Reclaim your curiosity
1. It makes your mind active instead of passive.
Curiosity forces one to be fully present in the moment and open to being challenged and surprised. An active mind prepares us to see connections and possibilities that we may have overlooked due to lack of curiosity.
2. It opens people up to new possibilities for being and doing.
Curiosity assumes that there are actions, ideas and approaches that have yet to be discovered. It assumes that there is more than one path or approach, and that there might be a better way than how we’re currently doing things. Curiosity helps us avoid latching onto just one or two options rather than seeing several new options to consider.
3 | It infuses one’s life with energy and excitement.
A life filled with curiosity is never boring. Life is an adventure that’s neither dull nor routine. There are always new things to explore that capture our attention and pique our interest.
Curiosity often drives the conversations we have with our children. I remember being exhausted by the sheer number of questions my kids asked me when they were growing up, and now my concern, as adults, is that we don’t ask ourselves and others enough “why” and “what if” questions. I want to reclaim curiosity as an essential element in my life and invite others to do the same. I want curiosity to drive my day and spark new imaginations so that I experience God, friendships, and activities in fresh ways. Curiosity will help us navigate transitions and the write the next chapter of our lives.
Curiosity is more than a mindset. Like a muscle, it’s a practice that we need to continuously strengthen. Listed below are things you might try to intentionally stimulate curiosity in my life.
1 | Read less, reflect more.
I often point people to books, blogs, podcasts, and experiments to try to spark creative thinking but I’m noticing that for most people, they don’t need to consume more content. Instead they need to create more space in their schedule to digest what they’ve already consumed. New information stimulates our thinking and increases my awareness but it doesn’t lead to transformation in our lives unless we take time to reflect, digest, discern, and apply our insights to life.
2 | Note the norms in your life and ministry, then challenge them.
We all have an abundance of norms in life and ministry that drive our actions and daily decisions. These norms can bring delight to our lives or become energy drains for us. Note the routines that shape your daily life. List norms you’ve created related to interactions with your family, connecting with God, the route you take to work, what’s discussed at meetings, what you think about throughout the day, what you eat, etc. Then take one of these norms, and ask yourself “what if” questions that give you permission to stop doing something, start doing something, do it at a different time or do it with different people. Every norm in our life and ministry may be ripe for reinvention if we take time to notice them, challenge them, and rethink them. Don’t be held hostage by norms that no longer serve you or other people. Be curious about ways they can be reframed, reformed, or eliminated.
3 | Talk less, listen more.
In Vibrant Faith’s Coaching School, we challenge students to talk less than 20 percent of the time during a coaching conversation so that the coachee/client has more time to share what’s most important to them. It’s hard to be curious if we’re always imparting information to others rather than seeking input from others. Try asking short, concise, open-ended questions that address what matters most. View each person you encounter as a source of wisdom and knowledge. Embrace the role of a student and allow others to be your teacher. As Stephen Covey suggests in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, seek to understand rather than to be understood. View learning and unlearning as a fun and fruitful adventure. Avoid labeling any activity as boring.
4 | Ask better questions that lead to new learning.
Let go of asking close-ended or superficial questions. Ask questions that draw out people’s ideas, intentions, and learnings about life. Present to be a journalist and ask who, what, when, why and how questions. Seek to understand one’s thinking process and approaches. Ask people what they’d do if they were in your situation or what they’d do differently if they could replay a portion of their life.
5 | Walk and talk more often.
Research reveals that walks are proven stimulate your brain and get your creative juices flowing. A walk will stimulate all your senses. I find that I learn and listen better when I’m moving rather than sitting in chair. I get more out of audiobooks and podcasts when I’m walking than when I’m sitting on the sofa. Exercise helps create and sustain a mindset of curiosity.
6 | View settings through new filters.
