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What is Curiosity?

The technical definition

Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn; having an interest in a person, thing, or experience that leads to making an inquiry.

Curious Cat

Huh, what does that mean?

Being curious can manifest itself in the activity of asking questions, but it can also be a position from which one approaches their life.  Todd Kashdan, an Associate Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, has made his career on being curious and affectionately calls curiosity “an engine of growth.”  He believes that in order to find purpose and meaning in life, one must be curious, engage in experimentation, and utilize all that can be gained from life’s many trials and errors.  He believes that it is from our openness – and not our closedness – that we are able to develop depth and richness in our existence.

It is important to note that being curious does not necessarily imply that one has little knowledge on a subject or that further inquiry is needed to develop an opinion; rather, curiosity is the idea that one is simply open to learning the nuances of the unknown, and in doing so, they hope to broaden and deepen their scope of understanding.

How can I use this in my life?

  • Curiosity keeps us fresh and relevant.  There’s a popular quote by an unknown author that says, “The day you stop learning is the day you die.”  A life without learning new material would be like watching the same movie play over and over again, and what would be the point in that?  As adults, we can probably learn from young children who are just discovering the world and who incessantly ask the question, “Why?”
  • Curiosity helps us in our decision-making.  The more knowledge we procure from our curious endeavors, the more informational resources we have to tap into when we need to critically think about a problem or make an important decision.
  • Curiosity can be useful in navigating arguments or confrontations.  It’s common for people to avoid discussions on topics where they might disagree – like religion or politics.  Imagine for a moment that if during a contentious discussion, you or the other party involved were able assume a stance of curiosity.  Research has revealed that those who were able to do so felt empowered by their ability to make the other person feel heard. They also became more informed about the counter-perspective, and they experienced a greater empathy for other person and their point of view, resulting in a significant decrease of hostility between parties.  Knowing this, consider what effect being curious during a conflict with your spouse or significant other would have on your ability to resolve conflict!

References

Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious?: discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life. New York: William Morrow.

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