, try a new software system, open up a branch or division, or perhaps introduce a new service or product range at work, it’s important to remember that we learn as much from failure as we do success. Take the leap.
Keep (or cultivate) an open mind
In order to learn and explore properly, we sometimes need to hang our preconceived notions and values on that metaphorical hanger by the door. Try not to let your sense of “how things should be” cloud your opportunities to learn. As the saying goes, don’t knock it till you try it. If we are critical of something, we are far less likely to gain proper insight about it. So try to be objective and you may be surprised by what you discover about yourself (and others).
Ask questions and be inquisitive
What? Why? How? Where? When? Keep asking. Get the data. Gather the information. If you don’t understand something, ask again until you do. Listen carefully, and not only to answers, but also to people’s opinions, observations and experiences. We all have a different way of doing and seeing things. Observe behaviour, actions and work in action. Repeat.
There are new insights, answers and solutions to be found in other people’s ways of thinking and doing. Take what works for you and reject what doesn’t. But you won’t know if you don’t ask.
Maybe curiosity did NOT kill the cat
Cultivating a sense of curiosity helps us to be more focused, productive and motivated. It helps us gain valuable perspective and widen our skills set. The bottom line is that the better we understand the world we inhabit, the better equipped we are to negotiate our present and plan for our future.
Few people realise that the oft-quoted adage “Curiosity killed the cat” (used to warn us to keep our nose out of other people’s affairs) has a modulated form that reads: “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” Information satisfies hungry minds and quenches a thirst for knowledge. Let’s keep coming back — as newer, better versions of ourselves.