As a self-proclaimed Hummingbird, I used to believe that my inability to remain focused and loyal to only one career, or one hobby, or one form of exercise meant I would never be a master of anything.
And while this is probably factually correct according to the common rule of thumb that mastery requires 10,000 hours of practice (a maxim popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success), I now realize that, for me, staying curious is a key to mastering life.
I say “probably” because there are all sorts of opinions debunking the catchy, easy-to-remember 10,000 hours of practice rule – fodder for a future Jack’s Smack.
Lesson From My Toddler:
“When you don’t know anything, you have nothing to prove, and everything to gain.”
I think it really hit home for me once I had a child. Who is more curious than a brand-new human? Any crumbs of “I already know that” evaporated when confronted with a barrage of beginner-mind questions. When you don’t know anything, you have nothing to prove, and everything to gain. That is one of the most valuable lessons taught to me by my then-toddler. No shame or embarrassment at asking the most basic and rudimentary questions.
My curiosity piqued, I dug around to see what the pundits were touting around this curiosity concept. I was not disappointed. Reasons galore are espoused about the benefits. In no particular order, and by no means exhaustive, here are a few.
Seven Reasons To Be Curious:
- Curiosity helps us stay alive. Our desire to explore and seek novelty keeps us vigilant. Gaining knowledge about our ever-changing environment is imperative to survival. This may be why our brains reward us with dopamine hits whenever we encounter something novel.
- It strengthens our mind. When we are actively asking questions and searching for answers, our brain is engaged and working — keeping us healthy, potentially staving off dementia and alzheimers.
“Curiosity ensures we don’t overlook or let pass the next big idea.”
3. Curiosity advances achievement. When we stay curious, we are better equipped to see new ideas. We grow to expect novel ideas to come to us. Curiosity ensures we don’t overlook or let pass the next big idea. It’s not rocket science to think that the more curious we are, the more interested and involved we become and that aids us in performing well.
4. Curious people exhibit more empathy. Expanding our circle outside our comfort zone provides us with opportunities to learn about and from those whose experiences and worldviews differ from ours. The more we know about others without judgement the more empathetic we become.
5. Exhibiting genuine curiosity creates stronger personal relationships. Some studies found that people who practice a process referred to as “self-disclosure reciprocity” were rated nicer, more attractive, and more likable. (Self-disclosure reciprocity refers to the process by which one person’s self-disclosure elicits another person’s self-disclose … you know, a conversation…)
6. Curiosity makes the world a bigger place with infinite potential. Staying curious enables us to discover these new worlds & possibilities. Expanding our field of vision is fundamental.
7. Curious people are happier. If none of the other reasons piques your interest, this one will. We all strive to be happy. Research shows curiosity is associated with higher levels of satisfaction and a greater sense of well-being. I get that there may be a chicken-egg situation here… Maybe people who lean towards “happy” are more curious or vice versa. But given the whole novelty-producing-dopamine phenomenon, we can probably say it goes both ways.
So, if you’re thinking, “Damn, I need to be more curious… how do I make that happen?” I don’t want to disappoint.
Five Ways To Stay, Or Get, Curious:
“Get our toddler on!”
- Keep an open mind. This can get tricky as we age. With time comes many experiences. In order to be efficient, we do an amazing job of labeling, categorizing, and judging these experiences so that if we are faced with anything similar we can move past it quickly. The idea of having to unlearn and relearn isn’t necessarily easy. We have to fight our reptilian brain and actively pursue the notion that maybe what we have believed all this time is wrong. Ugh, changing our mind this late in the game can smart but it’s a key to finding our curiosity.
- Get our toddler on. I remember being annoyed by the incessant questions from my son but, hey, if it worked for him, why not give it a whirl? The only way to dig deeper and get to the heart of the matter is to ask questions. What, why, when, who, where, and how are the best friends of curious people.
- Refuse the “That’s boring” label. What kills possibilities faster than that?
- If you’re not already there, change your narrative about learning. It can be taxing to keep current. Technology advances at lightning speed and it can overwhelm us to keep up. We may believe it’s easier to stop learning, to see it as a burden. Let’s be honest, who wants more burdens? Instead, let’s see learning as something fun. We can change our viewfinder. It’s our prerogative.
- Expand our world. Step out of our comfort zone, explore subjects and cultures we know little about. Given the fact I am an experiential learner, I love to travel. I know travel isn’t for everyone and that we are mired in pandemic complexities, but we can still virtually travel, whether it be through reading or digitally.
I now fully embrace my hummingbird status, knowing full well that I move way too fast for any cat… no matter HOW curious.