Tag Archives: advantages and benefits of curiosity

Day 364 – What I have learned

All along the way, people have asked me if writing this blog is worth it and want to know what I’ve learned or what I’m getting out of it. Here are some answers:

  • Yes, it’s definitely been worth it. There have been times when I was really busy and it was very hard to write something, but I am glad I stuck with it.
  • One reason I’m glad is that I am simply proud of myself for carrying through. It’s very easy for me to get distracted by the next shiny idea, but I stuck with this and feel good about that.
  • I’m also proud that I overcame my perfectionism (the desire for the perfect so often stands in the way of the good in my life) and simply wrote. Many many times I would have liked to go deeper, do a more comprehensive look into an aspect of curiosity, find the perfect graphic to illustrate something, or simply find the perfect turn of phrase. I could have let that keep me from posting anything, but I didn’t. I got out there and posted anyway. This is a lesson I need to learn, and writing this blog every day was a little like boot camp.
  • Although I haven’t made as much progress this year in actually living with curiosity as I would have liked, I have learned new ways and created new patterns for practicing. These will stand me in good stead in the future, I know.
  • Especially in the last month or so I feel as if the project is gaining some momentum. Engaging with people and situations with greater curiosity does seem to be becoming more natural.
  • Not only do I have new ideas about things I can be curious about (132 mentions of this category, after all), I also have ideas about different kinds of curiosity I didn’t have before, a list of exercises I can practice to keep my hand in, and a kind of action plan.
  • I also have a greater store of images as to how curiosity can be lived and how it can feel. Just one example here.
  • For the most part, it’s been fun. I’ve really enjoying thinking about, analyzing, and writing about things–and, above all, pushing myself to practice. It has been an enriching hobby this year.
  • I’ve had conversations and connected with people—not least those dear people who read my blog—in ways I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t worked on this blog. (More about that tomorrow.)

Day 362 – My hypothesis revisited

I started this blog almost a year ago with the statement below.

The hypothesis I wish to test this year 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. More precisely, I believe that living with greater curiosity will:

  • 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)
  • Enrich my life (added 12 February 2017)

Yesterday I analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of living with greater curiosity, calling up how often certain points were tagged. Below is how I did on each point. A quick explanation and a caveat: For the most part I tagged posts when I experienced the benefit so a tag is like a mini piece of evidence that living with greater curiosity did bring that benefit, at least in that one situation. The caveat is that I have so far only finished reviewing the categories and tags for the first seven months so the numbers may be a bit low. I should also mention that, as you can imagine, I was not brutally consistent in using tags so there is a certain level of imprecision in my calculations.

The runaway benefit, tagged 22 times, was “Know and understand more” (by which I meant “learned something and/or explored someone else’s viewpoint”).

The other points in my hypothesis were tagged as follows:

Reduce stress: 11 times

Set me up to be more responsive: 8 times

Help me build better connections to other people: 10 times

Be the path to growth and the way to enjoy the journey: 0 times(?)

Be an antidote to self-righteousness: 0 times (without the question mark—oops)

Contribute to my enjoyment of life: 8 times

“Enrich my life” is not clear, but if I add “Escape from boredom” and “Energize” together that makes 6 times.

As I mentioned yesterday, a few benefits came up over the year that weren’t a part of my hypothesis, like:

  • Feeling fair/open-minded (different from being fair and/or open-minded)
  • Getting a more complete picture (different from “Learn and understand more” in that I used this to mean literally saw or took in more of a specific situation)
  • Getting better at something
  • Strength (motivation) to stick with something
  • Contributing to world peace
  • Conquering fear
  • Supporting innovation

This post isn’t really about disadvantages of practicing curiosity because my hypothesis was not about the disadvantages. Nonetheless, I would like to mention that, in a desire to be balanced, I went through the year keeping an eye out for disadvantages. Perhaps I didn’t do a great job of keeping the balance, but as of this writing there were only two posts that addressed the disadvantages (finding out things one might rather not know and feeling overwhelmed by too many possibilities). That alone seems like a vote in favor of living with curiosity.

Finally: Does my year of exploring curiosity support my hypothesis? Has it really created greater quality of life for me?

I think the experiences I have gathered in the context of writing this blog do support the basic idea. I believe more strongly now than at the beginning that really mastering curiosity as a way of life has the potential to deliver the benefits in my hypothesis and more. What I can also say at the end of almost a whole year of concentrating on curiosity—after years of trying other ways to practice—is that certain kinds of curiosity (like existential and interpersonal) are a lot harder for me to practice than I expected. The phrase “I’m sure that if I had practiced curiosity in this situation, then I would have experienced less stress/built a better connection to that person/been less self-righteous/etc.” came up a number of times.

What is clear for me is that this blog has helped by focusing my efforts and creating (I don’t know why I’m surprised about this) a supportive community of readers and friends who have accompanied, reminded, and helped me in what one of them called my “curiosity quest”. The other thing I know is that, although I’ll be writing the last post on Thursday, I will keep trying to practice curiosity and to reap the benefits.

