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5 benefits of a curious mind

Did curiosity really kill the cat?
Blog 58 Curiosity

At what point between youth and adulthood do we lose our sense of wonder? As children, we ask an endless stream of questions – always eager to discover how something works, why someone looks a certain way, what we’re going to be, see or do today, tomorrow, next year … Yet by the time we’re grown up, we ask fewer questions. Of course, we no longer have parents at our disposal 24/7 for interrogation purposes. We also know a lot more (or think we do) about the way the world works, so we stop looking for the answers. And it’s to our disadvantage.

After all, being curious delivers many benefits – depending on the type of curiosity you harbour. As it turns out, not all curiosity is created equal. According to psychologists Jordan Litman and Paul Silvia, there are two main ‘flavours’ of curiosity: D-curiosity and I-curiosity. The former represents deprivation, where we have a gap in information and, as a result, experience the displeasure associated with ignorance or uncertainty. I-curiosity, alternatively, stands for interest – the anticipated pleasure that accompanies the acquisition of new knowledge. One can trigger feelings of stress and anxiousness, while the other is highly gratifying. Think back to the last time you couldn’t recall a client’s name in the middle of a meeting, or were cut off from wi-fi and unable to access what your brain imagined to be an overflowing inbox. Now compare that to the satisfaction of stumbling upon a new piece of information – like the fact that the world’s first oranges weren’t actually orange. It’s curiosity’s very own Jekyll and Hyde.

Curiosity can be categorised even further as 'intellectual curiosity' (what more is there to know) and 'emotional curiosity' (what more is there for me). Integrating both across all aspects of life can be highly advantageous to your psychological, emotional and social wellbeing. Here’s five ways how:

  1. Curiosity is a way to reframe and self-manage – We can flip the script on negative thoughts and feelings simply by asking better questions, exploring with an open mind and being inquisitive at every opportunity. For example, when feeling sad, a typical response might be to ask: ‘Will anyone ever love me?’ But by being curious instead of sad, we can reframe that question to: ‘I wonder what experiences will make me happy going forward.’ It’s very empowering.
  2. Curiosity creates great leaders – How do the most successful companies stay ahead of the game in a constantly changing world? They have perpetual students at the helm asking lots of questions and expecting the same of their teams. Being curious allows leaders to understand perspectives beyond their own and turn that information into productive outcomes.
  3. Curiosity is linked with EQ – In a 2007 study by Nancy McIntyre and Michael Harvey, having a curiosity trait was found to be the best predictor of high emotional intelligence (EQ). It stands to reason: some of the key attributes of high EQ are self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy, all of which we achieve by being curious about what our emotions and behaviours – and those of other people – are trying to tell us.
  4. Curiosity engenders achievement – Albert Einstein himself claimed he had no special talents, other than being passionately curious. Studies show the link in adults between curiosity and greater learning, engagement and performance at work. In students, it s also a predictor of academic performance.
  5. Curious people are happier – The more we ask, the happier we are, according to research. This study from 2007, which found having a personality high in curiosity leads to greater life satisfaction. It may have something to do with the fact that our brains release a lovely dose of dopamine whenever we encounter something new.

At their core, the role of a coach is to be curious for their clients – we're skilled question askers! Here are a few questions to spark your curiosity:

  • What would be different if I were curious instead of upset?
  • What would be different if I asked questions rather than made statements?
  • How would I feel if I imagined new possibilities?
  • What do I wonder about that I need to do something about?
  • What ideas might come if I were more open and childlike in my thinking?
  • Am I known for being great at asking questions? If not, am I ready to instil this as a new behaviour?
  • How would my relationships change if I were known for valuing a curious approach? What would happen if I became more interested in the point of view of others?

– The Coach Place Global

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