Growth via Inquiry
Curiosity is the lifeblood of lifelong learners. It encourages people to seek novelty and adds richness to seemingly simple things. Inquisitive people solve complex problems, connect with interesting people, and accumulate knowledge in many different areas. They think deeply and share their insights with other curious people to further deepen their understanding. Becoming more curious opens new nodes of opportunity. The deeper and more broad your knowledge base runs, the more variables you can influence.
There are four categories of curiosity, each of which represents a type of education. Understanding each of the categories gives clarity into what intrigues you and where you should invest more of your energy:
- Skills/Information – facts and common practices
- Ideas – concepts and philosophies
- People – relationships and interpersonal interactions
- Experiences – adventure and novelty
The first type of curiosity is for the acquisition of skills and applicable information that helps you build a foundational understanding of the world. Skills are trainable. They can be learned by anyone, to varying degrees of mastery. Information can be collected by reading, conducting research, and talking to credible people in the field of interest. The accumulation of skills and information enables a person to improve in their respective pursuits:
- A new golfer learns proper putting form to become more competitive.
- A journalist collects eyewitness testimony to tell a compelling story.
- A runner reads reviews on GPS watches to make a good purchase decision.
Information converts to skill through coaching and practice. For example, you can read about how to improve your putting form (information), but without practice, it will never turn into a skill. As you gain clarity about your values and goals, identify your gaps in knowledge and skills, then bolster those shortcomings with research and practice.
Ideas are concepts and ideologies that aren’t immediately translatable into hard skills. They work in some contexts, but not in others. They’re researchable, but take a lot of depth and contextual understanding to become practical.
Something I’ve been fascinated with in the past three months is the idea of stoicism. It’s an ancient Greek philosophy that empowers people to embrace hardship and to long for the experience, good or bad, over the outcome. Becoming more stoic requires me to change my internal self-talk and to prioritize the process over the reward.
I can research as much as I want about the principles of stoicism, but this will take years of practice to master in a meaningful way. What ideas are in alignment with my value system? I try to learn about them and embody them without giving myself too much grief. After all, it’s just someone’s idea of how to live.
Curiosity about people can be platonic, romantic, or professional. The desire to meet someone or have a particular type of relationship with someone is the curiosity of how they can improve your life in one way or another.
Curiosity is an excellent driving force for new relationships. It’s what initially bonds two people together. Meeting new people can be frightening, exciting, and challenging. Recognizing that there’s something to learn from everyone you encounter frees you to strike up conversations with strangers that could lead to impactful relationships.
If you’re anxious about meeting new people, reframing your mindset to be curious about others is a great way to break the ice. Asking lots of questions and being supportive of their story nurtures trust and good faith.
The curiosity for experiences drives people to do amazing things. The novelty invoked in new experiences benefits mental health and allows new ways of looking at the world. Consistent work hours and responsibilities enable people to comfortably do their jobs without concern for what the next day may bring, but toiling away in a steadfast routine for 365 days of the year doesn’t make a person feel alive. Routines limit the opportunity for new experiences; as a result, you have to be intentional about scheduling time to try new things.
Taking hedonistic breaks for the sake of experiencing novelty is a breath of fresh air. Take that vacation, try your hand at rock wall climbing, and try that home repair. You’ll feel fulfilled by the simple act of stepping outside your typical day-to-day monotony.
Becoming more curious
Exploring your curiosities opens space for growth and excitement. If you find yourself in a slump and want to engage with something that will raise your spirits, it may be a good idea to let your curiosity flourish. It’s easy to do.
Ask more questions
Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. Learning something new inherently means you don’t currently understand it. Asking people about the subject you’re interested in arms you with direction and information you didn’t previously have.
I make it a priority to ask as many questions as possible when engaging in conversation. I’ve found that this approach has taught me more than any formal education I’ve received.
Dedicate time to thinking
Most people go through each day as automatons, consistently executing their responsibilities without taking a step back to evaluate what they’re doing. Over long periods of time, this creates massive amounts of discord and stress because you no longer remember why you do what you do. To prevent this slippage, spend time alone every week with the sole intent of simply thinking about your life.
I call this the Boots & Sandals exercise. You wear your boots to go to work and manage your daily life. It’s a metaphor for focusing deeply on whatever it is that you’re working on. You have to wear your boots to be productive. However, it’s important to put your sandals on from time to time. You wear your sandals when you take a step back, relax, and spend time with your own thoughts. Don’t get stuck constantly wearing your boots.
Keep notes on what interests you
It’s easy to spend free time watching TV or scrolling social media; these routines are time-fillers that help decompress from the challenges of the day. Oftentimes, you’ll finish a binge session and feel mentally understimulated. This is because it simply dulls the beat of anxiety rather than assuages it all together.
Keeping a running list of things that would be fun to explore or experience is a great way to replace the time spent distracting yourself with opportunities that enthrall you. This can be done in a journal or in the Notes app on your phone. Refer back to it when you have the free time to explore your list.
Meeting people as an adult can be challenging. Joining communities and meetup groups is an excellent way to break the ice with similarly-minded people who are interested in similar ideas. There are thousands of groups online and in-person that could spark your curiosity. Assess your values and goals, then check out meetup.com and Facebook groups to find something that suits your interests.
Humans crave novelty. New ideas and experiences broaden perspectives and enable you to stretch beyond what you currently believe yourself capable of doing. Leveraging curiosity to explore different interests ensures that you feel alive and awake. People naturally have varying degrees of curiosity, but everyone can groom their interests to find fulfillment. It starts with an understanding of your values and goals. Lean into things that excite you, and pull back when it no longer scratches the itch for you.
What is Beanie & Blazer?
Beanie & Blazer is a lifestyle engineering company built to align people’s personal values and goals with their habits and behaviors. Our methodology offers our community clarity of purpose, a tribe of mentors and supporters, and reclamation of time in their busy lives. We systematically train people to become high performers.
Want more content like this?
Follow my Twitter feed to get bite-sized snippets about performance and mindset.