Monthly Archives: October 2016

Day 061 – Checking in on my hypothesis

Hard for me to believe that I have been writing this blog for two months now. In some ways it has very easily become a part of my daily life and I am enjoying working on it. In other ways I still question whether I am making significant progress in living with more curiosity. (I believe I have mentioned somewhere that I am a tad impatient. ;-))

Two months in seems like a good point to return to my hypothesis and see which experiences so far support or refute it.

Once again, my hypothesis is that practicing greater curiosity in my interactions with people and events around me will greatly increase the quality of those interactions and of my life. I listed five ways in which I thought I would benefit. What I would like to do now is go through these ways point by point, reviewing what I have written so far and seeing how it all fits together (or doesn’t).

  1. Practicing curiosity will reduce the stress in my life.

I don’t find a lot of posts so far that address this point specifically, but I find none that contradict this idea. Indeed, the six posts I do find offer really strong support for the idea that when I take the step back and remain curious about a situation I am more relaxed and feel less stress.

For more info, you can re-visit: Day 002 (PhD informational session), Days 010 and 011 (doing an ordinary task), Day 035 (curiosity in the face of hopelessness), Day 053 (doing a difficult task), and Day 058 (noticing one’s achievements).

  1. Practicing curiosity will set me up to be more responsive and therefore more effective.

Again, so far I haven’t written a lot about this, but what I have written supports my hypothesis fairly strongly. The most telling post was the one in which I did not hit my teacher when I opened the door (Day 049), a post which strongly supported a corollary of my first point—that losing my sense of curiosity contributes significantly to my feeling stressed out.

Otherwise, I saw some suggestion that curiosity makes me (or others) more responsive and effective on Day 009 (an exceptional music director) and on Day 053 (flower arranging).

  1. Practicing curiosity will help me build better connections to other people.

Under this point there are a lot of posts, but most of them are (surprise, surprise) theoretical. In fact, I have just had a visit from an old, dear friend during which I could have practiced curiosity (and Inquiry) a lot to find out more about her life now and where her opinions come from but instead just let my hair down and chatted away with no thought of curiosity, leaving me with the question of whether this would have helped me build an even closer relationship with her. Ah, well. Remembering. The strongest support for this point can be found on Day 038, when I actually used a little bit of Inquiry.

Other posts: Day 017 (when a German politician talked about integration of refugees), Day 018 (about Charlotte Vaughan Coyle), various posts about dialogue and Inquiry: 019, 022, 023, 024, 026, and 027; and the idea of being curious about other people’s strengths on Day 052.

  1. Practicing curiosity will be the path to growth AND the way to enjoy the journey.

To my great surprise, there were a lot of posts related to this point. I don’t remember writing that much. Interesting. I feel that all of my posts about my drawing class fit here and support the idea that curiosity is a path to growth and a way to enjoy the growth (Days 020, 021, 028, 042, 049, 056 and especially 035).

The posts on travel and curiosity (Day 034), map-making (Day 044), and curiosity about oneself and one’s strengths (Days 050 and 054) also seem to support this part of my hypothesis.

  1. Practicing curiosity will be an antidote to self-righteousness and knowing it all.

I came up with a sad result on this one. Only one post really seemed to support this idea, the post on actually practicing Inquiry live (Day 038, already mentioned above). Clearly, there is lots of room for additional testing here.

In addition …

In addition to the five points listed above, I found two points that could be added. One in particular should have been obvious. With the other the question is whether it needs to be mentioned separately or could be considered to be a part of a couple of points above.

  1. Practicing curiosity will help me know more and understand more. (Duh.)

For me, all the dialogue and Inquiry posts mentioned above fit here, too. In addition, the following posts suggest that this is an aspect that needs to be included: Day 007 (on exploring one’s own feelings), Day 015 (on “What kind of ___ is this?”), Days 054 and 055 (on comparisons), and Day 060 (on Jane Goodall’s early experience as a naturalist).

  1. Practicing curiosity will contribute to my enjoyment of life. (Is this really a separate point?)

Supported by posts on Day 003 (the Five Senses Exercise), Days 005 and 006 (sniffing at life), Days 012 and 013 (coaching question), and Day 057 (the wraparound version of the Five Sense Exercise).

Conclusions?

(1) There is a lot of support for my hypothesis that practicing curiosity will increase the quality of my life, although there is more support for some points than for others. (2) In no case is there evidence that I am barking up the wrong tree entirely. (3) The biggest challenge is still moving beyond the thinking and writing and actually doing—that sentence “If I would just practice curiosity more consistently, I would reduce stress / become more responsive / connect better with others / grow and enjoy the journey / be less self-righteous.”

At least I have 304 days to keep working on it!

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Day 060 – One scientist’s curiosity

I’m sure you can imagine that curiosity is an essential point for a scientist, and Jane Goodall tells a lovely story about herself in her book Reason for Hope.

“One story has been told many times because it shows how, even as a four-year-old, I had the makings of a true naturalist. Vanne [Goodall’s mother] had taken me to stay with my father’s mother, Mrs. Nutt …, at the family farm. One of my tasks was to collect the hens’ eggs. As the days passed, I became more and more puzzled. Where on a chicken was there an opening big enough for an egg to come out? Apparently no one explained this properly, so I must have decided to find out for myself. I followed a hen into one of the little wooden henhouses—but of course, as I crawled after her she gave horrified squawks and hurriedly left. My young brain must have then worked out that I would have to be there first. So I crawled into another henhouse and waited, hoping a hen would come in to lay. And there I remained, crouched silently in one corner, concealed in some straw, waiting. At last a hen came in, scratched about in the straw, and settled herself on her makeshift nest just in front of me. I must have kept very still or she would have been disturbed. Presently the hen half stood and I saw a round white object gradually protruding from the feathers between her legs. Suddenly with a plop, the egg landed on the straw. With clucks of pleasure the hen shook her feathers, nudged the egg with her beak, and left.”

