Despite a reputation for catastrophe and cat killings, curiosity is a beneficial drive that improves our lives and well-being.
Feeling stuck in your day-to-day? Foster your curiosity to open up a world of possibilities. Though mythology paints curiosity in a less-than-flattering light, author Kevin Dickinson takes a 21st-century look into the benefits of enhancing your curious nature. Dickinson explores how a curious mind can lead to new knowledge, scientific breakthroughs and even a happier, more fulfilling life. In his guide, he breaks down five unique habits, such as asking better questions and understanding your motivations, that give you the courage to explore the unknown with a fresh perspective.
- Curiosity drives progress and enhances overall well-being.
- Humans have a natural inclination toward curiosity, but you can also choose to boost your curiosity level.
- Increase your curiosity by embracing five practices.
Curiosity drives progress and enhances overall well-being.
Ancient stories often portray curiosity negatively, illustrating the disastrous consequences for those who succumb to its allure – as occurred when Eve ate the forbidden apple or Pandora opened the mysterious box. However, real-world history reveals curiosity as a driving force behind human progress.
“The Enlightenment embraced intrigue as no era before and kickstarted a historic explosion of new ideas and innovations.”
The Age of Enlightenment, in particular, saw a surge in groundbreaking ideas and innovations, thanks to the power of curiosity. Moreover, psychological research links curiosity to numerous personal benefits, including heightened creativity, boosted life satisfaction, and improved academic and job performance.
Humans have a natural inclination toward curiosity, but you can also choose to boost your curiosity level.
The intense desire to explore the unknown is a fundamental human trait. It emerges early in life with babies investigating the world around them by putting everything in their mouths. Later in life, people fulfill their desire to know by asking questions and experimenting with new solutions to longstanding problems.
“While curiosity never diminishes entirely, it differs in intensity between people greatly.”
Some people are more curious than others – due to nurture, nature or a combination thereof. Regardless of your de facto curiosity level, however, you can cultivate and enhance your sense of wonder. Psychological research indicates that activities involving mystery or gameplay boost curiosity. Applying these activities in work or educational settings encourages individuals to seek new knowledge and test new skills.
Increase your curiosity by embracing five practices.
Increase your curiosity with these five practices:
- “Understand your motivations” – Curiosity thrives on intrinsic motivation. It stems from the sheer joy of exploring the novel, challenging and uncertain aspects of life. Create a list of subjects you wish to explore. Ask yourself which of these topics you want to pursue even if doing so will not net you any extrinsic reward, like money. This exercise will help you to focus your curiosity more effectively.
- “Ask mystery-expanding questions” – The questions you ask play a crucial role in boosting your curiosity. Ask “divergent” questions, like “I wonder” and “what if,” which require you to venture into the unknown. Starting with open-ended questioning is more likely to lead you to exciting discoveries and novel perspectives.
- “Be a clumsy student” – People often acquire new skills to enhance their careers. Try acquiring new skills just for the fun of it, without worrying about outcomes. Activities such as gardening, playing music or birdwatching can allow you to experience the joy of discovery and skill-building without feeling the need to conform to others’ expectations or preconceived notions of success.
- “Surround yourself with curious people” – Social environments can either foster or suppress curiosity, shaping what you feel are acceptable subjects of inquiry. Seek out settings where curious individuals gather, such as book clubs, volunteer groups, enthusiast clubs or extended education programs.
- “Make curiosity its own reward” – When curiosity feels rewarding, the brain releases dopamine, reinforcing the behavior and making curiosity a habit that feels worth pursuing. Embracing curiosity can be a powerful catalyst for personal growth and creativity, challenging the outdated notion that curiosity is eccentric or unproductive.
About the Author
Kevin Dickinson is the Learning Curve columnist at Big Think and Big Think+, which focuses on the intersection between education, psychology and science.