Updated: Jan 13, 2020
Have you ever been a part of the curiosity around an eclipse? Chins lifted to the sky, silly glasses on our faces, and a giddiness pulsing through us, as we participate in the wonder of the universe, is something everyone should experience. I remember the posts from the 2017 eclipse on social media... they were so fun and uplifting, as everyone seemed to be riding this collective wave of curiosity. Isn’t this kind human connection wonderful? Many of us have marched through this process before but the wonder and curiosity seems to grab us by the shorthairs and send a little charge through our bodies, like being a kid again.
Curiosity is an important trait of a genius. I don’t think you can find an intellectual giant who is not a curious person. You may have often heard the phrase “be childlike” encouraged when we are in an idea generation mode. A childlike perspective encourages our adult self to let go of the adult ego and be more open and curious. When we allow ourselves to go into that space, we often create new, fresh and unique ideas. The unfortunate truth is that we lose our sense of wonder as we become adults.
I remember when I turned 16 and got my first car, my Dad insisted that I go an entire year without a radio and told me to think about things that I could invent. Now, looking back, I’m sure his directive was more about safety, but the fact is, it ignited my innovative and curious mind. During that year, I came up with a couple great ideas that are now common goods that are used, universally. #truth And, no, I didn’t do anything with the ideas, but I still claim them as mine! What I learned from that process, and continue to teach to this day, is that human beings love to PLAY. We love to play with ideas, we love to play with strategic processes, and we love for work to feel like play. When we get to create and fan the flames of curiosity, it feels like we are playing, which ignites our soul.
Author Mary Cronk Farrell says that we should find things in our every day life to be curious about, in order to increase our mental health and happiness:
Be curious when somebody gets under your skin.
Ask yourself what your reaction reveals about you. When we blame others, we lose options, we get stuck and feel powerless. When we ask questions, we gain options and the freedom to make new choices.
Be curious about your thoughts.
Many of our thoughts are not true, but we go on believing them. Moment by moment we let our thoughts say terrible things about us, things we'd never say to a friend. Pause, investigate, acknowledge some of our thoughts are ridiculous, or just plain wrong. Being curious, seeing useless, hurtful thoughts for what they are helps us begin to let them go.
Be curious about your emotions.
Exploring our feelings helps us act with more clarity and wisdom. Letting emotions like fear, anger and pain go unacknowledged creates hidden motives. It sounds backward, but understanding our feelings actually helps us make more rational choices.
Be curious about your everyday surroundings.
Rushing through the same routine day after day we can miss the excitement of being alive. Endless mystery awaits our attention, genius even. Both Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were sitting daydreaming when everyday sights sparked amazing ideas. Newton saw an apple fall from a tree, was curious, and discovered gravity and the laws of motion. Einstein saw a builder on the rooftop, was curious what would happen if he fell, and extended his theory of relativity to gravity.
Be curious about other people.
There's a theory we're hardwired to hang with people like us and feel threatened by those who look different, act different or believe different. Supposedly, it goes back to the days of running around in bands protecting our food sources. But if we let go of our fear and our judgments and open our minds to discovery, relationships become more complex, more interesting, more intimate. People are fascinating if we give them a chance.
The life of curious people is far from boring. It’s neither dull nor routine. There are always new things that attract their attention, there are always new ‘toys’ to play with. Instead of being bored, curious people have an adventurous life. What do you need to shift, in order to start seeing the world with a bit more wonder and curiosity?
Following are 15 ideas to kick start your childlike perspective and maximize your intellectual curiosity:
Ask questions, relentlessly
Take a different route home
Join an online page to inspire your dreams
Dig a little deeper in your conversations
Don’t label things as boring—try it, again
Take a lesson on something you’ve never done
Start reading the classics
Learn a new language (hello, FREE Duolingo!)
Get on Google earth and re-trace the steps of a vacation
Get on Google earth and plan a dream trip
Go to a local historical/famous spot in your community
Go paint something
Join a group/class on something you’ve been curious about
Start a puzzle/crossword/ mystery novel—get your brain working
Reach out to a seemingly untouchable expert that you admire and start a meaningful and challenging discussion
As many of us experienced with the eclipse, curiosity is a wonderful thing that creates energy, excitement and fun. As we grow older and more demands are put on our time, it’s even more important that we stay intellectually curious. So, shake up your life strategically, and allow yourself to get out of your routine—we could all benefit from seeing things with a new and curious lens.