Category Archives: when not to practice curiosity

Day 350 – A quick revisit of my hypothesis

Today (rather belatedly) it occurred to me that my hypothesis is phrased almost as if I see curiosity as the only path to the outcomes I list (see below for list). This afternoon on our dogwalk I noticed that I was charging down the path through the woods simply enjoying the somewhat more strenuous movement. There was no curiosity involved. I was not paying any special attention. I was not particularly open. Nonetheless, it was reducing my stress. That is in any case one example of how there are other ways to achieve at least some of the outcomes I want.


  • Reduce the stress in my life
  • Set me up to be more responsive and therefore more effective
  • Help me build better connections to other people
  • Be the path to growth AND the way to enjoy the journey
  • Be an antidote to self-righteousness and knowing it all
  • Help me know more and understand more (added 31 October 2016)
  • Contribute to my enjoyment of life (added 31 October 2016)
  • Generally enrich my life (added 13 February 2017)

Day 339 – When not to practice curiosity

Today my dog and I ran into a brown bear in the woods on our morning walk. My dog was in the middle of a poop so I had a few seconds to think about what to do. Since the bear looked well fed and stopped when he saw us, obviously also assessing the situation, I decided to simply walk in another direction (we were on a collision course) and scooped up my dog when he was done and walked into the woods away from the path. It worked. The bear went his way and we went ours.

In retrospect, I wished I had seen a bit more of the bear, but it was a situation, I think, where it was completely excusable not to be curious and where curiosity might not only have killed the cat but the dog and human as well.

Day 288 – Retroactive Inquiry

Looking back at my post from yesterday, I’d like to say that I really don’t see curiosity as being mutually exclusive to critical thinking skills, although my post (written in a hot and crowded room when I was in a bad mood) could be interpreted that way. After all, as Walter Kotschnig said, “Keep your minds open but not so open that your brains fall out.”

This morning, in a cooler, quieter place, it struck me that the idea that managers earn and deserve their tens of million in compensation could be a good point to practice Inquiry on. Some possible questions:

Data selection step

  • What cases are you thinking of?
  • What criteria for determining compensation are you using?
  • How do you see the job, skill set, contribution, etc., of top managers?
  • What are you comparing their responsibilities to?

Adding meanings step

  • What do you think happens when those amounts of compensation are not paid?
  • How do you see the connection between the skill set and so on and the amounts paid?

Drawing conclusions step

  • What do people get paid for? or Why do companies pay salaries?

Taking action step

  • How can we establish appropriate pay scales, in your opinion?
  • What systems can we set up to make that work?


With special thanks to Quote Investigator for the original source of that quotation:  I thought erroneously that it was from Carl Sagan.

Day 278 – Not going there

I should know better than to get into Facebook discussions on controversial topics. I always regret the time and emotional energy that goes into even just reading other people’s comments on what I have posted. (I usually recognize my mistake and stop following after a few.) Those dicussions never change my mind–nor anyone else’s I’m sure. There’s no curiosity to be had there on either side. Somehow the context and forum just aren’t conducive to it.

Day 178 -Staying out of the mud

Spring is coming to Vienna. The snow is gone and the ground is thawing, turning into mud. I was out walking with my dog and got caught up in a meadow that had some very wet places. I thought about embracing the situation and entering it with curiosity. There are a lot of inspirational quotes about facing up to one’s dragons and so on. And then I thought about the clean up afterwards, the mud everywhere, and the sneakers that stay wet for a couple of days, and I decided I did not have to try out the mud, even if this is my Year of Living Curiously. I already know what it feels like. I can pass on this.

Day 107 – Curiosity and food

This morning, as we near the end of the course and so some of the pressure is off, I really took a look at the breakfast buffet and saw all kinds of opportunities to practice curiosity–Asian choices, other fish choices, three different kinds of sausages, including vegetarian, fruit, veg, muesli, etc. You can imagine. What held me back? One specific fear of the consequences–fear of getting fat.

Day 088 – Can curiosity hibernate?

The easy answer to this question is “yes”. In fact, one reader wrote to tell me that the post on my curiosity slump was one of the most inspiring for her. In this case, I’d like to reflect on the why hibernation is a good idea and what might cause curiosity to hibernate.

One of the most interesting courses I have taken in a while was a course on reaching success with greater serenity or composure (“Mit mehr Gelassenheit zum Erfolg”, for the German speakers among my readers). One of the exercises that I remember best was working in small groups to discuss the basic emotions: anger, grief, fear, joy, and (the facilitator added) love. We were to discuss first of all the (evolutionary) reason we believed each of these emotions had developed and become universal. It had, perhaps stupidly, never occurred to me that emotions are there to serve a survival-related purpose, and I jumped into the exercise with enthusiasm.

Greatly simplified: we feel anger when our boundaries have been violated and the power of that anger helps us defend ourselves; we feel grief when we have lost someone or something dear to us and the sadness and lack of energy keeps us close to home where we are safe at a vulnerable time; we feel fear when we are in danger and it triggers the stress reaction which helps us fight, freeze, or flee as needed; joy was described to us as the engine of life (“Lebensmotor”), the force that gives us positive energy, makes it all worthwhile, and keeps us going; and love helps us build connections with other beings, without which we would die.

In this sense, what evolutionary purpose does hibernation serve? Rather obviously for animals, when times are tough, the weather is freezing, and there is no food to be had, hibernation keeps animals alive by dialing down their metabolisms and allowing them to hole up and live on what they have managed to store in body fat. They need no new nourishment until spring comes, when they emerge from their dens thinner and ready to forage again. (Actually, they emerge ravenous and potentially dangerous, but that is another story.)

When might it be a good idea to let your curiosity hibernate? When you’ve stored up enough nourishment, times are tough, the weather is cold, and you need a break.

I’m taking a break today. 😉