September 17, 2020
Most successful – not to mention remarkable – discoveries throughout history have come because someone was simply curious.
Inventors interested in flight were curious about birds. Curiosity in whales inspired scientists to invest the submarine. A Swiss engineer was curious about how burrs stuck to his dog’s coat and invented velcro.
People are born naturally curious. You don’t need any more proof than to listen to a three-year old ask “Why? Why? Why?” incessantly. But as we move through life, it’s taught out of us. It’s inefficient in an educational environment (teachers and professors need to get through the curriculum rather than answering constant questions) and too difficult to manage in the work world (managers are rewarded for scraping inefficiencies and risk out of performance).
Curiosity is crucial for getting better at anything you do. At it’s how you hone your skills, learn from others and see opportunities that others miss. Living with a curious outlook on life makes it more interesting, and makes you feel more positive and energetic. It keeps you mentally strong and resilient.
In a study from the University of Edinburgh, researchers found that curiosity makes a big difference in academic success. In fact, people who have average intelligence do just as well as those who rank higher if they are curious and conscientious.
While we can learn how to become more curious, there are also lessons that curiosity can teach us about life that we don’t realize. And, at a time when bad news is everywhere, curiosity is more important than ever to thriving, rather than just surviving day-to-day.
1. How to deal with fear
The reason fear paralyzes us is because we don’t know what to do next. We feel things are out of our control. Curiosity shows you a way out because it teaches you how to dig into the little pieces of what’s creating the fear. When you begin to look at it this way, the elements that add up to the panic are more manageable. I also guarantee that you’ll learn about the stories you tell yourself about the life that you live and what you’re capable of.
2. What you find interesting
You think you know what you like, but I bet you’re selling yourself short. If you really dug into your interests, I bet you’ll find that what actually interests you is a lot different than you think.
This is what helped me understand that even through I’m great at math and science, it was the right-brained thinking that fascinated me most. The questioning that the scientists and mathematicians did that led to their ultimate discoveries.
3. How to be more observant of the world around you
Once you see where your curiosity takes you, you’ll notice more ways to be curious. A simple interest in how my foot strikes the ground when I run led me to a curiosity in watching how people walk. I sat at a mall one day watching others as they walked by. And then I paid attention to body language, which led me down a whole other topic of human interaction. That got me curious about the age at which kids start to gain awareness and try to hide their true intentions. That simple initial question has taught me a lot about the world in which I live.
4. Why people are better than technology.
Who doesn’t love being able to whip out their phone and find the answer to anything? But doing that is linear and you miss the opportunity of going off on tangents. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked my husband a question about one topic only to head in a direction I never imagined it could lead me because of something he read that I haven’t. Conversations with real people trigger thoughts that inspire other things you want to explore. This is the richest, most rewarding way to learn .
5. How to deal with boredom
A truly curious person will never be bored. They never mind time alone, because they know they’ll always find something or someone who intrigues them. They take time to observe, ask questions of themselves and others, and always find things to ponder. Curiosity is all about inquiry and exploration. You can never be bored when you let your curiosity run rampant.
The most curious people are intrinsically motivated. There’s something inside them that inspires them to look at the world around them in different ways, from different angles and to use that to continually learn. Become the person who’s always curious and you will always be in demand, both professionally as a sought-after member of a team, and personally and someone who others find charismatic.