Curiosity is the most wonderful thing in the world.
And I’m not saying that sarcastically or exaggerating. It is curiosity that has driven the human race forward through countless years, across countless countries, and through countless barriers in the mind and in reality. Curiosity drove us to the moon, it has brought us amazing pictures of other galaxies, and it has driven us to greater understanding of the complexities of our own minds.
On a personal level, curiosity has led me to live in Vietnam and China, take trains across Japan, climb mountainous stairs in Indonesia and eat unidentifiable foods in markets in Thailand. But curiosity doesn’t just have to be about buying a plane ticket to a previously unknown country or sitting on the back of a motorbike that’s careening along narrow, packed streets. Curiosity can be simpler and quieter and like anything else, it has to be honoured and worked on in order to grow. Without it we become small. We become locked into cages that are too tight for us to move in let alone to grow. Our minds and ideas and beliefs become rigid and unforgiving and we face the world as if it is hostile and ugly, when the truth is that it can also be beautiful and amazing and kind as well. But the only way we can know that is by experiencing it and the best way to do that is to use our curiosity, follow it where it wants to take us, down all the rabbit holes it can reveal for us. Here are some of the ways you can honour that most amazing trait in your own life.
1. Keep a list.
This seems too utilitarian and too rigid to be a way to honour your curiosity but it’s also vital. We all have busy lives and busy brains and things that interest us are lost in the flurry of texts and tweets and things that have to be done and when you do have a moment alone it’s too easy to forget about all the things your curiosity wanted to do. So keep a list. Make it a catch-all list, of books and links and cartoons and ideas and quotes you wanted to look up and learn more about. Write where you found it and where to find more and then explore, get lost down the rabbit hole and just wander around. You never know, you might find something amazing.
Whether it’s overseas or in your own town, the idea is a cliché for a reason. Take a day or an hour and find a new coffee shop, a new bookshop, get on a bus and get off at a random interesting place. Explore the world. And if you can afford it, get on a plane and make an adventure out of it.
Study everything. If you can’t travel, think of a place you’d love to go and read about it, look at pictures, plan your dream trip. If you like to read than choose a new genre, a new author. Read non-fiction if you always read fiction, keep a list of subjects (returning to point one) that sound interesting to you and choose one at random and read. There are so many interesting things out there and all we have to do is let them into our lives in the smallest way to add immeasurable value.
4. Get into Podcasts.
This is one of my new favourite ways to learn, which is why there is a separate category for it. There are podcasts out there about every topic. Want to learn about space or minimalism or the structure of the brain or personality typing? It’s all there. And best of all, it’s portable. All you need is your iPod or phone and a set of headphones and you can fill otherwise boring moments with knowledge and exploration. Just find a subject you want to know more about and be willing to encounter some duds before you unearth the gold.
5. Ask questions.
I hate small talk more than anything in the world and one of the best remedies I’ve ever found for that is to engage my curiosity. When you meet someone new, ask them questions. Ask them what they enjoy, what they’re interested in, what they studied, what they’re passionate about. Really listen rather than talking, ask questions to learn more and connect with a new friend as well as learn something about a world view that may be very different to your own.
6. Explore yourself.
There are a lot of sayings about the value of understanding yourself so I won’t rehash them here, but learning about your own mind, your heart, your personality, your dreams and wishes has to be the most important thing on this list. And it can occupy you for a lifetime. So use all of the tips above, listen to podcasts and study and read and ask questions and find out about the most complex system on the planet. It’s really worth it.
We don’t play enough. Everything in our lives is productivity and time management and achievement and how you can multitask and tick off everything on your To-Do list and act your age. But children learn through playing, they learn about the world and about themselves and they do it with deep enjoyment. That’s what I want. That’s what I want for you as well. So play games, hang out with people who will do crazy stuff that will make you laugh, blow bubbles, roll down a hill of grass. Enjoy. You’ll learn a lot that way.