I have recently came across a talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, advocating curiosity versus passion. Gilbert is claiming that whilst chasing your passions is indeed a great motivator to sustain purposeful life, the reality shows that many people simply don’t know what their passion is. Therefore replacing it with the action of following one’s curiosity could offer a more accessible advice to people on creating a meaning in life. In Gilberts’ own words: Never let a passion bully push you around again.
That statement came to mind last week when I had the opportunity to have a dialogue with two interesting groups of people in the Netherlands: One in a workshop I held on social sustainability (De-Universiteit, Utrecht) and the other one around values-based communication (Knowmads, Amsterdam). One of the common threads between those groups was the major curiosity which was demonstrated during our conversations, led us to discover new places, examples and stories.
Simultaneously, Curiosity was shown on the map of values that was attached on the wall, with a strong relation to the values group of “openness to change”. This category have been scientifically proven to be able to promote pro-sustainable behavior. While observing and listening during the practice, I could notice that the participants are actually demonstrating lively what they have been talking about: developing healthy curiosity while discussing how to target curiosity for carrying social change…
My train of thoughts kept going even after our workshop was finished, with regards to the added value of curiosity for approaching challenges, both personal and professional. I can notice now that the more assure I am in knowing how to deal with a complex situation, the less clear it becomes when I am actually facing the challenge. Yet, when I approach it with an open mind without the confidence of how exactly will it resolve, but equipped with just enough curiosity – the road tends to stretch out ahead leading me to the right place, one way or another.
That may be just the wonderful thing about curiosity – you often cannot plan how things will evolve, and who or what will carry you from one stop to another. But if you have your mind and inner compass set on the right goal for you, and if you are attentive to other people’s and to your own needs – you will probably get there anyway.
I can see that clearly when I watch my children handling around. It seems like they have an endless amount of curiosity and that an answer such as “because!” will never suffice. I guess that we, adults, have lost in some point our natural curiosity and learned to be satisfied with just a “because”, or “that’s how it is and that’s it”. Or maybe it is a different defect that harmed us, for example the fear of being different and insist on getting to the root of things or to explore new possibilities in life, driven from our natural curiosity and not by what society had dictated us to do or think.
With relation to transforming both individuals and society into a more sustainable path, curiosity is a majorly important resource we should cherish and nourish. Without curiosity, we’re likely to find ourselves marking time until things get better, or even worse – just put up with global concerns such as poverty, inequality, climate change, pollution, you name it… Curiosity could play a role both as a driver and as a mean to harness our power to create change. Question is do we dare to follow our curiosity?…
Image taken from “mind map inspiration”
Some offered practices to maintain and develop curiosity (Though they seem obvious, we tend to forget them):
Read. Whatever comes handy. It will only increase your appetite to read some more;
Write. Don’t focus on structure and rules. Journal for yourself, it will bring up some answers but mainly more questions, which is what we’re looking for;
Create. May it be art, music, crafts or even pastries. The important thing is to let your body translate hidden curiosity and tendencies into action;
Engage in conversations. We’re societal creatures, we need to interact and feel belong. A conversation can be a wonderful way to learn from other people and open up to new ideas and perspectives. Whenever I talk to someone I disagree with, I try to check with myself why am I feeling uncomfortable with this person’s opinions? Is it not in one line with my values? Does it contradict what I believe in? Or maybe, I simply hanging on to some past patterns, and it is time to foster a new way of thinking?
Good luck. Let’s be more curios and open-minded.