There is so much in our world that is novel, strange, and stimulating. Yet, our day-to-day lives often resemble more of a mundane routine than an epic adventure. We get stuck in our task lists and obligations, instead of creating moments of awe, wonder, and excitement.
Expressing curiosity for the world around you is one of the simplest strategies for enhancing your overall well-being. When neuroscientists and psychologists have studied curiosity, they’ve noticed a myriad of positive benefits from enhancing memory and learning, to expanding our levels of empathy and living happier lives, to having higher levels of achievement.
Here’s how you can shift your focus with these three simple strategies to spark your curiosity.
Have you ever considered how curiosity actually works? Typically, we wait for something to grab our attention, which in turn peaks our interest and elevates our level of curiosity. This process relies on outside stimuli to exist, which makes you a passive participant in the process.
What if you decided to play a more active role instead? The best part of this shift in focus is that you can literally get curious about ANYTHING! Look around you and notice what you take for granted and starting asking, pondering, contemplating…
Instead of sitting frustrated in morning traffic, ask: How does a sunrise work?
Instead of getting impatient in line to grab your lunch to go, consider: How many people did it take to make this sandwich possible for me to enjoy?
Instead of lamenting at the never-ending pile of laundry, wonder: Who had the skills and time to create all these beautiful clothes I wear?
When you decide to activate your curiosity by choosing what to get interested about, you not only have more control, you also begin to create more moments of excitement in your life.
Throughout our lives, we absorb information and develop schemas for how things work to help us make sense of the world and our role in it. Our brains create cognitive shortcuts that manifest into thoughts and assumptions on how things should be to help us make faster decisions.
Because we get so busy balancing a dynamic life full of personal commitments, work projects, and everything in between, we rely on these assumptions and forget what it is like to be struck with awe and wonder. We settle for what makes sense, rather than trying to discover new ways of thinking, dreaming, and being.
If you’ve ever watched a small child experience something for the first time, you’ll witness curiosity in its purest form. Sheer wonder and amazement that sparks further exploration! The Eastern practice of putting on a “beginner’s mind” helps adults reclaim this sense of seeing with new eyes and experiencing life without any preconceived notions.
Start today by choosing one area of your life to look at with a perspective of wonder and amazement and see what you discover.
We all have those not-so-great times that trigger us and put us on the defense. And most of the time, these experiences happen around and with the people we love and value most. Instead of getting angry and defensive, try shifting your focus from reacting critically to responding with curiosity. Here’s what this might look like…
Your partner comes home in a bad mood and you immediately notice the energy shift in the room. While nothing has even been said yet, you already feel your chest tighten as your heart begins to beat faster, putting you more on edge. How do you respond?
“What happened today to upset you?” you might ask.
Now notice how this question shifts if you say it with a curious tone instead of a critical one. You automatically take your curiosity a level deeper by shifting how you ask by first stating what you observe and then opening up the conversation with an invitation: “You seem pretty upset. Tell me about what happened today.”
Simple shifts in tone and wording that acknowledge emotion and offer questions with curiosity allow these tense moments to become interactive dialogues rather than hot debates. And it all starts with shifting your focus as you choose how to engage.
Everyone can be more curious. It just takes the right intention and focus to choose to look at life through a lens of interest rather than limitation.
As you begin a new month, I encourage you to play with these three strategies and notice new ways to get curious in your life. Pick one to try out in the next week and notice the impact it has on your levels of happiness and fulfillment.
Imagine what would be possible if you approached your next work meeting, family dinner, or social engagement with more curiosity.
What would be possible then?
How would it shift the mood of the space and create more openness and opportunity?
Play with your curiosity and have fun discovering what is possible.
Leslie Bosserman, M.Ed., CPCC
Executive Coach + Lifestyle Strategist for Millennial Leaders + Managers
Originally published at leadwithintention.com on March 1, 2017.
Originally published at medium.com