We are all born with the gift of curiosity. It’s the way children learn and explore their world, but somewhere along the line, through the rebuke of an adult, fear of failure or an education system that values knowledge and answers over questions and inquisitive thought, many of us stop asking.
One parent asked his son what he did for gym that day. "They sent us into the woods with a map and compass and we had to find our way out," he said. Finns put into practice, "The work of a child is to play”.
Children dare to see possibilities and wonder where we have "learned" to see limits. What we know so often blinds us to what we don’t know. Curiosity opens the door to innovation … it sees beyond what already exists.
It led men to discover new lands, explore space, make major scientific discoveries and create life-changing inventions. Albert Einstein said he had no special talent, he was only passionately curious.
Curiosity lives with humility. It doesn’t presume to have all the answers. It asks good questions … questions that come from a true desire to understand not to interrogate. It’s anxious to learn. It recognises that every person and every situation has something to teach. It lives comfortably with not knowing and is open to the ideas and perspectives of others. It can embrace paradox and stay open to anomaly. Curiosity is a common trait of most great leaders.
Curiosity holds the power of understanding. It’s the ultimate tool in conflict resolution, the alternative to telling, blaming, judging and shaming. It opens the door to hearing and valuing the other person’s perspective … it’s respectful … it’s accepting and inclusive … it leads to collaboration in sorting out the issue.
But curiosity requires courage. The opposite of certainty isn’t uncertainty but curiosity, always willing to explore the unknown. While there is comfort in certainty, I feel most alive when I step outside of certainty. It can be risky to admit I don’t know but there are no limits to an open mind. “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” ~Tony Robbins
Curiosity was given to us for a purpose. Perhaps we need to rediscover the passionate curiosity of our childhood ... to become more childlike.
- Start asking more questions … good questions … questions that deepen relationships and help people feel valued and heard. I recently read about a family who took turns in answering 3 questions at dinner each evening, “What was the sparkle in your day?” “Where did you have an opportunity to show kindness?” “What was one thing you were grateful for today?”
- Read books that you wouldn't normally read
- Visit places you've never been
- Try some food you've never eaten before
- Make a point of meeting and getting to know a new person each week
- Learn something new every day
- Stay actively alert to the yet-to-be-discovered all around you every day
- Learn to value and be comfortable with not knowing
Albert Einstein said, "Curiosity is more important than knowledge or as Mary Catherine Bateson says, “We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”