Did you know that 2020’s top-searched word, according to Google, was “why”?
From the pandemic to social unrest and brand new threats (murder hornets, I’m looking at you), that’s not surprising. We humans instinctively seek information when facing fear and uncertainty.
But what about the rest of the time? As we age, we lose our child-like sense of wonder and, research shows, tend to become more apathetic and rigid. Even if you think you’re open-minded, the less you engage in novel experiences or question the familiar in new ways, the more vulnerable you are to cognitive and physical decline over time.
That said, exploring the unknown and meeting new people, particularly when we’re facing several more months of social distancing, may appear to be impossible. But that’s precisely why now’s the time to get curious like never before.
The simple definition of curiosity focuses on taking action by seeking out new experiences or knowledge. But it goes deeper than that as more of a state of being vs. doing.
As Todd Kashdan, author of the book Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life points out, the desire to know isn’t just a pursuit — it’s an orientation and an open, creative way of paying attention. It’s also a proven path to leading a more fulfilling and joyous life.
Although you might believe that certainty and control over your circumstances bring you pleasure, it is often uncertainty and challenge that actually bring you the most profound and longest-lasting benefits.
By questioning things and letting go of what you think you know, you naturally take on a growth mindset. This provides a mental reset that helps you unlock possibilities by igniting a sense of wonder and inspiration.
How to Cultivate Curiosity
Kashdan has developed a couple of models to measure curiosity, the most recent of which chunks curiosity into five “dimensions.”
It starts with “joyous exploration,” which is what you’d think: seeking new information or experiences. The next two dimensions involve your focus level and resilience in tolerating the discomfort of uncertainty presented by novel situations.
Next up is “thrill-seeking,” which means taking potentially rewarding risks ranging from extreme sports, to cryptocurrency investing, to a startup. And the last dimension is “social curiosity,” which involves showing an interest in other people’s perspectives and opinions.
All of this you can do from the comfort of your own home. It can be as simple as asking your partner questions you’ve never asked before, or choosing to run a different route or hike an unfamiliar trail.
As Kashdan points out, as long as you’re doing something new, you’re in the process of finding and creating meaning. And that’s a surefire way to thrive and find fulfillment — no question.