Allow me to start with a question: when was the last time you were amazed by something?
Thirteen years after the TED talk in which Ken Robinson called on the education community to boost students’ creativity (with almost 60 million views, it continues to be one of the most viewed TED talks in history), the words of the English educator remain as applicable as ever.
For Robinson, the most important thing that a teacher can do for their students is to keep their curiosity alive, but there is one question that may need to be answered in order to do this: who helps keep the curiosity of the teacher or worker alive? My argument for maintaining curiosity as our source of energy is set out below.
First, with regard to my first question, I’ll go back to childhood: in our first years as human beings we show a lot of curiosity for ourselves and everything around us, because everything is new; this process provides children with fundamental information. Wonder feeds that curiosity to explore and learn about the world. With the passage of time, a lack of novelty and a ramp up of concerns put curiosity on the back burner. So, precisely the older you get, the more you need to stimulate your curiosity. Luckily, curiosity can be maintained, in spite of aging. All you have to do is practice.
Curiosity is not only on the inside, it also depends on social and family factors and you can pique it with external stimuli. For example, when you’re feeling a bit down, starting a conversation with someone can awaken your curiosity on a number of topics, teach you something, and improve your mood. I’m sure you’ve got a few people in mind who kindle the flames of your curiosity for discovery and learning when you talk to them. Curiosity is also contagious. Reading a book next to your child will boost the child’s interest in reading. When your skills in a particular field increase, the feeling of mastery of that material boosts your curiosity to do even better and to learn new skills. Lack of knowledge is the great enemy of curiosity. Overconfidence and narcissism can also destroy it, stopping you from learning more and gaining new skills simply because you think you already know it all.
What advantages does being curious have to offer?
1) It makes you smarter and more creative
It is associated with intelligence, self-esteem, and the ability to solve problems. Curiosity and knowledge feed into one another, because learning piques your curiosity. When your desire for knowledge increases, so does your creativity.
2) It is able to improve your behavior and leads you to make healthier decisions.
Evan Polman, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted a study on 200 people who were asked to choose between two fortune cookies: one regular one and one covered in chocolate. The majority (71%) chose the healthier cookie if they were told that it contained a personalized message. The other half of the participations were not told this and 80% chose the less healthy option.
This healthy behavior was also observed when subjects were given the option of taking the elevator or going up the stairs in a building. Polman suggests that “curiosity interventions can help us push people toward actions that will benefit them.”
3) It makes us have better relationships with others
For Todd Kashdan, of George Mason University, “science has shown that our biggest regrets are not from trying and failing, but from never making an attempt. Inaction is what bothers us most.” Kashdan believes that curiosity is the path to a full life.
If motivation is the engine that drives us, curiosity is the spark that starts it.
If you’d like to continue feeding that flame, you can see the following resources:
Why: What Makes us Curious (Mario Livio)
El pequeño libro de las curiosidades (Miguel Sosa Lázaro)
Dichosos dichos (Víctor Amiano)
Una historia natural de la curiosidad (Alberto Manguel)
Leonardo da Vinci, la biografía (Walter Isaacson)
Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it (Ian Leslie)
Recommended TED talks:
The case for curiosity-driven research (Suzie Sheehy)
The surprising habits of original thinkers (Adam Grant)
The pursuit of ignorance (Stuart Firestein)
Engage and embrace your natural curiosity by asking “why”? (Misha Raffiee)
A simple way to break a bad habit (Judson Brewer)
The power of curiosity (Bob Borchers)
This is your brain on curiosity (Matthias Gruber)
Professor of Gestión y Liderazgo Universidad Europea at the Grado en Ciencias de la Actividad Física y el Deporte