I've always been envious of people who have a natural sense of curiosity. That's never been me. I have a more targeted sense of curiosity than possessing the overall "curiosity trait" some lucky people embody. But I decided this was a quality I really wanted to cultivate because the rewards are enormous. I've made it a priority...a habit...habitually curious.
I've spent years researching and attempting to understand why people behave the way they do. The biggest challenge of my work, both professionally and personally, is to help people change their behaviors and habits so they can look, feel, and live better...myself included! We all know how hard that can be even when we REALLY want to change.
It's interesting how many times curiosity has come up in my research, whether it's from a more subjective, spiritual perspective or found in the science-based, brain research literature. Regardless of the source, the conclusions seem to be the same. A sense of curiosity is highly beneficial and something to be fostered.
For me, this is something I've had to work on. Being an introvert has caused me to be very protective of my energy so sometimes I think I don't want to "waste my energy" on being curious. Other times it just doesn't cross my mind to do so. I may even think "I already know" so what's there to be curious about? But shifting my focus from a conclusion to a state of curiosity has yielded amazing results and changes in attitude for me.
This goes along the lines of Arrow Tip #6. I've said that conclusions lead to dead ends but questions lead to open doors. Curiosity leads to questions. What I didn't realize until more recently is that according to brain research it's pretty much impossible to be in a state of negative thinking while also being in a state of curiosity.
Changing our states of mind and states of being are critical not only to feel better but also make it possible to get different results. Moving into a genuine state of curiosity is an absolute game-changer. Totally NOT A WASTE of energy.
Let's put this into practical terms. Imagine you're having a disagreement with someone. You may feel yourself getting triggered. If you can shift your focus from how annoyed you're getting and become curious instead, your negative thinking and emotions will have to take a back seat for the moment. That pause will interrupt the activated neural pathway and shift it, allowing you to calm down and perhaps even take a different perspective. Rather than thinking about what point you're going to make next, or how angry you're getting because this person isn't agreeing with you, instead become curious as to why they might be disagreeing with you. Ask yourself what their view must be in order to say the things they're saying. Being curious doesn't mean you have to agree with them. But it will allow you to shift out of an undesirable pattern of behavior, bring the heat down, and maybe even lead to a better outcome.
I find this really helpful in situations that cause a lot of anxiety and fear. We get stuck in these states of mind because we're fearing the unknown by worrying about a possible future event or remembering a past that caused stress or pain. Biologically we are set up to fear the unknown. This is how we've protected ourselves and continued to survive as a species, but Arrow Tip #31 explains why the unknown can also be a great place to be. It leads to possibility. We can override our programming and bring ourselves out of the discomfort of anxiety and fear by moving into a state of curiosity instead. The brain won't be able to focus on both at the same time.
Being curious means asking questions and trying to learn and understand from a wider perspective. Opening ourselves up to new ideas and possibilities. A genuine "I wonder" is a great place to start. However, it must be an authentic "wondering".
"I wonder if this time things might be different than before?" "I wonder if_______would be possible?" "I genuinely wonder why this person feels the way they do?" "I wonder what I might have said in order for that person to respond the way they did?" "I wonder if I can take a different route instead of falling into my same patterns of behavior?" "I wonder if I can listen for a minute instead of jumping to conclusions?" "I wonder if what I'm so afraid of might not even happen?"
As previously stated, we naturally fear the unknown. We fear things that are different from us. We fear things we don't understand. Curiosity can lead to understanding. Understanding fosters collaboration. Understanding can lead to peace. Notice I didn't say agreement. Our world could do with a bit more peace. We don't have to agree with each other but we can try to understand each other. This starts at the personal level by becoming curious about things. When we become curious we put ourselves in a position to be open to understanding. As Steven Covey says in his book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People"...."Seek first to understand, then be understood."
Next time you find yourself falling into a predictable pattern of behavior leading to the same unwanted results or find yourself in a negative state of emotion, see if you can move into an authentic state of curiosity instead. You can become curious about the person you're speaking with, or the situation at hand, or even curious about your own thinking. You will be amazed at how quickly your negative emotions de-escalate. The brain just can't entertain thoughts of negativity and curiosity at the same time. I can think of so many situations in my life when I wish I'd known this. But I can assure you after testing it time and time again, it works. All you have to do is practice it. Practice being curious in the times that don't matter so much to you. It's much easier to develop the skill when emotions aren't too high. Become curious from now on and reap the rewards.
In states of anxiety, fear, anger, or any type of negative thinking or emotion, remember to shift into a state of genuine curiosity.
Use "I wonder" questions to help you move into this new state.
Practice being curious during non-emotional times so you can exercise this muscle. Be curious about people, places, and things that you normally might take for granted or think you already know about. There's always something new to be learned.
*Remember: YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE!