Curiosity can be practiced. Some say it cannot be taught or learned. I think it can be.
When we are born, we are very curious. We want to try new things. We were not afraid to fail. We tried things after things, we learned from our mistakes. And perfected the craft of walking for example.
Now, I think it is not that we are not curious, it is marred by our fear of failure and ridicule.
We are even afraid to ask a simple question when having a conversation out of the fear of coming across as stupid.
How to Practice Curiosity?
Learn to be present
Live in the moment. Be curious about the now. Become mindful. When you become more and more mindful you start to notice the details. And these details lead to more curiosity.
What are the sounds that are coming into your awareness? What do you smell? What are the sensations in your body? How are you holding yourself? Just notice. You don’t have to answer these things, watch what comes up in your mind.
Watch your thoughts.
When talking to someone, be curious about your judgements about the person. Is there something that is irritating you about this person? What is it? Why is it irritating?
Be willing to be wrong
If you are not willing to be wrong, how can you learn something new?
Failing is the fastest way to success. Similarly, being wrong is the fastest way to find that which is right. Be wrong again and again until you find the right answer.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Express your opinions. And if someone points out, what you said is wrong, investigate. Learn about it. Just say “Oh that is different from my understanding, thanks for letting me know”.
We defend our points of view as if it were the only perspective. Understand that our point of view is one of millions of points of views. Learning happens when we share our opinions with others and investigate. Don’t defend but be curious.
Don’t say you are wrong, say what you said was wrong, if you are wrong.
Seek the unknown and be willing to be surprised
Try new things. Curious people try new things and are willing to be surprised.
Try new foods. Try a new route to your work. Watch a new movie that you won’t normally watch. Try a new exercise regimen.
You never know what you will learn.
Stepping out of your comfort zone deliberately is an easy way to build your curiosity.
Ask a lot of questions
Ask a lot of questions to yourself and to others when in a conversation. Keep a journal.
Ask questions like “Who would you be without this belief?” “Who would you be without a certain fear” “Who would you be if you were to react in a different way to a trigger?”
Challenge your perspective and beliefs.
When talking to people, set out to learn something personal about the person that you are talking to. Find out the why behind their choices, ask open ended and inviting questions.
Everyone has their own mental map of the world. Be curious about the ways they think.
Ask questions that start with “What”, “When”, “How” and “Why” that will give you descriptive answers rather than a yes or no. If it is a yes or no, follow up with open ended questions. Don’t just bring the conversation to an end.
Set aside time for reflection
Set a time every day to be curious about yourself and on your interactions with others. Journal about this.
Reflect on your personal development, beliefs and opinions. This will keep your mind sharp and clear. You will know the whys the hows and the whats behind your actions. This will bring about a greater sense of self awareness and surety. That is how you get the power to respond to situations with self-awareness.
Ask, “why did you react a certain way to a certain person/situation?” “Is it something that you want to continue doing?” “Where will you be if you continue to do the same thing in 6 months?” “Where will you be if you reacted in a different way in 6 months?”
Leave the past behind
Leave the past behind when attempting something new or even interacting with someone new. We have a tendency of projecting things on to people with the meaning that we gave to our past experiences.
We say “she is extremely judgemental” without realising that, saying that, in itself is a judgement. We are hypocrites that way.
Don’t say, you know his kind. I don’t want anything to do with him. Don’t say “she kind of looks like the bitchy type”. You are the person who is judging, you are not even open enough to find out about her. Be willing to be wrong about your assumptions.
Leave your past judgements about people and situations behind. Leave your past judgements about yourself.
When you allow your future to be affected by your past, you are not really learning anything new. You are only re-living the past. You are not creating a better future. Only by staying neutral without judgement you can create a different future.
We all judge. That is the reality. However, understand this, our judgement is only ours. It does not say anything about a person or a situation or anything. At best we can make an educated guess.
I have come across people, who say, “I feel that you are a happy”. “I feel that you are angry”. What they don’t realise is that it is still judgement. Without judgement you cannot communicate. Judgement has got a such a bad rap and they think adding “I feel” to the beginning makes it not that. Remember that, all they are saying is that, that is how they would feel in your place in a certain situation.
The same thing applies to you. At the best you can guess. But prepared to be wrong.
One trick I do is that, whenever I am irritated by someone or I am thinking “what an idiot?” I know that it is the insecurity in me that is triggered. I see people as the vessels for the daemons inside my head. They are just there to reflect back to me what is going on inside me. So, I am always eager to find out what my daemons have to say. It is not that what they say is true, but it is that I agree to what they say despite they are true or not.
How can you use curiosity to address fear?
Curiosity as a thought process
Approach the unknown with curiosity. Where there is curiosity there is fear. It goes hand in hand. Ever watched a baby who is curious? He carefully looks at something and approaches with caution. Yet he does not stop. “I wonder what happens if I put my hand in the fire?”.
Like anything, curiosity is a thought process. That generates the emotions for curiosity and wonder.
Feeling afraid to talk to someone? Feeling socially anxious? Think, “what can I learn about the person you want to talk to?” Notice them. What are they wearing? How are they moving?
Want to travel? Get curious, study the places where you want to go, ignite your curiosity, go checkout that place. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Studying about something is one of the best ways to pique curiosity. Do the research.
Get curious about your fears
Investigate your fears. Get curious about why you have the fears you have. Investigate “what do you have to think in order to generate these emotions now?” “What are the beliefs that you are holding?” “What are your own judgements about this fear?” “What does that make you?”
Be curious about your beliefs and thoughts. Ask yourself, what I believe about myself, are those true? What happens to me if I were to let go of some of my beliefs.
What happens to me if I let go of the story that I am not good enough? – That is a good way to be curious.
What happens to me if I no longer believe that I am worthless? – What happens to me if I believe in myself and act from that place?
Who would you be if you don’t believe a certain thought?
Who would you be if you let go of your perfectionism? Who would you be if you took consistent action?
While I don’t think it is a perfect science, it has worked every time for me. Somehow it puts me in the learning and investigating mode when I am curious. I don’t have to think about my fears anymore.
The evidence that you find depends on the questions you ask.
So, ask the right questions. Instead of asking “Why am I so afraid?” ask “What can I learn today?” “How would I feel if I did the things that I promised to do?”, “How would I feel if I acted courageously today?”
Your answers depend on the quality of the questions you ask.