Our minds never stop. It never sits still and lets the world pass it by. Always buzzing with energy and curiosity.
As kids, most of us explored, questioned, and experimented, just to quench our insatiable hunger for knowledge of the new world we found ourselves in. However, not all of us retained that curiosity.
Interestingly, Todd B Kashdan and Paul J Silvia, inferred in the handbook of Positive Psychology (pp.367-375) that those who maintained their curiosity often turned out to be powerful and dynamic adults in their skills and careers. And I think that’s not far from the truth.
What is curiosity?
Curiosity is an innate drive to explore, inquire, and comprehend the world around us, as well as our inner workings. And to develop your natural curiosity, you must let go of the fear of the unknown and start exploring (within and around you).
Curiosity propels us to seek new knowledge, challenge our assumptions, and push the boundaries of what we know and can do. From the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of space, from the mysteries of the human brain to the wonders of the natural world, curiosity fuels our quest for understanding and shapes our evolution as a species.
Is curiosity the first step to learning?
Often, curiosity is the first spark that ignites the flame of learning – I.e to know and understand things that appear strange and fascinating.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson (born October 1958), was fuelled by a fascination with the stars which began when he first gazed upon them at age nine while visiting the sky theater of the Hayden Planetarium.
This curiosity about the stars has made him a master’s in astrophysics and science communication. He has written best-selling science books, led research teams, and appeared in countless television shows, podcasts, and movies – such as the “Big Bang Theory ” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ”.
His story shows us how curiosity can lead to personal growth and success. On the other hand, a lack of curiosity can hinder us from taking meaningful action.
By embracing curiosity, we can continue to learn and grow throughout our lives, both personally and professionally.
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”– Neil deGrasse Tyson
Also Read: The Importance of Lifelong Learning
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Dimensions Of Curiosity and how it helps in learning.
Curiosity is like an onion, with multiple layers (dimensions) that make up the whole concept. So I thought, one effective way of illustrating this complexity is by sharing inspiring stories of individuals who have achieved great success in their education and profession as a result of their dimensions of curiosity.
So let’s begin.
The term, “Joyous Exploration”, was coined by psychologist Todd Kashdan, who studies curiosity. And, Tyson exemplified this dimension of curiosity as a kid.
Joyous exploration, as the name suggests, often involves you looking at things through the lens of wonder and excitement. And ready to absorb new ideas and experiences and embrace the unknown.
It’s akin to the feeling Tyson had when staring at the stars through a telescope at the Hayden Planetarium.
It arises from positive emotions that involve marveling at the world’s features, and learning new hobbies and interests.
When you possess such a sense of curiosity, it can serve as a powerful driver for self-improvement by motivating you to expand your knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of the world and its components. Making it likely for you to experience a boost in creativity and well-being and ultimately establish a solid reputation in your chosen profession.
“Curiosity is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior. It leads to exploration, discovery, and growth.”– Todd Kashdan
People with deprivation sensitivity are compelled to uncover obscure information to bridge gaps in their understanding and improve life expectancy. They are fueled by the desire to solve intricate life puzzles or problems.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1964, Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin grew up in a family of educators. She was troubled and curious about Ethiopia’s periodic famines and that greatly influenced her interest.
She went on to study economics in college and earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics and a Ph.D. in applied economics from Stanford University.
After working with various organizations, she returned to Ethiopia to turn her interest into a solution. She worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, where she established the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.
Years of curiosity and studies began to pay off when she realized that small farmers were struggling to sell their crops at equitable rates, while city dwellers were experiencing scarcity and high prices.
In 2008, she insisted on creating a commodities exchange to offer a clear and effective marketplace for farmers, despite facing opposition.
Her pioneering tactics and determination have greatly affected the well-being of millions of Ethiopians, and her accomplishments serve as motivation for others to resolve societal and financial issues.
Understand: This type of curiosity emanates from your desire or need to figure things out and improve them. In the case of Dr. Eleni, the need to save her country from the hunger crisis led her to study food production, processing, and security.
This shows us the importance of embracing our unique life experiences and using them as a catalyst for growth and progress. When you channel your curiosity toward understanding and addressing your limitations, you can unlock new possibilities and achieve greater success.
Also Read: How To Cultivate The Habit of Reading
This aspect of curiosity involves being open to embracing ambiguity and unpredictability.
People with the ability to handle stress are more likely to remain composed and engage in critical thinking to pursue their passions. Such individuals thrive under pressure and use difficult circumstances as a means to improve and create.
During Covid-19, the world economy was threatened. And Jeff Bezos’ Amazon was not excluded from the threat. The pandemic restricted the movement of people, goods, and services (for good reason that most of us hated). To manage his business and profits, he and his team needed to find strategies to keep the business alive.
Among these strategies was to hire thousands of workers across the globe since the demand was high online and also support businesses that sell through amazon with a $100 million relief fund.
This might not seem like a genius-level idea, however, managing such numbers of workers against the risk of getting infected and investing such amounts of money in a chaotic period requires a high level of creativity. As a reward, Bezos’ earned himself the top spot of the world’s richest men amidst the chaos.
