We all possess some degree of curiosity. The key is to respond appropriately to those inquisitive feelings we get. Many people waddle through life half asleep—their minds dull and disinterested. When opportunities or novelties come along, they can be too preoccupied or dull witted to even notice them. So paying attention is crucial. As I wrote earlier, children—who have so much to learn—are naturally curious; evolution has built that into them. As we age, however, some of us lose that childlike sense of awe. We can become complacent and bored; we tell ourselves that there's nothing really new out there.
Unfortunately, modern society seeks thrills, more than learning. We seek quick, facile answers to life's quandaries; rather than taking the time to probe deeper. People are encouraged to grab hold of facts, rather than truly understanding things. As a wise person once said, “Facts are not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom.”
Are some of us more curious than others? Sure, but is it because our genetic makeup determines our level of curiosity, or can we cultivate it? I'm convinced that we can develop our curiosity, largely because it is an emotion, rather than an instinct. Instincts cause us to behave in unconscious and fixed patterns. Emotions, however, can be changed and developed. They are flexible and can be built upon.
I did some research, consulting various essays and books on psychology and philosophy, about ways to cultivate one's curiosity. I came up with a list of eight practices that can help to strengthen one's curious nature:
- Ask questions. Admit your ignorance and your need to learn. Acknowledging your ignorance is the best way to dispel it.
- Don't take things for granted. Remain skeptical about what you hear or read, and then check it out. Be open to surprise and the possibility of being wrong; it's a great way to learn.
- Don't label anything as boring or not worthy of your effort to understand. To do so just closes doors to insight and understanding.
- Don't judge things too quickly. Keep an open mind. Have the humility to admit that you are limited and that you have a need to pause and learn. This opens the door to change and growth.
- Read a wide range of things. Challenge yourself with new and different and unfamiliar material. Let it open your mind.
- Gradually increase the complexity of what you do. Don't settle for facile or easy answers.
- Seek excellence in what you do. Don't settle for shoddy or inferior behavior.
- Pay attention; concentrate on each task at hand. Be ready to notice and pick up on anything and everything that comes along. Be mindful.
That's a great list to cultivate one's curiosity. I believe that by acting upon some of these items, we can regain that natural sense of inquisitiveness that children have. We can feel more alive and excited. Yes, unlike the doomed curious cat, curiosity is healthy for us.