Children are curious creatures.
They explore, question and wonder, often through play. In this context, they learn.
We are naturally inclined to learn new things; thus reaping curiosity’s benefits. From the moment we are born until we die, learning is hardwired into our brains. As adults, our challenge is to embrace curiosity instead of viewing it as a childish behavior that should be restrained and suppressed.
The Curiosity Cycle
As we grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, one thing remains true: if we stay curious, we can become lifelong learners. We continue to explore and discover.
When we are curious about something new, we want to explore it. It’s through that exploration that we discover.
Our discoveries result in pleasure and satisfaction. Then we want to share our discovery. Sharing those discoveries with others creates more internal gratification.
Those feelings of fulfillment lead us to repeat our curious actions of discovery, exploration and sharing. Repeating those specific behaviors can lead us to mastery of knowledge. That mastery and understanding leads us to learning new skills.
Repeating our curious behaviors, our mastery of new knowledge and learning new skills leads to boosted confidence. That confidence boost leads us to more sharing with others.
Our mastery then leads to amplified confidence which increases our sense of safety and security. Those feelings of safety result in more exploration. Through curiosity, play, discovery, exploration and pleasure we extend our ability to be resilient. You see curiosity doesn’t always kill!
Being curious can set in motion a string of benefits. Play and pleasure are essential for our personal development and enlarging our capacity for resiliency. Curiosity is learning’s brain fuel.
So lather up curiosity, rinse, and repeat.
Your Brain Reflects The World You Grew Up In
For too many of us, curiosity fades. It flickers and eventually disappears. We avoid it and suppress its natural instincts based on our past experience.
Curiosity dimmed is a future denied, says Dr. Bruce D. Perry.
Our potential—emotional, social and cognitive—is expressed through the quantity and quality of our experiences says Perry. Our brains are a mirror of our past experiences. When our experiences teach us to be less-curious, we stifle our growth and quash our potential.
Three Things That Hamper Curiosity
Dr. Perry identifies three things that create constrained curiosity.
Fear is a curiosity killer. When change, chaos, the unfamiliar and the unknown frighten us, it slays curiosity. Our fear and anxiety feeds our need for safe, secure, familiarity. We cocoon in our comfort zone. We are unwilling to explore new things or step out and discover. Fear crushes our curiosity.
Don’t touch that. Don’t look here. Don’t do that. Don’t ask questions. Don’t act like that. Don’t waste my time. Don’t take it personal. Don’t! Don’t! Don’t!
You need to listen. You need to stop. You need to….
Don’t and you need to statements are reprimands, commands, and orders. They are condescending directions highlighting another person’s disapproval. We sense and respond to others fears, biases and negativity. We want to belong so we conform to their beliefs. Their disapproval crushes our curiosity.
The absence of a safe, caring and nurturing environment creates a curiosity vacuum. Without support from others or a culture that encourages discovery and exploration, we fear failure. Our capacity to learn diminishes. Consequently, we don’t share our curious findings with others. Accordingly we don’t receive pleasure, gratification and reinforcement from the cycle of curiosity.
Why do some people associate curiosity with chaos, messiness, and unstructured activity? How can conference organizers design learning experiences that grow participants’ curiosity through exploration and discovery?