Whenever we start a programme – be that leadership, management, presentations or sales – we always stress the importance of being curious rather than judgmental. I believe that curiosity is a fantastic resource for anyone to have and develop. It opens your mind rather than closing it, which is the usual effect of being judgmental. NLP guru (I’m not sure he would be happy with that title but hey….) Ian McDermott is a big fan of curiosity and he kindly gave me permission to use his thoughts about the 5 ways curiosity can enhance your life. So, with thanks to Ian, here are his thoughts, mixed with some of my own.
A little bit of curiosity can go a long way, because it is a mindset that impacts how you engage with the world. There will always be more to learn about the world and of course there is always more to learn about yourself. So how do you build your curiosity muscle?
Start asking questions that you don’t know the answers to. Allow yourself to wonder, what if…? Be open to different kinds of information, people and experiences. Do this and you could become a lifelong learner. Ian McDermott suggests that if you become a lifelong learner, you’ll experience five distinct benefits.
#1 You will have more energy: curiosity – the secret of eternal youth(fullness)!
Curiosity is the antidote to aging. You can see why if you hang out with children. Anyone who is a parent will tell you that they’re always inquiring and wanting to know about all manner of things plus they’re excited to learn and engage with their world. I have seen the following quote attributed to several people, but the most frequent name credited with it is Aldous Huxley. On the matter of curiosity and genius he said:
“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.Sometimes the smallest changes or additions can have the biggest impact. That’s how I think of curiosity.”
When you think about it, are children not not the most creative people on the face of the planet? I would always recommend being childlike; please note, not childish – that’s a very different thing. So, what do children do that allows them to be so curious and creative? It seems to me that they have the following:
- A sense of challenge
- A natural curiosity or inquisitiveness
- A willingness to take risks
- A sense of positive discontent, always looking for a way to do something better
- A joy of discovery/wonder
- A willingness to experiment (no, not like that!!!)
- A real desire to learn
- A tolerance of ambiguity, being willing to see more that one side of a problem or argument
The interesting thing for me is we all had these traits when we were children, so where did they go as we transitioned into adulthood?
The act of being curious will stimulate your brain. This is both energising and engaging. The more energy you put into being curious the more energy you’ll find you have. This is true not just looking out on the world but also when it comes to taking stock of the way you are in yourself. There are always opportunities to grow or reinvent the person you were yesterday or even five minutes ago. This is how you create not just the life you want but the way you want to be in yourself.
#2 You will become more creative – your potential has no limits
Since you, well actually none of us, has all the answers and there is always more to explore, it’s a smart move to explore beyond your world and get curious about other people’s ideas and their creativity. Because you are exposed to novel concepts and other ways of living you get to have more options. Sometimes you will also be inspired and in turn become more creative.
As you become aware that there are really multiple worlds inside this one world you become aware of just how many choices are open to. It helps you be more innovative and create a life of your own drawing on things you might never have known about had you not been curious.
I know it’s a well worn cliche, but I would say true nonetheless, your mind is like a parachute in that it works best when it’s open. This means resisting the temptation to make too many assumptions and working to keep your mind open to new ideas. When my colleague Martin Eldon delivers our Creative Problem Solving workshop he differentiates between life’s tame problems and the wicked ones that we sometimes face.
Tame problems have the following qualities:
- Can be clearly defined
- Are commonly understood
- Lend themselves to analysis & solutions
- Solutions are normally agreed by all involved
Whereas wicked problems can:
- Have multiple definitions
- Have no end point
- Have no right or wrong solutions
- Have no immediate test of solution
#3 Create your sense of reality – see the world as brand new
Since our view of the world is constructed by our maps of reality and not reality itself, we need to remember that we can make our life heaven or hell pretty much on a daily basis by our thoughts and the meaning we make of our experience. Luckily we don’t have to be able to change the world to be able to change our internal world.
When you look at the world with renewed curiosity you’re more likely to challenge your old assumptions and the current status quo. It’s a natural result of seeing the world afresh. In the process you get to refresh yourself.
#4 Wake-up your awareness
Some years ago I saw a cartoon of a man on his deathbed saying “I wish I’d bought more crap,”
I have seen that crap in many guises; how people chase money, status and possessions and end up missing out on a fulfilling life. This is much less likely to happen if you’re curious about what makes a life well-lived? If you’re asking questions that guide you toward what really matters to you, your curiosity could save you from a life of empty ‘success’. Instead you’ll be focusing on what’s really fulfilling to you.
#5 Identify your identity – get to know yourself better
The more curious you are the more you learn what really interests you. In the process you can come to a fuller understanding of what you’re all about. Curiosity makes people more adventurous. On the other hand, if you never try you’ll never know – and you’ll probably not have so much of a sense of who you are or could become.
How to understand a human life? Does a life unfold? Are there phases or chapters? And if so where are you on this journey? Such existential curiosity can help shape anyone’s life because it’s a way of stepping back and deciding what it’s all about for you.
Doing this can help you decide what you want to have more of and less of in your life as you go forward. So you can begin to shape your future. As you do so you also begin to shape the future you.
And that future is just about to begin…
Again, I would like to thank Ian McDermott for his words of wisdom and his generosity in allowing me to share them with you.