Being curious is one of the traits that feeds our human intelligence. Curiousity contributes to our speed of development, our level of knowledge and our ability to adapt to new situations.
But even if we are born curious far from everybody retains the habits of exploring, learning and discovering. Curiosity is not something we per definition can just start using; it is a mental muscle that fades if we don’t exercise it regularly.
Imagine being at an event where you run into a person you don’t know. Let’s call her Miriam. Your curiosity guides you in your meeting with her. Three primary types of curiosity are prominent, as described in the book Curious by Ian Leslie:
- Diversive curiosity. The most common and widespread curiosity about everything new is that which probably makes you ask Miriam what she works with. Diversive curiosity makes you want to explore new places, people and things.
- Epistemic curiosity. This is the curiosity that makes you want to go deep and learn everything you can about a subject area. This curiosity may make you go further and ask Miriam how she does her job and what types of skills are needed. This is conscious, hard work in your search for understanding but it is also the curiosity that rewards you the most.
- Empathic curiosity. When you want to understand the real person, her feelings and thoughts, you may ask Miriam why she works with what she does.
The first type, diversive curiosity, is a prerequisite for the other two. The epistemic cuiosity is the one that creates momentum, leading to deep learning and new insights. The empathic curiosity complements the epistemic and invites ut to seek illusive answers in cooperation with others.
In a world where Google provides us with answers in seconds, where we receive a steady stream of information about and from our acquaintances, our diversive curiosity is satisfied en masse. Whatever we are wondering there are answers. But the incentives to dig deeper, to really understand many aspects of a phenomenon, stands aside as we are constantly satisfying curiosity with simple answers. The rewards are short-lived but the cycle keeps us going since there is a continuous flow of rewards around the corner, or behind the next click.
Instead of satisfying myself with the puzzles that are typical for diversive curiosity, in 2016 I want to spend more time with mysteries. Puzzles are the challenges where there is a distinct answer you may pleasantly lean back and rejoice over once you have it. Think crosswords. Even that which we call mystery novels are essentially puzzles as you find out who did it at the end of the book.
What I am referring to with mysteries are the issues without definitive answers — the ones that demand you reflect more on the circumstances of the information at hand. Your curiosity is engaged but never really fulfilled. The brain and human relationships are subject areas I have a passion for, but I also know I want to learn more about the body to open the doors to more insights. A riddle I like to poke – as thousands before me have – is why people struggle so much to perform that which we already believe to be best for us.
To succeed in my ambition I will read more books in 2016. At the least this means one novel and one work of non-fiction per month. I will return to writing more in-depth, allowing me to reflect on what I’m reading. I will schedule and take longer time-outs for reflection and meditation – tranquil interruptions that among other things will allow me to adjust my bearings before I head to far in the wrong direction. In my new role as a professional coach I will also during the year come up close with people I do not yet know, something I am immensely thankful for and humbled by.
I may not come out of 2016 with lots of answers but I will be greatly more enlightened about all that which I know so little about.
Happy new year my friends. Thank you for reading.