Four Ways To Stoke Your Curiosity

by | Process

A few days ago I was perusing Brainpickings, one of my favorite sites for finding new and serendipitous sparks of inspiration, and I came across this video advertising SkillShare entitled “The Future Belongs To The Curious”:


I (strongly) agree that the future belongs to the curious, but would add that so does the present. Curious people are able to parse experience and recognize Reality behind reality; what’s truly going on in patterns and systems. They are able to ask great questions, and are willing to trade them in for better ones when they’re not satisfied with the answers.

So with that in mind, how can we stay poised, leaning forward, and in a state of productive curiosity? Here are a few things that I find helpful:

1. Be vigilant. Curious people are forever on the lookout for new bits of stimuli to spark their imagination. It’s easy to go through the day without ever stopping to notice the millions of little mysteries that play out right in front of us. We stop wondering and cease to pay attention to our questions, and our curiosity engine shuts down.

What are you noticing today that piques your curiosity and wonder?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. – Albert Einstein

2. Bias to “yes”. The world teaches us to be back on our heels. We hear the echoes of teachers, parents and peers telling us how dangerous “things” are and how we need to “protect” ourselves, and how we should never talk to strangers. (Ever!) We can easily develop a bias to “no”, meaning that our first response to any new venture or experience is “no” unless strongly convinced otherwise. I’ve tried hard to develop a bias to “yes” and to train my first instinct to be to follow my intuition until proven wrong. (Thus far, I’ve not been offered a poisoned peppermint by a stranger.)

Where are you biased to “no”, and how can you change it?

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.  – Leo Burnett

3. Ask dumb questions. Did you ever have a teacher say, “there are no dumb questions?” Me too, and it’s not true. There are dumb questions, but that’s OK. Sometimes we need to ask these questions to get them out of the way in order to progress to better and better questions. When we leave these “dumb” questions unasked out of fear, self-protection or laziness it clogs up our process and renders us unable to pursue our curiosities. Getting straight answers to some of these baseline questions can free you up to make progress on your creative goals.

Are there “dumb questions” that you need to ask in order to free you up?

Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. Play. I have three children under the age of nine. When they begin a game, they rarely sit down and develop a strategy document containing the rules and objectives. When they build with LEGOs, they don’t do Gantt charts. They take the work as it comes, and throw themselves into it with all they have. They fearlessly make it up as they go. When we get caught up in the pragmatics of our situation, it hinders our ability to pursue possibility. Sometimes we simply need to allow ourselves the freedom to spend a half-hour playing with concepts, spinning thoughts in our head, and doing a dive into something that sparks our thoughts.

How can you “play” today? Is there a way to play within your current work?

Leisure and curiosity might soon make great advances in useful knowledge, were they not diverted by minute emulation and laborious trifles.  – Samuel Johnson

Curiosity is critical to the creative process, because it’s the fuel that drives our intuitive leaps. Taking time to do a pulse check on your curiosity will pay huge dividends over time.

So…add to this list. How do you stoke your curiosity?

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

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