Curiosity can be enhanced when we look at situations through different points of view. When serving as coach to a congregation, one of the first things I do is view their website through different lenses. I view the site through the lens of a first-time visitor, a teenager or young adult, a person seeking community or spiritual growth, or even a branding consultant. Sometimes I only pay attention to the images on the site, or how easy the site is to navigate. Viewing the site from multiple perspectives enhances my curiosity about the site and how others might experience it.
Consider the following questions if you seek to reclaim your curiosity:
- What would you like to be more curious about?
- What prevents you from being naturally curious?
- What might you do to grow your curiosity muscle?
Curiosity is not just for kids. It’s for all of us. It keeps us compassionate and open to change. And from there, anything is possible.
I've heard it said that too frequently in our society curiosity is discouraged in children over a certain age, which in turns leads to adults resisting the natural urge to ask questions. In certain places of employment or organizations there can be that unstated norm to NOT ask questions/be curious; but instead to either comply with the known or speak up only with answers to problems.
Is it just me, or do other readers feel like we could have a lot of fun just digging into numerous revelations Jim has in this blog? I think I'm going to write this word on the top of my daily To Do list...to see how it infuses energy and excitement into my plans. And I'm going to ask a few different people to review our church website looking at it from different lenses.
Can't end without a Brene' Brown quote that mirrors the one quoted from Stephen Covey: "I'm not here to be right. I'm here to get it right!"
Your comments ring true with me… which is why I love facilitating group thinking sessions where I can get the participants to let go of that inhibition to question things. This enables a sense of curiosity that allows them to challenge assumptions and ideas that have been taken for granted. When you get people to truly brainstorm, nothing should be left off the table.
I think I need to be more curious about what great ideas my clients have. I don’t want to feel like I hold the great idea and I’m waiting for my client to find it, or reveal it, while I shift questions around to get them to move in that direction. That would be more akin to biased questioning that leads the client, rather than letting the client lead the conversation. If I truly let go and allow the client to lead then my questions will help me reveal the wonderful ideas within them, but this requires genuine curiosity on my part. I feel that I have this natural desire, but I want it to be a focal point of my practice moving forward.
Well said Jason. I often times start to think of ways they could move forward when speaking to a client instead of going deeper with them. I think it is that whole idea of remembering that the answers are found in the journey (aka their journey).
Yes the journey is so important and adding curiosity to the mix makes it more fun and interesting.
Jason, I'm with you on needing to be more curious in my conversations with others. Having been in a leadership role for so long where people look to me for answers, I'm still having a hard time turning off that little voice that tells me to share ideas/answers with the client. This is a big shift of how we are to be present with others as a coach. The class coaching has definitely shown me the value of laying back and actively listening to the curious and creative ideas the client has.
I just love this line, "Curiosity assumes that there are actions, ideas and approaches that have yet to be discovered." I love the idea that curiosity opens the door to things yet to be discovered. This gives me energy and excitement of realizing that we are never stuck, we are just one great curious question away from finding a way forward.
I wonder how are systems would be turned on their heads if we embraced more curiosity? I love Ladd your statement "we are just one great curious question away from finding a way forward." It gets me wondering why this ins't taught more often. Instead of banging our heads against the walls what does it mean to be curious about a system or belief and what happens if we look at it from a different perspective.
Ladd, I totally love that we are just one great curious question away. And I have been reading the various comments, it reminds me to pay attention more and feel grateful rather than exhausted when I have 4 kids always asking me 5-10 questions in a row, especially those 2 part ones. But I appreciate I have cultivated a space where they feel comfortable asking whatever and it has made me go deeper about how I do that with clients in a better more natural way.
Michelle, thanks for the reminder to be grateful for the questions, even when they can be a lot or silly questions. I appreciate your thoughts about cultivating a space where curiosity can thrive. In our conversations with clients if we can build trust and coach in a healthy space, curiosity will flourish, and we can go deeper together.
Beautifully said Mary. Yes, adding curiosity to the mix can definitely get one "unstuck" and also add an element of adventure.