Day 361 – Consequences & Effects of Curiosity, a summary

I’ll be revisiting my hypothesis tomorrow so today I’d just like to list first the potential benefits and then the potential disadvantages of curiosity that came up in the course of writing my blog.

As an aside: One of my greatest pleasures in reviewing this category is that there were some new ideas, some of which came from things other people had said and some of which simply developed over time. I can already tell that one thing I wanted to have happen this year has happened—I have a broader understanding of curiosity and its potential benefits and disadvantages. 🙂

Potential benefits (in approximate order of frequency, starting with the most frequent)

  • Know and understand more (What a surprise! ;-))
  • Get better at something (more applied knowledge than “know and understand”)
  • Reduce stress
  • Build better connections to other people
  • Get a more complete picture (tied with building better connections)
  • Being responsive
  • Having fun/Enjoying (tied, actually with being responsive)
  • Feeling fair/open-minded (the benefit of feeling fair and open-minded did not occur to me before, but it came up at last five times)
  • (World) Peace (the idea that if we can just understand each other we can live in peace)
  • Energize (this seems obvious in retrospect, but it was not part of my original hypothesis)
  • Strength to stick with something (which no doubt contribute to getting better at something!)
  • Conquer fear (this was a quotation on day 075, but it came up in other posts, too)
  • Escape from boredom (also obvious somehow, but it was also not part of my original hypothesis)
  • Innovation (only once, in a TED talk I posted on Day 078, but I’m a little ashamed that I didn’t pick up on this more thoroughly)
  • Reveals the human spirit (e.e. cummings)
  • Living fully (Bronnie Ware)
  • Not growing old too quickly (Colette)

Potential disadvantages (each one listed once or less)

  • Overwhelmed/Distracted by too many possibilities (once)
  • Find out things we’d rather not know (once)
  • Use up time you don’t have (not mentioned)
  • Feel frustrated at the end of the day because there is no outcome (not mentioned)

Day 356 – A natural phenomenon

There’s nothing like a natural phenomenon to stir up the old curiosity. Yesterday, New England experienced a more complete solar eclipse than, I believe, the year that I turned 12 (which was a long time ago!). This offered lots of opportunities to practice curiosity.

First, there was the search for details, mainly when. Then came the search for instructions on how to make a pinhole camera. Then there were the camera assembly and testing phases. Then there was the waiting. I had made a mental note that the start, at least in New York City–was at 1:23 p.m. and the peak at 2:44. Imagining that I would be able to see the moment the moon entered the sun’s light I was outside with my pinhole camera at about 1:20.

First hurdle: I couldn’t see any difference to the sun the first ten minutes or so and got impatient. Mainly, I thought my camera wasn’t working or my eyes weren’t sensitive enough and I was going to miss the whole thing. Finally, I thought I saw a difference. Then I knew I saw a difference. From then on, I was hooked. I didn’t watch without a break, but I did keep coming back to see the progress.

Some things I noticed:

  • It got noticeably cooler as the eclipse progressed to its peak.
  • The blue of the sky seemed less intense.
  • The shadows seemed less distinct.
  • The clouds, which had been moving at quite a pace, seemed to slow down.
  • It got very quiet. The wind died. The birds and the insects stopped chirping.

Somehow I had expected the moon to go across the face of the sun horizontally and was surprised that it started at the top righthand corner and moved diagonally down. (That was one reason it took me a while to recognize that something was changing. I was looking in the wrong place.)

I had also thought that the moment the peak had been reached I would go for a walk with my dog. Instead I found the second half of the eclipse just as enthralling as the first half, and my poor dog had to wait.

All in all, it took two and half hours from start to finish (you cannot rush a celestial event). I consider that an afternoon very well spent.

Day 343 – Eating anchovies

A couple of years ago I did a course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). One of the mindfulness exercises was eating a raisin mindfully, which was fine for me because I like raisins. One person though had long had an aversion to raisins and was skeptical about the benefit of eating even one raisin. He reported afterwards that it wasn’t as bad as he had expected. Apparently, using all his senses and seeing the raisin as an exercise helped him.

Well, we are having Salade Nicoise for lunch, which has anchovies in it. In the spirit of curiosity practice, I ate an anchovy mindfully, even though I’m the kind of person who doesn’t even want someone else’s pizza half with anchovies on it in the same carton as my half with other things. I decided to look at the situation as a chance to practice curiosity, to remain open and not judge. I focused on what I tasted rather than what my opinion was of what I tasted. The anchovy was just as salty and fishy as I remembered and it wasn’t a great pleasure to eat it, but approaching it that way did help.

Day 321 – At least I was open

The course I’m teaching this week is being visited by members of the human resources department. That is not an entirely stress-free proposition, and I wasn’t sure what to make of the decision on the side of the project sponsor. I’m proud of myself that I remained open, didn’t jump to any conclusions, and I feel that helped me be constructive. It also helps that they themselves are constructive participants, but I’m still proud of myself.