Curiosity is one of our school values, and plenty of key critical thinkers writing about the value of curiosity and open-mindedness in business, in the world of learning and especially in relating to others. So let’s take a look at just how this value or characteristic can improve our lives, as well as the lives of others – from the more obvious ways, to the more subtle.
Curious People Make the Best Discoveries
Curious people are the kinds of people who continually ask questions – and without asking questions about how things work or how they could be improved, we would never discover anything new. Head of Forsyth House Delanie Lewis wrote on the Wellbeing Hive in 2020 that curiosity is at the heart of all creativity so without someone wondering about the world we would have no technology, no art, no medical advances, including vaccines and no new discoveries on a smaller or a greater basis.
The spirit of true genius is perhaps to never accept what we are presented with – but to always question how it could be bigger, better, more accessible or more engaging. This is something you can practice and develop – using thinking tools as a game to sharpen our mind and keep it engaged. Einstein downplayed his genius, instead calling himself “passionately curious” and putting his discoveries largely down to this. Year 8 student Austin Huang wrote recently on The Wellbeing Hive about how curiosity was a key element of many of the positive male role models he had set for himself, because they were all curious about how to make life better for others.
Curious People Grow and Develop The Most
Curious people have more of a growth mindset – they value learning on personal and on academic levels more highly than being correct. We published an article on this topic recently, which espouses the value of getting the best understanding over proving yourself right or reinforcing currently-held beliefs.
When we protect our position or worry about being revealed as wrong or flawed, we can never truly understand the world as a whole – nor ourselves as whole people. Curiosity protects us from ignorance and obscurity. If we long only to learn as much as we can, we will always accept new information to build into our mental maps on any topic. This includes ourselves – and curious people tend to be much more reflective and therefore adapt better to new situations.
As people, if we bend our curiosity to understanding ourselves and others, we generate more empathy, more forgiveness and better relationships with ourselves, as well as with others (explored below). We also tend to deal better with the greater and lesser rejections that we all experience as a part of life… shifting feelings of shame to a desire to learn how to do better next time.
Curious People Are Never Bored
Have you ever been bored in lockdown? Curious people are not!
Curious people might be those that see lockdowns as an opportunity to indulge in something they have always wondered about. They see what they can do with the time, rather than view time as a burden that needs to be filled. Curious people can never have enough time to explore their passions.
You will see curious people as ones who explore new hobbies – perhaps they develop deep passions for puzzles, playing an instrument, developing culinary expertise and so on – or perhaps they dip in and out in order to satisfy a wide variety of interests. But they always have some theory they want to test, or some skill they want to develop. Curious people are dynamic and exciting to be around in that way.
You might also see them reading – an important habit for those with a curious mind, and one reason why we spend so much time promoting reading at St Margaret’s Berwick Grammar. Reading can satisfy curiosity and stimulate more. Both fiction and non-fiction expose us to new ideas and allow us to step into the shoes of others. Picking up a book is a great way to begin to satisfy your curiosity on a topic – and picking a book is as simple as asking yourself which topic or story are you most curious about?
Curious People Relate the Most to Others
One of the things that interests me most about curiosity is how crucial it is to our interpersonal relationships. No-one says this better than the ever-hopeful Ted Lasso:
The point Ted makes in this video is powerful. We should approach everyone we meet with interest and an open-mind because you just never know what their experience has been. Ted talks about how a lack of curiosity leads people to judge him quickly, to write off his hopeful positivity as naivety. And yes – how many people do we pigeon-hole because it is easier to use similar data to draw inferences and conclusions than to really get to know each and every individual we meet?
But we cannot get to know people without that desire to allow others to tell their own story. Curiosity is at the heart of good listening – the generosity to allow each person the time and place to be themselves and to be appreciated for it. I suppose this links again to my recent article on Xenomania – a passionate curiosity about strangers and an openness to the impact our little interactions with them can have on our lives. We connect more when we genuinely care about the stories of others.
So in a world that sometimes seems closed in and perhaps even uncertain, we need curious, creative, open-minded, giving people who connect more than ever. Curious people change things, they make progress, but at the same time they keep us connected and make us feel like we matter. They make great teachers, researchers, psychologists, entrepreneurs and a host of other crucial roles that will always be needed.
We can train ourselves to be more curious and to be more open to the role of curiosity in every element of our lives. We might just have to focus more on it, and train our brains and our self-talk in new ways. This is probably one of the best articles I have read on this: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201407/seven-ways-be-more-curious
For parents wanting to encourage that all important value of curiosity in their children, you might find some benefit in this article with 24 useful tips: https://www.brainbytes.org/blog/24-ways-develop-curiosity/
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