“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions,” the Nobel prize-winning novelist, Naquib Manfouz said.
One of the best and overlooked ways of attaining happiness is by nurturing and developing our curiosity. Curiosity lays the groundwork for opportunities to learn and discover, to create wonder and intrigue, and to experience enchantment, joy, and delight.
Boomers can take a cue from our grandchildren who are born with a natural, boundless curiosity. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why don’t our eyelashes grow?” Or as my 6-year-old granddaughter recently asked, “Whose tummy did God grow in?”
Unfortunately, as we age, a wall begins to builds up. We become torn between our naturally curious minds and our longing to conform. Or we allow the fear of the unknown or the desire to look smart by pretending we know the answers to overpower our craving to learn.
Young children, on the other hand, have no such barriers. With boldness and courage, they keep asking the simple and tough questions until they find the answers. Children inspect the world with wonder and awe and stay present in the moment to enjoy the details of every new experience. They seize pleasure from surprises and unexpected events and add playfulness to even mundane tasks.
How can we copy their exuberance and reclaim our natural curiosity? How can we feel more alive and engaged and experience moments of insight and meaning? Here are a few ways:
• Have the courage to speak up and ask questions – including the tough and unpopular ones. Use questions to stimulate thought and new ideas, to explore opportunities and options, and find solutions. Take the time to listen and reflect on the answers.
• Be willing to learn something new. Invest some time to ascertain what interests you and then pursue some new opportunity or adventure. Enthusiastically explore the world. Recognize the pleasures novel experiences offer us. Experts tell us that people who participate in new activities are happier and find more meaning in their lives than people who cling to the familiar.
• Instead of feeling anxious about events in our lives that have an unknown outcome, enjoy the thrill of not knowing what will happen next. Embrace uncertainty and surprises. Research shows that mixed emotions, including a bit of fear, can lead to the most intense and longest-lasting positive experiences.
• Experience daily life in a different way. Reconnect with your playful spirit. Become more curious about everyday happenings. Throw out your expectations of boredom. Search for new things you can learn even from mundane activities during an average day.
• Use curiosity to strengthen our relationships. Curiosity is contagious. When we take an honest interest in our loved ones, ask questions, and are genuinely curious about their lives and passions, we’ll form a deeper connection with them.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it is one of the most important aspects of life. Incorporate curiosity into your life and you will learn more, increase intimacy with people you love, reduce stress, have more fun, and improve the quality of your life.