The Top 7 Ways to Be Curious

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When we were infants and our brains were on a growth tear, everything was new. We hadn’t yet learned to filter our curiosity. We sopped it all up, learning important connections, such as “…this is food and it goes in my mouth.”

As we became children, then adolescents and on to adulthood, teachers told us what we needed to know. This kind of learning isn’t always compatible with curiosity, such that by the time we’re in the workforce we’ve largely forgotten how to let our minds roam.

Yet curiosity enhances learning, consistent with the theory that the primary function of curiosity is to facilitate learning.* If we want to continue learning throughout our lives, we need to reclaim our ability to be curious.

How then does one become intentionally curious, or build on existing curiosity? Use the following seven ways as a guide to raise your curiosity quotient and put you squarely on your curiosity journey.

  1. BE INTERESTED. The age-old cliché, go out and smell the roses, is still valid today. Stop what you’re doing, look around, and notice things.

  2. BE A VORACIOUS READER. Get in the habit of reading something new every day, whether fiction, nonfiction, business and news. Binge read a topic. Read a physical book as well as digital versions. Move to a different spot to read.

  3. LISTEN UP. Tune your ears for sounds you don’t recognize. Listen to a piece of music and focus on one instrument, then another. Listen to music you normally avoid. Listen attentively to what someone is saying.

  4. RECORD IT. Write down ideas as they pop into your head. A convenient solution for notetaking is a small notebook, such as Field Notes (https://fieldnotesbrand.com/). Or pull out your smartphone and record an idea. Professional writers and speakers often put their notes into categories so they’re easy to retrieve. Could categorizing work for you?

  5. ASK TO KNOW. Ask questions, because it’s one of the fastest ways to know more or understand better. Asking is curiosity’s jewel in the crown. Ask questions, because it’ll also expose any blind spots or biases.

  6. BE UNCOMFORTABLE. Intentionally seek out an activity that’s outside your norm — hike challenging terrain, read and ponder writings that discuss ideas you disagree with, have conversations with people who have different ideologies, opinions and experiences. And visit unfamiliar places.

  7. BE A PERPETUAL LEARNER. Start with the mindset that you can never know enough, and that there are always new ideas to explore and new ways to learn from others. Intentionally seek to understand and know. Make learning one new thing a daily habit.

As you build your adult curiosity muscle and give your mind permission to go “free range” now and then, you’ll experience the kind of knowledge, insights and delights that accrue to those who realize they can never know enough.


*The Psychology and Neuroscience of Curiosity, a peer-reviewed article by Celeste Kidd and Bejamin Y. Hayden in the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. Neuron. 2015 Nov 4; 88(3): 449–460.