Curiosity: a vital ingredient for fulfilment and positive growth
Written on the 16 April 2012 by Sue Langley
“You can’t always be happy but nearly always profoundly aware and curious”, asserts Todd Kashdan, Senior Scientist at the Center for Consciousness and Transformation at George Mason University and author of Curious? Discovering the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life . His extensive research suggests that curiosity can be applied to encourage growth, replenishment and creativity, as well as reset kneejerk pleasure seeking, particularly through short-term gratification (as in this classic experiment with children and adults ) or harmful substance abuse.
According to Kashdan, curiosity makes us more psychologically flexible; we gain vitality and a greater capacity to tolerate anxiety and distress while staying mindful and connected, leading to more sustainable satisfaction for “a life well-lived”.
Curiosity also inspires a mindset of continual learning, an essential quality to cultivate in organisations today. Addressing audiences at the 3rd annual Positive Psychology and WellBeing Conference, Jennifer Garvey Berger, author of Changing on the job: Developing leaders for a complex world , cites “passionate curiosity” among three principles for supporting people to grow. “Telling people to be curious is hard,” acknowledges Berger. We need to look beyond curiosity about facts and be prepared to question our underlying assumptions, even certainty itself. “Look for times you are arguing certainty,” she advises. “Be curious about that.”
Maintaining curiosity without judgement can be a critical skill when learning new mindsets and behaviours. At the same conference David Drake, founder of narrative coaching, shared his model for working with learning edges to move ourselves - and others - from good to great. During three stages of growth , people moving from reactivity (stage 1) into inquisitiveness (stage 2) can release habitual defences or reactions by accepting and exploring strengths, how they’ve served growth so far and how they might be matured. Looking for the learning opportunity in the often uncomfortable process of change prepares us for generative growth (stage 3), in which greater agility and impact can be strived for and achieved.
Giving ourselves the gift of curiosity or working with a curious and encouraging guide such as a coach or supportive leader can make all the difference in successful emergence from challenging times.
Curiosity doesn’t have to be a tool used just in challenging transitions. We can cultivate curiosity daily, allowing the new experiences and people we are allow ourselves to be curious about to make us feel more engaged, alive, compassionate and whole.
EIW encourages a curious outlook in individuals, organisations and teams, embedding curious and mindful behaviours to enhance performance, flexibility and learning. One example is using psychometric testing such as Mayer-Salovey-Caruso, Realise2 and MBTI to get curious about yourself and your team and develop self-awareness practices that can be used in everyday work life.
How do you use curiosity most days?
EIW team members share their practices....