Knowledge is the compound interest of curiosity. —James Clear
Curiosity is often associated with children; they love to explore, touch things, experiment, and ask, “Why?” They regard the world as a fascinating, exotic place, full of mysteries and wonders. This exploration is key to their cognitive development, motivating young children to learn and retain vast amounts of information.
Unfortunately, many people lose their sense of curiosity as they grow older. But rediscovering your curiosity can be a powerful means of improving your life. It’s part of what it means to be an active-minded person. We observe it in those who regularly ask questions, do experiments and research, read, travel, and strike up interesting conversations with intelligent people.
Curiosity isn’t just for kids. Here are some of the ways we can all benefit from cultivating it in our own lives:
- Curiosity makes you more observant. Curious people are on the lookout for new ideas and information, so they notice more.
- Curiosity improves your problem-solving. Because a curious person gathers more information and explores more alternatives, he’s also able to solve more problems.
- Being curious enables you to make broader integrations between seemingly diverse fields and facts. Because curious people explore a broad array of ideas, they tend to see connections that others don’t. This can lead to a better overall understanding of how the world works.
- Curiosity is often a precursor to innovation and discoveries, which is why most scientists appreciate its value. It leads a person to continue to seek the truth and test what the best way to do things might be—key to scientific endeavors and other innovations. Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
- Curiosity can make life more exciting. The world is full of interesting phenomena, people, places, and accomplishments, and the more curious you are about them, the more fully you can appreciate them. Similarly, as psychologist Roxana-Cristina Petrus points out, curiosity can take the place of the anxiety or fear you might otherwise feel in unfamiliar situations.
- Curiosity can motivate you to try new things, whether it’s a time management system, a workout routine, or a hobby. Being willing to try new things can help you level up in your professional and personal life.
- Being curious when you’re introspecting can help you better understand yourself and your values. It’s important to recognize that you feel a particular way, but it’s even more important to understand why. The first step to explicitly understanding why is to ask questions, something a curious person habitually does.
- Curiosity about the people around you can deepen your relationships, expand your perspective, and help you navigate tough conversations. Asking others questions about their opinions, experiences, and values can significantly improve your relationships with them. When curious people find themselves disagreeing with others, instead of merely asserting their own opinions, they ask others why they believe what they believe, which leads to greater understanding and can facilitate mutual respect.
Ready to start cultivating curiosity in your own life? I suggest a three-pronged approach. First, make a habit of asking questions and finding the answers. For me, this often means slowing down when I’m working on something or talking to someone and seeking more information, which nearly always turns out to be valuable. Second, be more open to experiences you could learn something from, whether they’re formal, such as a course, or simpler, such as a podcast.
Finally, if you’re able to travel, you can see places in person, learn about their history and development, chat with people you might otherwise never have encountered, and experience a culture that’s totally new to you. Every time I’ve traveled to a different country, I’ve learned more about different ways of doing things, different views on complex subjects, and ways that other people view my culture. It’s always a mind-expanding experience. And as Neil Degrasse Tyson said, “There’s no greater education than one that is self-driven.”
I encourage you to be more curious and ask more questions with childlike fascination so you can get the most out of life.