As kids, we are all curious. Kids are constantly asking questions, exploring, discovering and looking for new possibilities. All because they are curious, wanting to learn more. Curiosity is a childhood survival skill; it’s how they learn, test their assumptions, become open to new perspectives, push the boundaries of what they are capable of, make mistakes, and do things they (and often we) never thought were possible. As kids, time is a limitless commodity, and the present is the only place to be.
But somewhere along the way, as we grow into adulthood, we lose our sense of curiosity. Is it when our parents become frustrated with our millions of questions—as they’re thinking about other things in their lives and are not present in the moment—and tell us to stop asking them or make us feel bad for asking them? Is it when our teachers, who don’t have the time or means to answer the myriad of questions thrown at them, dismiss these questions or make us feel we aren’t smart enough because we don’t already know the answer?
Sadly, however it happens, curiosity in adulthood is hard to find. We live in a time-pressured world, always anticipating what is coming next with little time to be curious about what is happening now.
But curiosity shouldn’t be something we grow out of. In fact, curiosity has been recognized as one of the most important skills needed by a leader today. In 2011, Forbes recognized curiosity as “the one trait all innovative leaders share,” using the success of Steve Jobs as an example: “Jobs wasn’t curious because he wanted to be successful. He became successful because he was so curious.”1
We are, in fact, wired for curiosity as human beings. Findings in neuroscience have confirmed that when we are curious about something, the hormones dopamine and oxytocin, our natural “feel good” chemicals, are released in our brains. Not only do these hormones make us feel good, they also create a connection between the heart and the brain that leads to a greater sense of openness. As a result, we experience a greater sense of connection with others, which supports the creation of a new, shared reality based on understanding.2
One thing we know for sure, when we aren’t curious we judge, we tell, we blame and we shame- all of which never feels good. With the absence of curiosity, even the most respectful conversations or relationships can become fractured and burdened with assumptions and misunderstandings. This contributes to feelings of stress, anxiety, drama, conflict all of which affect our health and happiness. The good news is we are all born with the skill of being curious. We just have to relearn how to access it!
If you feel like you:
- Aren’t being listened to
- Have knowledge or experience that isn’t being respected
- Worry about criticism of others
- Feel colleagues aren’t being held accountable
- Want to eliminate drama at work or at home
- Want to be a respected leader/parent/ partner
- Say things that you later wish you could take back
- Struggle to identify what you want
- Fail to set appropriate boundaries
- Feel stuck
- Do not achieve what you want
- Avoid having difficult conversations
- Crave healthy, authentic relationships
- Want more in your life
You are in the right place! Incorporating curiosity into any of the above will help you achieve the specific results you crave. Over the next few weeks we are going to share with you the specific Curiosity Skills from “The Power of Curiosity” so you too can start achieving what you want.
In the meantime, start by paying attention to how often you find yourself curious in conversations – how often do you tell and how often do you ask? What do you notice about yourself and others?
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How do you use curiosity in your life?
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How can I increase happiness in my life?
Do a quick check in with yourself!
- Be clear about what you want and go after it.
- Live in alignment with your values.
- Remove judgment from your language – of self and others.
Next week we will answer “What if I like to judge others?”
 August Turak, “Steve Jobs and the One Trait All Innovative Leaders Share,” Forbes online, November 21, 2011, http://www.forbes.com/sites/augustturak/2011/11/21/steve-jobs-and-the-one-trait-all-innovative-leaders-share/.
2 Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence (Bibliomotion, 2014), 131.