When Goodall came out of the henhouse it was almost dark and it turned out she had been in there for almost four hours (patient curiosity!). No one had known where she was and her family had already called the police. Nonetheless, Goodall reports, when she went running up to her mother filled with incredible excitement about what she had seen and learned, her mother did not scold her but rather sat down and listened. How to keep curiosity alive in one’s child!

Day 059 – Inquiry example 02

I’m still working on developing my Inquiry skills and would like to share a recent attempt, in which I ask questions to understand the value of Inquiry itself. (Pretty tricky, huh?)

1 – Statement to explore: “Inquiry is an essential skill in the 21st century.” [A statement I do, in fact, believe.]

Some sample questions (starting at the bottom and all directed at simply understanding how the speaker sees it):

5 – Actions: What, in your opinion, do we need to do to spread the use of Inquiry?

4 – Conclusions: What do you think it takes to live well in the 21st century?

3 – Added meanings: How do you see those points fitting together? / What do you think happens when we don’t practice Inquiry?

2 – Data Selection: What is Inquiry to you? / What do you see as the characteristics of the 21st century?

THE POOL OF DATA

Then, of course, I need to listen openly to what the speaker says, in the true spirit of Inquiry and curiosity!

 

Day 058 – Curiosity about one’s achievements

Somehow a post on appreciating achievements seems appropriate for what is the last day of the working week for many of us.

A few years ago, quite by accident, I came across Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, and I am very glad I did. It was an interesting read and gave me some good tools for creating habits I was happier with.

One thing Duhigg mentions—a crucial part of the book, in fact—is the habit loop. He tells the story of the development of Febreze and how hard it was to market the stuff. The company had a product that could eliminate (not just cover) even the smell of skunk in textiles and air, but they couldn’t sell it. The turning point came when they studied the habits of people cleaning their houses and realized that when the people were done making a bed, for example, they almost invariably tweaked the covers and smiled in acknowledgement of their labors. This led to the new, and successful, advertising campaign of showing someone cleaning a room and then, as a “minicelebration”, as one test subject expressed it, squirting Febreze into the air.

This advertising campaign is based on the power of the habit loop, which says that habits follow this pattern: cue – routine – reward. We automatically do something (the routine / habit part) because we experience some kind of cue, like a dirty room, and want a particular reward, in the example given the pleasure of a cleaner, tidier room. If we want to change habits, we need to identify the cue and reward in our equation. That helps us change the routine or habit that connects the two.

Here is a perfect illustration of the habit loop, a story, I’m sure, from long before psychologists came up with the term: When I was little, we lived next to a family with six children. It was a long time ago and the division of responsibility was traditional, as it was in our family at that time. The husband and father went out to work every day to earn the money and the wife and mother took care of the children and the household. My mother tells of our neighbor washing and waxing her kitchen floor while the children were at school and then making herself a cup of coffee, sitting down, and admiring her freshly-waxed floor before the school bus brought the children back. I think we can assume that six children with the help of the family pets made pretty short work of scuffing up the floor, but the mother was able to enjoy the results of her labor at least briefly.

What on earth does this have to do with curiosity, I hear you asking. I’m just wondering: How much attention do you pay to your achievements and the benefits or rewards of having completed a task? I pay almost no attention to that, at all. When I’m done with one task, I mindlessly start the next. For myself, I’m pretty sure that I would feel more satisfaction—and maybe be more motivated to clean house ;-)—if I took just that moment to look at and see (with curiosity ;-)) what I have accomplished.

Day 057 – Going deeper into an experience

Rarely do I get an answer to a question so quickly. On Monday I wrote about getting beyond a superficial experience of something by being more curious, and on Tuesday I already had one idea.

When I did the Five Senses Exercise Tuesday morning, I became aware right on step one that I have a tendency to plant myself in one position and then focus on what is in front of me and easily visible to the left and to the right. Clearly if I simply turn around and look also at what is behind me, I get a deeper—or at least broader—experience of that moment.

In fact, I got so absorbed in trying this wraparound approach with all my senses, and was having such a good time with it, that my dog started to miss me and came running back as if to say, “Hey, what are you waiting for?”

Day 056 – Drawing class report 06

Today in my art class I found I needed intentional curiosity to give me the courage to branch out and try something new. After five sessions of drawing with ordinary Number 2 or HB pencils, we each were allowed to use a box with 12 pencils of different hardness and encouraged to use them to record light and shadow. You may remember that when we spent a whole class session on value—the graded shades of darkness to light—I discovered that I have great trouble seeing the differences. Now I was supposed to do it with fancier pencils, which presumably meant I was supposed to come out with a better picture at the end. The pressure! 😉

It took me quite a long time to move away from the Number 2 pencil, but finally I decided that it didn’t matter how things turned out. The important thing in this lesson was to experiment with the new tools and to find out what kinds of effects they could create. I managed the first part of that assignment. I’m still not sure about the effects and how to get the look that I want, but then it is only Day 06 and before this I could have sworn I couldn’t draw at all. At least I had fun trying things out. And good thing that we still had our erasers.