I am by nature incredibly curious. Mostly I'm curious about people. But the generalized curiosity keeps me detached and can be a good distraction for avoidance. I'm thinking if this is true for me, it may be true for others. One way for me to grow my curiosity muscle has to include space. In the blog I particularly resonate with the idea of reflecting on the information we already have rather than consuming more. That is what I think many think about curiosity; it is a consuming of information. Somehow consumerism invades and robs us of the uniquness of being human. Space to process; space to reflect. space to wonder (the essence of curiosity); space to let thing take root and flourish; space to be fully present. Space is the fertile soil for GROWTH and CREATIVITY which are inevitably the blooms of curiosity.
I found myself agreeing with Amelia when she said, "I particularly resonate with the idea of reflecting on the information we already have rather than consuming more." As an information junky who enjoys listening to podcasts and consuming a lot of information I can easily get to the place where I can't stand the silence and always want to be listening to something. Making space for silence and thinking (what some call deep work) is incredibly important, and I am beginning to wonder about the best space for me in which to do that since sometimes it can be difficult to do that in my office or other settings where I have other distractions. What would it look like to find a space where I can actually let everything else go for a while and just think.
Point 1 really hit me as I read it today, because this is where I am at. Coaching has been so valuable to me this last couple of weeks because it has been allowing myself to get some head space. I love the feeling being able to think and look at my thoughts in different directions. It is really invigorating and I have forgotten how helpful it is as well.
I wonder if we start fostering this in churches what would happen. Instead of giving out lots more Bible studies and books but gave people some intentional time to look at an issue and allow them the band space to think on it. I wonder what would happen and where the church would go. As I think about this some more, I really think curiosity is the ability to use God's creative energy. Instead of flashing for the quick solution what instead we took our time and looked for multiple solutions and not the ordinary ones. I wonder where we would be at as a church.
We are going to be going through a revitalization process at our church and I think I am really going to be using this to stretch us as people and see what God has in store for us. It is exciting!
We are doing the same both from a Spiritual path and organizational path and I have an old school retired corporate person who tends to be more negative and I have stopped answering or explaining the way at nauseum, but offered challenging and curious questions for him and others to ponder which has changed the conversation and also the vibe in the room, so we don't get mired down, but flip the script to explore and I feel like sometimes as adults we need permission to dream again and I have blown that window wide open and the energy that is bubbling up is awesome.
Thanks Michelle for reminding me I have the power to flip the script not just for others but for myself as well. Intentionally seeking to respond with curiosity rather than defensiveness to those who are stuck in what has been.
Paul, What perfect time for you and your congregation to be going through a revitalization process. You will be able to be a great example of being silent and letting curiosity take over. Sure appreciated your statement, "As I think about this some more, I really think curiosity is the ability to use God's creative energy." Just another reminder of a gift God gives us, that we too often miss because we are too busy trying to cut a path through the weeds and relying on our first 'logical' thoughts to propel us.
Until I read point 4 concerning the power that questions have in learning I hadn't connected the significance of curiosity in deepening and enriching life in the present moment. It made me think of the Jesuit practice of the examen and Ignatius' practice of twice daily meditation where he'd ask the powerful questions: where God's presence has been felt and where did God seem absent?
Tom, thanks for drawing the connection between curiosity and the practice of the examen. Very intriguing.
I agree that curiosity is the bedrock of learning, imagination and innovation. Despite that I would like to be curious on a more consistent basis. The practices (possibly helpful to view as disciplines?) of reflecting more (in contrast to consuming more information) , asking better questions, embracing the role of student and viewing situations from multiple perspectives may prove very helpful as I endeavor to my curiosity muscle. In addition, I will take a portion of my walks while intentionally NOT listening to an audiobook or podcast. Walk and simply reflect (bonus if said walk is in the outdoors).
Great FIRST ACTION STEP Dan...using your walking time to INTENTIONALLY allow your mind to roam and be curious. Love it...gonna steal it!
