Graphic designed by Evan Brooks.
Our perspectives change the more we learn, particularly if the information we take in is diverse, and obtained by a curious mind. Curiosity is the pursuit of knowledge through asking “why?” Without it, we would not have developed into the person we are today, with the act of being curious starting the day we are born. We try to observe the world through all the avenues available to us: touch, taste, smell and by asking questions. So, why is curiosity important, what does it mean to be truly curious and what occurs when we give into our curious nature?
The first thing that must be understood about curiosity is, like anything, there are certain bridges that should not be crossed. For example, being curious in science usually leads to experimentation, which depending on the experiment could be dangerous. If your curiosity leads to a dangerous experiment, it is probably best to proceed with caution, not to rush into things and know when you have hit your limits. Not being able to go through with the entire experiment does not mean your curiosity has to end, it just means that you are better off having a professional take the wheel.
Overall, though, the pursuit of curiosity is more often than not worth it, as elaborated in a newsletter titled Curious About Curiosity by Ben Dean Ph.D., and published by the University of Pennsylvania. In the newsletter, it is stated that “all things considered, the benefits of curiosity far outweigh the possible risks.” This is because curiosity is a malleable strength, that when cultivated, “…can lead to both personal and professional rewards.” When it comes to the development of curiosity, an idea that was posed “…by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, one of the founders of the field of positive psychology and a pioneering researcher in the area of flow,” is to focus on the task at hand.
“According to Cskikszentmihalyi, there is a direct relationship between our attentional resources and our interest in the world…” In short, when we focus on something, be it an activity like running or reading a book, our interest begins to rise. Say you want to read a book, the thought of reading a book sounds great, but actually committing to it is not an easy task. In order to pique our interest in reading, we need to focus on the action and actually pick up the book, without distractions around us.
Other examples would be how “rocks are not interesting until we begin collecting them, people in the mall are not interesting until we become curious about their lives and where they are going, and vacuum cleaners are not interesting until we need to buy a new one.” Until we make something a part of our lives, and really think about it, we will not be curious about it. So, “according to Csikszentmihalyi,” it is imperative that we make the “…conscious effort to direct our attention to something in particular in our environment,” and in order to foster our individual curiosity.
Being truly curious means not only asking why, but pursuing the answers to the questions that we ask, and seeking out new knowledge, no matter where it is. For me, I love to learn and am infinitely curious about anything and everything, hence why I am a part of many WCU organizations.
Sometimes, our questions receive the dreaded “because” response, with no real answer provided other than “it is that way because it is” as in “gravity works because it does.” That line of reasoning can, overtime, serve as a measure that drags down curiosity and substitutes it with the idea that we should not question, but rather just accept.
In the end, it is easy to say that curiosity killed the cat, but I believe that should we not be brave enough to dare or to explore, we leave a lingering question in our lives: did we completely embrace the possibilities that were laid out before us?