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The gift of curiosity

  • Published at 03:18 pm March 23rd, 2020
Mental Health Mind

 An inquisitive mind is a well-exercised one

“I have no special talent; I am only passionately curious.” -- Albert Einstein.

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be naturals at problem-solving? If you have, congratulations. Then you have already been practising curiosity. Curiosity is at the core of creative thinking. When creative thinking is combined with critical thinking, it gives all of us the best chance of becoming super problem-solvers in education, business, and life.

Critical thinking is more analytical. It is the part of your brain questioning and analyzing what it already knows. It asks straightforward questions such as what, why, or how. However, the second part, creative thinking, is more about the brain connecting bits and pieces of information gathered from various sources and connecting them in new and interesting ways.

Creative thinkers ask questions such as what if, or why not. If we call these bits of information dots, then the more dots we have, the more likely we are to be able to come up with creative solutions. Steve Jobs founded the delicacy and uniqueness of Apple’s hardware through his lessons in pottery.

This is how dots connect. 

Curiosity propels our creative brain to look forward into the future and build something fully out of our imagination. Those who have more dots are those who remain curious, and they are the ones asking or wondering about the world around them. If you know anyone in your life who has these traits, they are highly probable to be successful problem-solvers in the future.

How do you stay curious to build up your own bank of dots of information? There is no one size that fits all. But there are a few things that have worked for many. 

Always challenge what you see and hear. It is both the easiest and the hardest curiosity tip. It is very easy to accept what you are seeing or have seen as a way things have been or should be. But the truly curious brain always seeks more information.

Why does the moon rise and set in different places and at different times every night? How is text displayed on a computer screen?

The more you ask questions like these, and have someone explain them to you -- whether online or offline -- the more you are likely to make much further connections to other things that you already know. 

Curiosity is not just important to contextual problem-solving; there are other potential benefits of curiosity as well. First, it is a great way to keep your mind active rather than passive. Have you noticed that people who are curious are always asking questions and looking for answers? These people never get bored. 

Second, the mind is like a muscle which becomes stronger through continual exercise. Curiosity aids in mental exercise, making your brain stronger. When the ideas start flowing, the brain will recognize them for what they are, and create opportunities for new thinking and new ways of looking at things. Without curiosity, you will not notice the ideas that may pass right in front of your eyes because you are not mentally ready to recognize them yet. Doesn’t it make you wonder? How many great ideas have I missed because I wasn’t curious? 

Third, curiosity makes life more interesting and even exciting. Boredom can never rear its ugly head into the lives of curious people. There is always something to think about and something to examine more deeply. Boredom, or a lack of interest, is really a lack of curiosity in even the smallest details of your immediate surroundings.

Can you imagine how much more adventurous your life would be if you examined your immediate surroundings more closely? 

Lastly, let’s get back to the Einstein quote: If one of the greatest thinkers can say that his only real talent is curiosity, why not give it a try today? Become passionately curious for a minute with the object or the person next to you, and see the magic happen.

Touhid Kamal uses anthropology to learn more on micro-cultures and human behaviour, and is a UX researcher and team culture builder.

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