I often encourage my clients toward curiosity and must confess not practicing this nearly as much as I should. One of my very favorite words is the word wonderment. For me it evokes a child like appreciation of the ordinary and the not so ordinary. After reading this blog I have to admit that lately the wonderment moments have been more infrequent. So this blog reminded me that the initial step toward experiencing wonderment, is being curious about the mundane and not so mundane things in life. I get caught up in to- do lists and quite often miss the wonderment I so love to experience as I do, do, do instead of adding curiosity in what I'm doing to the list of things I'm doing in the day. You know, curiosity doesn't really take extra time and yet it can add value, purpose and wonderment in so many things I do.
The phrase that we have been using a lot in my role as a conference minister is imagination. So often in church work we do things a certain way because that is the way they have always been done, but that often leaves little time to think and dream about what might be different. This question makes me think that I would do well to ask people more what they want to get out of church and what their "ideal" church would look like. I have lots of ideas about how I think things should work and what we ought to do, but if I am serious about encouraging imagination in people then it behooves me to be curious about what some of those imaginings look like. I think in many of my roles the most important thing for me to do is to learn to talk less and listen more... asking more questions that allow others to express their hopes and dreams.
I'm trying to remember a marketing book I read a number of years ago in which the author made the claim that the most powerful word in the English language-at east in marketing-is "imagine." The word itself invites the listener into full participation in what is being discussed (sold in the author's case).
The word imagine gives permission to dream beyond barriers where the fertile soil of new ideas exists.
Curiosity leads to innovation and inter-connectedness. I was struck by a conversation I had with someone at my son's baseball game that began with a simple curious question. Curious questions can lead to deeper introspection and help lead to places one has not been to before. I agree that physical movement can help get the curious portion of the brain moving. I seem to get some good ideas if I get my run in, where the focus is just putting one foot in front of the other...Sometimes new ideas emerge.
I would like to be more curious about opening a business. I think my life traumas have stunted my ability to be curious. I think that I really need to be open more to asking questions of all people in my life to help me grow my curiosity muscle, I should really do this with my daughter. I know that I have a tendency to try to correct her instead of really asking her questions from a curios place.
I would like to be more curious about my children: what they are thinking, feeling, experiencing. I don't ask enough questions about them.
I am naturally curious - more so than most people I know. Sometimes that's hard to see because I'm also a voracious reader and analytical thinker, which can lead me to also be quick to judge. I like how coaching is helping me hold space for other's voices.
I am consciously trying to use more "I wonder..." sentences instead of more declarative sentences to grow my curiosity and hold space for more engagement.
I'd like to be more curious about scripture aside from preaching and the occasional Bible study. What prevents me from being naturally curious? I think I am naturally curious, but a hindrance can be being overworked most of the time- too often there's no space to just be and think and process. To grow that curiosity I might be more intentional about being in the moment and asking deeper questions in those moments.
I feel like I lost my curiosity for a long time - due to overwhelm, obsession with fixing problems, change and grief. I am grateful to be able to look at life with a lens of curiosity again now - but it is still hard to use that lens of curiosity on myself sometimes rather than the outside world. Sometimes widening or narrowing the lens can be very uncomfortable when looking inward. I think remembering to be very slow and gentle with clients as we begin this work with them is essential.
The idea of "noting the norms in your life and then challenging them" really draws me in. It reminds me of every congregation (and organization) I've ever heard say, "But we've always done it that way!" I can be quick to move on to something different when I hear this, but what if I explored why they've always done it that way, what is comforting to them, what parts work best or what could use tweaking if tradition wasn't the primary motivator. Even if change doesn't come, approaching that statement with curiosity as a pastor might lead me to deeper understanding and future transformation in another area of the church.
I envision a POSTURE of curiosity that LEANS IN, says, "tell me more", ask questions about "what's behind this thought/idea/feeling?" As you wrote,
"Curiosity assumes that there are actions, ideas and approaches that have yet to be discovered." Curiosity leads to questions which leads to the generations of ideas and possibilities. Ultimately, this leads the client into more self-discovery, aha moments, and excitement to try something they just thought of!