Anyone high in stress tolerance tends to be comfortable with obscurity and may even seek out challenging or stressful situations. They may desire to test their limits to see what new ideas they may spring up with under pressure. It’s almost like a bird leaping out of its nest for the very first time, trusting only its wings and the air.
“If you’re not curious, you’re not going to invent.”– Jeff Bezos
People with social curiosity are empowered by the need to associate and connect with people – i.e. the desire to learn about other people, groups, and cultures.
Socially curious people are interested in other people’s lives, beliefs, values, and experiences. They seek out opportunities to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and learn about different cultures.
Some examples of socially curious behaviors include;
- asking questions about others’ experiences,
- seeking out new social opportunities,
- actively listening to others, and
- engaging in activities that expose you to different cultures and perspectives.
Jimmy Nelson (born in 1967) is a British documentary photographer known for his stunning and intimate portraits of indigenous and tribal communities around the world. Before that, he had a successful career as a creative director, working for advertising agencies in London, New York, and Amsterdam.
One day, he stumbled upon a Maasai community in Kenya where he found his true calling (a calling born out of social curiosity). Struck by the beauty and resilience of the Maasai people, he felt a deep sense of responsibility to document their way of life. At that moment, he decided to pursue his passion for photography full-time.
His inspiration and vision for his photography career stemmed from his love and respect for the culture and the people who preserve it. But, beyond that, Nelson is a socially curious beast, as he desperately craves to learn about people who are not a part of the modern societal system.
In an interview with National Geographic, Nelson explained his approach to photography: “I don’t just want to take pictures; I want to try to get the essence of what’s there. I’m trying to capture the souls of these people and these places.”
Social curiosity is an important aspect of social intelligence, as it helps you navigate social situations and build relationships with others. It can also lead to increased empathy and understanding of others, as well as an appreciation for diversity.
“Curiosity is a lifelong pursuit, and it’s what keeps us engaged and interested in the world around us. Never stop asking questions, and never stop exploring.”– Jimmy Nelson
Most people who are high in thrill-seeking curiosity are often tempted to take risks and seek out intense and novel experiences to satisfy their curiosity.
From an early age, Bear Grylls (June 1974) had a knack for adventurous and dangerous activities. He loved to climb and sail with his father (a member of the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron). As a teenager, he skydived and earned a second dan black belt in Shotokan karate. Also, took the challenge to learn English, Spanish, and French language.
His service in the British Territorial Army with 21 SAS (Special Air squad) as a trooper, was terminated as the result of a fatal fall from parachuting in Kenya in 1996 because his parachute failed to open, causing him to break three vertebrae.
Although the incident was a setback, it did not dampen Grylls’ desire for adventure. In fact, it fueled his curiosity and propelled him to become an adventurer, writer, and television presenter, renowned for his daring outdoor pursuits and survival skills. He rose to fame with his popular television series “Man vs. Wild,” where he teaches how to survive in various wild landscapes (“Running Wild With Bear Grylls” is one my favorite on National Geographic)
This extent of curiosity can manifest in various ways, such as;
- participating in extreme sports,
- traveling to dangerous or exotic locations, or
- experimenting with drugs or other high-risk behaviors.
Although risky and intense activities may have negative consequences, yet, the thrill of achieving the impossible is a reward that many people find irresistible. Those who dare to push the boundaries and succeed often leave others in awe.
However, it’s worth noting that people’s curiosity can extend to several subjects and experiences, not just the physically daring and dangerous ones.
“The best way to learn is to get out there, take risks, and embrace your curiosity.”– Bear Grylls
How to develop a curiosity for learning.
Curiosity is not strictly inherent. It can also be nurtured and developed regardless of who you are, your age, and your experience. Here are some ways to foster curiosity for learning:
- Ask questions.
- Try new things – don’t be afraid to take risks, and make mistakes.
- Create (or get into) an environment that inspires exploration, creativity, and experimentation. This could mean relocating or intentionally making friends with other curious people
- Explore new concepts through fun and interactive activities like games and puzzles.
- Utilize a range of resources such as books, articles, videos, and online tools to discover new topics.
- Share your learning experiences with others to fill gaps in your knowledge
“The thing I love most about curiosity is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how smart you are, or what you know. Anyone can be curious.”– Temple Grandin
Society, adulthood, and its responsibilities can be stifling to curiosity. But knowing that curiosity can unlock a happy and meaningful life, you must strive to retain and cultivate your curiosity.
Allow yourself to be pushed beyond your limitations and challenge your assumptions, about yourself, and the world around you.
A curious person is never satisfied with the status quo. They are always striving to learn more, do more, and be more.
In essence, you want to be a force to be reckoned with, full of boundless energy. Always discovering new ways to improve and thrive and never settling for what you already know and have.
If you embrace your curiosity your ignorance will dissipate, and your life experiences and fulfillment will expand.
A mindful self-help writer and photographer