Day 002 – A first attempt

Perhaps I should confess up front that I am one month into a four-month time-off to think about my future plans. As such, it’s an excellent time for me to be giving special attention to curiosity. I think my greatest success will come from being open to—or curious about ;-)—new ideas and directions, or at least new aspects or approaches to my tried-and-true.

It was in this spirit that I went off to the information session for prospective PhD students at a very prestigious business school. I’m no stranger to academia, so that aspect wasn’t particularly new or scary to me, but I was aware that it was a little like aspiring to the thin air of Everest when I’ve been living and working at sea level.

Mindful, though, that it was my first day of A Year of Living Curiously I tried to enter into the session with curiosity.

What went well:

  • Calmness that came from realizing it was an information session only with no pressure on me to impress anyone at this stage (a great help, not feeling the need to make any particular impression)
  • Attentive interest in the videos they showed of PhD candidates presenting their research, even though neither topic had a lot to do with my own work
  • Asking a few fairly penetrating questions to get a picture of what kind of atmosphere and life would await the few people admitted

What went less well:

  • Openness about the other people attending who struck me as a somewhat sullen lot and whom I did not try to understand or appreciate

Ah, well. At least it is only Day 002. Onward.

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3 thoughts on “Day 002 – A first attempt

  1. Blake

    I love these reflections on the transformative power of curiosity! Thinking about the other attendees, reminds me of a colleague of mine. I found her hard to take initially, as she struck me as the most relentlessly self-promotional person I had ever met. Every time she trumpeted her accomplishments, I felt annoyed. But my readings in ancient theories of emotion came to my help. There, one of the common suggestions is to see such behavior as a kind of sickness. Adopting this perspective definitely made me less annoyed. Whenever she spoke, I thought to myself, “O dear, there’s the sickness again. Poor thing, she can’t help herself.” This did make me feel more tolerant, but the arrogance of the position made me uncomfortable. Gradually, however, I found myself looking forward to her interventions: “How,” I wondered, “would she turn the conversation to make an opening to talk about herself?” This curiosity gave — and continues to give — me great pleasure. Now I often take positive delight in her creativity, chuckling over how cleverly she made her point and with what remarkable economy of gesture. This brings me back to your impressions of the other attendees. Can we, I wonder, increase our calm in difficult situations by cultivating a curiosity about the interactional pattern itself, rather than about the actors, about whom we may never learn much?

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    1. ecbinvienna Post author

      Thank you very much for really entering into the spirit of my quest and contributing such a helpful post! The fact that I suspected I would never learn much about the other people in the room almost certainly contributed to my not making much of an effort, although I did find myself examining with some curiosity factors that might lead to such an apparent lack of engagement on their part. For the future, I love the way you reframe that situation to curiosity about the interactional pattern and will try to practice that more often.

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  2. Pingback: Day 061 – Checking in on my hypothesis | A Year of Living Curiously

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