Good for the Soul…Curious?

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“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back!” And I am so glad because I love cats! Satisfying curiosity can also be enjoyable for humans. We are hard-wired for curiosity from birth. Children naturally explore, question, and test their environment as they grow and learn. Good teachers know the value of curiosity to make learning enjoyable. Author Anatole France observed “The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.” And curiosity also serves adults well. Oceanographer Sylvia Earle thinks “the best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity–who, what, where, why, when, and how? They never stop asking questions, and I never stop asking questions, just like a five year old.”

Psychologist Todd Kashdan wrote a book called “Curious.” He describes the importance of being open and staying alert in the present to fully engage your curiosity. He said, “it is not just about being attentive, it is about the quality of our attention.” Kashdan noted that curiosity is “the engine to the evolving self” and it motivates us to explore, discover, and grow. It helps us sustain attention, take on risks, and persevere in difficult tasks. Curiosity also enriches our social lives. When couples first meet and fall in love, they want to know everything about each other. Where did you grow up? What do you like to do for fun? What kind of pizza do you like? But you can also stay curious after being together for a while. Relationship experts John and Julie Gottman recommend the Love Map Exercise, available free online, to enrich mature relationships. Couples take turns answering questions about each other, like: “What is your partner’s favorite musical group, instrument, or composer? Who is your partner’s favorite relative? What is your partner’s favorite way of being soothed? What was your partner wearing when you first met? What was one of your partner best childhood experiences?” Couples can learn new things and strengthen their connection.

Kashdan’s research found that curious people are attractive to close friends, family, and strangers. Some reasons include: “a wide range of interests; highly enthusiastic; intriguing and sometimes, surprising; completely attentive and engaged in conversation; more open and less judgmental.” Being curious can be a buffer between people who are different. Instead of fearing the unknown, or judging what we are unfamiliar with, curiosity seeks to know and understand. Kashdan noted that “very curious people ask lots of questions, but it’s not a one-sided exploration. They reciprocate by sharing intimate information about themselves,” which facilitates closeness due to mutual interest. Author Bryant H. McGill has a high regard for curiosity. He believes “curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.” Scientist Linus Pauling agrees. “Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” American astronaut Gene Cernan took it even further: “Curiosity is the essence of human existence. ‘Who are we? Where are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?’… I don’t know. I don’t have any answers to those questions. I don’t know what’s over there around the corner. But I want to find out.” He added, “I walked on the moon. What can’t you do?”

Curiosity enriches our lives. It was identified as one of 24 universal character strengths by Drs. Seligman and Peterson from the University of Pennsylvania after years of research. Curiosity and interest are often paired. If we are not interested in life, what is the alternative? Boredom! “Been there, done that!” is the mantra of the skeptic. But we can enjoy new and wonderful things in the world every day. Summer is a great time to renew your curiosity and encourage the same in children or grandchildren! Just look around us and ask questions; there is much to learn about nature. What kind of flower is that? What is that strange looking cloud? What view is around the bend on this hiking trail? If you are curious, look up how the seeds of the Pride of Barbados flower disperse; or lenticular clouds; or Youngs Mountain Trail in Lake Lure.  

“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” Albert Einstein

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