Category Archives: exercises

Day 359 – Different kinds of curiosity revisited

One of the most interesting things to come out of this blog for me was the realization that I see distinct kinds of curiosity, and that this realization came so early, on Day 030, when I wrote about:

  • Existential (or River) curiosity
  • Mindful curiosity
  • Desire-to-learn curiosity
  • Interpersonal curiosity

Then, on Days 250 and 251, I realized that I had developed different exercises for practicing these different kinds of curiosity. This is something that I’m taking with me and will continue to use, I hope, to build my curiosity capacity. As of September 1st this year, “Curiosity blog post” will no longer be on my daily to-do list, but “Practice curiosity” will remain as a reminder. When I find I can’t practice in any big way—like exploring with Inquiry a viewpoint completely repugnant to me ;-)—I can turn to my list of exercises and do one just to keep my hand in.

In revisiting my posts preparatory to this final week, I realized that I had over the course of the last year identified certain nuances of curiosity that I wouldn’t consider different kinds: quiet, wraparound, and physical. Quiet curiosity is when it’s nothing dramatic but I am aware of a gentle curiosity. Wraparound curiosity is when I consciously explore what is all around me, not just in front of my face. And physical curiosity is when I feel my body opening up in a reflection of curiosity.

And, actually, I’d like to add social curiosity as described on Day 164. For me that is different from interpersonal curiosity in which I try to understand how the other person sees something. Social curiosity is more about trying to find out about the person–what he or she does, where he or she comes from, his or her favorite vacation spot, and so on.



Day 352 – Curiosity is a superpower (YouTube video)

I was feeling in need of inspiration today and found this video with Brian Grazer. What an interesting–and curious ;-)–idea.

It’s only about two and a half minutes.

Day 346 – The Coffer Illusion – how many circles do you see? / Boing Boing

I saw this puzzle (link below) on Facebook and was curious 😉 enough the check it out. It is an image that looks as if it is nothing but rectangles and the viewer is asked to count the circles. I didn’t see how there could be circles but I decided to try. I focused my concentration on circles and all of a sudden, quite briefly, I saw them. It made me think about how we can see something if we really try, but we have to be open enough to trying to see beyond the obvious to succeed at that. It was fun.

Day 330 – Live Inquiry

One thing I like about teaching is that I almost always at some point have the chance to practice live Inquiry.

Today the topic was leadership–what the participants think of Nelson Mandela’s leadership and, above all, why. I did one of my favorite activities with them. I sketched out the Ladder of Inference in masking tape on the floor and had the participants ask each other Inquiry questions tailored to the rung the person was standing on. We always learn a lot about the topic at hand by exploring how others see it–what data they select, what meanings they add to that, what conclusions they draw, and what actions they think should be taken. For example, I learned from one participant how important it was to him that Mandela made small talk to connect with people first, before moving onto business.

The exercise was fun and interesting.

Day 311 – Pulling oneself back to the present moment

A few days ago I wrote that I found myself in a state of openness on our afternoon dogwalk that was very close to what I mean by curiosity. (And it felt good!) The last few days, in fact, in spite of a ton of work and my thoughts going in far too many directions most of the time, I have managed to create/recreate this state of openness and am realizing that it is very closely related to simply being present in the moment. It’s a little like what I experienced many months ago, except the last few days I’ve been doing it (and managing to do it) more regularly.

Day 297 – A more nuanced picture

Warning–a long and fairly theory-rich post!

I found myself thinking about my tendency to see things in black and white terms–good/bad, desirable/undesirable, right/wrong. The funny thing is that I have always been able to see many sides to an issue, but I have also always known which side I came down on. And ultimately I reject the other side.

At the same time, I encourage my students and workshop participants to try to see actions or cultural dimensions in terms of advantages and disadvantages and preferences and priorities rather than good and bad, right and wrong.


Individualism (a cultural dimension)

A few advantages of individualism: personal freedom with all the associated advantages to that like living where you want to, studying what you want to, dressing the way you want to, and less responsibility to other people (like personally taking care of your aging parents).

A few disadvantages of individualism: a negative attitude to people who need support which can make it impossible for some people to reach a level where they can take care of themselves and their closest family members as well as an emphasis on doing everything yourself and taking care of yourself without help, which can lead to exhaustion, burnout, and failure.

Collectivism (another cultural dimension, the counterpart to individualism)

A few advantages of collectivism: community support for the individuals in the group–a belief in helping people up, a belief that you don’t have to be everything and do everything by yourself, and an acknowledgement of a person’s place in the group that does not end because the person’s usefulness is gone.

A few disadvantages of collectivism: a lack of freedom to determine your own life’s path, which means you may be expected to take over the family business whether or not you are interested in it, or to marry based on what fits with your family, or to contribute to community charities not necessarily based on your own personal interests.

When I talk about preferences and priorities I mean that groups (culture is always a group phenomenon) over the generations jointly build up a system of beliefs and values based on what works for the group. This system has at its core certain preferences and priorities. These preferences and priorities are handed on to new members through the process of socialization. Culture clash happens when these underlying preferences and priorities are not in agreement, like when my Austrian students–working from a collectivist standpoint in this situation–look at the fight against universal healthcare in the U.S.A.–in most things a strongly individualist culture–and simply cannot comprehend why anyone would not want to have something that in their eyes is so obviously humane and beneficial to everyone.

On a less theoretical, more fun note: I’ve been re-reading Alexander McCall Smith’s wonderful series set in Botswana, The Nr. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The “traditional Botswana values” his heroine, Mma Ramotswe, keeps referring to are a beautiful example of collectivism, and the culture changes she sees–and disapproves of–are almost invariably individualistic.


This morning it struck me that practicing this simple shift of seeing advantages and disadvantages rather than right and wrong is an exercise in curiosity and may open up a more constructive way of interacting with other people and with situations (part of my hypothesis, if you remember).

Although I’ve been doing this kind of analysis in the classroom for a number of years, I don’t do it very often in “real life”. In the context of writing this blog, I can imagine using it more often as a form of curiosity practice.

One final note: I’m not sure I would have reached this point if I hadn’t been writing this blog. This is the kind of progress that I hoped the daily commitment to writing about living curiously would help me make and I am very happy about this today.