I’m a curious fellow. I like odd topics, and I love discovering new ideas in their natural habitat. There’s always that one more thing that we can go out and find.
But how curious are you? If you feel like maybe your level of curiosity isn’t what it used to be, here are three tips to help give it a lift:
1. Stop downplaying your curiosity
As Westerners, we too often downplay curiosity as a driver for our education. For too many of us, curiosity is something we encourage in young children, or perhaps, scientists, but tend to deemphasize for everyone else. Many of us perceive curiosity like a toy, something we amuse ourselves with, but rarely use to create real impact or change.
But why? Too often it is a mindset that comes about because of age. As we grow older we choose to accept certain ideas as absolute. Nothing ever really changes, and so, little by little, we stop caring, we no longer find joy in the potentially interesting or in the everyday. We’ve “done it all,” so to speak.
But this notion that our aptitude for curiosity declines with age is a self-imposed myth. There is no neuroscience or psychology to support it. In fact, many of our most esteemed elders have gone out of their way to refute it and assert, as Samuel Johnson did that curiosity is “necessary for a rigorous intellect”.
But if age doesn’t stop us from being curious, then what does?
2. Actively choose to learn
The problem is within us. We CHOOSE not to learn. We choose to not want to know more, and eventually…we don’t. The desire to know more disappears like an ember smothered by a boot.
The great thing about an ember, though, is that there’s always residual heat there, often enough to start another fire.
3. Seek out inspiration anywhere you can find it
How, then, do we rekindle this behavior, this desire to burn and learn? It only takes a step in the right direction: We must seek it out by (for example):
- Finding and connecting with people who are passionate about whatever topic has caught our interest
- Taking the risk of jumping right into the middle of a topic we want to master, even if we are mere novices
- Accepting criticism as a learning opportunity and fuel for our curiosity
Curiosity fluctuates with our will to learn – and vice versa. Protecting and maintaining a sense of curiosity is essential for every dedicated lifelong learner. Indeed, it is the very fuel that lifelong learners run on.
This is a guest post by Christopher Hutton of Liter8 Ideas.
Editorial notes and additions:
- Research has linked curiosity to better memory – see this 2009 study
- And, curiosity is critical to academic performance – see this 2011 study
Good curiosity quotes
Curiosity is antifragile, like an addiction; magnified by attempts to satisfy it.
– Nassim Taleb
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
– Albert Einstein
Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.
– Samuel Johnson