How to become more curious
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Curiosity killed the cat
Curiosity has nearly killed my cat multiple times. He seemed to have a death wish at Christmas when he began chewing through the wire on the Christmas tree lights, I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve caught him climbing the curtains and summer is the worst when he makes daring leaps from high places to catch all kinds of birds, butterflies and moths.
You’ll be happy to know my cat is still here and greatly curious and that no cats were harmed during the writing of this blog. But on a more serious note, ignoring his near-death experiences, there’s a lot we can learn from my cat.
Recent research has shown that curiosity is an important trait for leaders and managers to develop, to be successful. Success in the workplace requires more than just the following:
- Luck! - some say you make this yourself.
- A strong work ethic – although personal responsibility and commitment help
- A supportive network of family, friends and acquaintances
- Challenge – a sense of achievement can be very motivational
Don’t get me wrong you can make a case for all of the above being vital ingredients to success, but there is something else, which if you tap into it, can bring in more success and insights than you might think possible – CURIOSITY.
What is curiosity?
Simply put curiosity is an eagerness to learn about something, often characterised by questions starting with “I wonder why” or “What if”.
All I have to do is watch Professor Brian Cox on TV to be transported back to my childhood, where I often pondered such questions as “How did the universe start?”, “Why do human beings exist?” and “What’s the answer to life, the universe and everything?”.
As I got older I realised, much to my annoyance, there wasn’t a definitive answer to any of these questions. That doesn’t stop me going down Wikipedia rabbit holes in the evenings to try and discover more.
Curiosity and inquisitive minds are valuable tools, but they often wane after our formative years. As children, we have hundreds of questions buzzing around in our head that we’re excited to answer and explore, but as we get older often the most pressing questions we ask are “What’s for tea?”, “Have you paid the bill?” and “Do I need to do the laundry today?”. None of those questions are particularly inspirational, awe-inspiring or curiosity-driven.
Yet curiousity, has been shown to increase wisdom and success, so why are we exercising so little of it?
Why do we lose our desire to learn?
Let’s be curious for a minute and explore why, as we get older, we seemingly lose our innate drive to explore!
There are a lot of factors that kill curiosity, and the workplace is often guilty of increasing and implementing some of these factors:
- A focus on finding answers not asking questions
- Internally or externally imposed rules and barriers
- A fear of looking stupid
- A fear of failure
- Black and white thinking
- Selective listening – only hearing things that back your view
A lot of these factors are imposed by the environment around us but many are self-imposed and can be challenged.
There are many examples of people who value curiosity over all of the above, particularly failure – believing failure is just another opportunity to learn something new – Benjamin Franklin, Walt Disney, Hans Christian Anderson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Deborah Meaden, J.K. Rowling to name a few. Whether or not you like the people in question you cannot deny they have been successful.
Fear of failure, rejection and insecurities surrounding feeling stupid can drive unhelpful stories in our head that kill curiosity and trigger bad habits and behaviours that are counterproductive.
How can curiosity benefit you?
Curiosity holds many benefits that spur on success, insight and even happiness. Here are just a few benefits:
How do I become more curious?
Ironically all this begs in how do I become more curious? Do you want to return to your former youth where you questioned everything, learned daily and explored and discovered willingly? Don’t worry because all is not lost. Here are some tips to help you tap into the world of curiosity:
Tip 1: Start with something that fascinates and energises you. Get motivated to learn and see where it takes you
Tip 2: Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone – what have you always fancied doing but have never done?
Tip 3: Ask more questions – “why” and “what if” questions are a great start
Tip 4: Reflect on what you learn – process new information to discover things you didn’t know or didn’t realise you knew.
Tip 5: Don’t just use Google – people are a rich resource of ideas and information. Many people have knowledge they’re prepared to share
Tip 6: Look up and out, as well as in and down – it’s easy on a boring journey to bury our heads in our smartphones, but what are you missing when you do that?
Wisdom, happiness and fulfilment all rely on curiosity which in turn drives success. Curiosity is an underlying and core theme to our programs Pathfinder and Pioneer which aim to educate leaders and managers alike on becoming more successful. If you’re curious, details can be found on our website, alternatively please get in touch.
Back to the famous proverb “curiosity killed the cat” which warns against curiosity and unnecessary experimentation or investigation. You might be surprised to learn the original form of the proverb, was “care killed the cat”. Where “care” means “worry” or “sorrow”. So here’s our parting questions:
Why you would let worry or sorrow get in the way of being happy, fulfilled and curious?