The more I travel, the stronger I believe that the world would be a better place if more people experienced countries and cultures outside of their own.
Of course, this view is simplistic, optimistic, and some might argue, naive. However, there’s one thread, that when pulled, can unravel the tightly wound grip we all have on our own perspectives: curiosity.
When you first step into a new city, or hear a new kind of music, or see a new landscape, curiosity peaks.
When you wonder why someone eats the food they eat, or takes a certain mode of transportation, or holds sacred religious beliefs, or sleeps in the middle of the day, it expands what you might think of as good, true, or right. We become curious.
As children, we’re inherently curious. We have to be in order to learn how to function in the world. As adults, our natural propensity toward curiosity doesn’t change, necessarily, but it can be dulled by the routines and systems that run our lives.
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Being curious doesn’t always require being in a new situation. And it’s certainly not a trait that only belongs to travelers, students, and children. Sometimes it just requires one simple mindset shift: Observing with an open mind instead of judging mind.
Because curiosity requires mindfulness, ambiguity, uncertainty, and letting go of the need to be right, it forces us to listen, empathize, and form educated opinions.
Curiosity has the power to change our minds and change the world. After all, if it worked for Albert Einstein, who said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious,” (humble, guy) why wouldn’t it benefit all of us to cultivate more curiosity in our lives?
Travel is a powerful way to feed our curiosity and expand our view on the world, but it’s not the only way. Here are five simple yet powerful ways to chase curiosity every day.
Activate your beginner’s mind
The term “beginner’s mind” comes from the Zen Buddhist concept of shoshin and describes the state we’re in when we experience something as if it were the first time (even though it may be the millionth time). It requires dropping our preconceived notions and expectations and looking at the task or subject in front of us with a blank slate and eagerness to learn.
To practice beginner’s mind, start with an everyday activity that you take for granted, like washing your hair. Before you simply suds up, think about why you wash your hair in the first place. What makes hair dirty? What is your shampoo made of? How does it smell? In what direction do you work the shampoo through your strands. Think about how your hair feels when it’s clean. Take every step mindfully as if you’ve never experienced it before.
Unless you live in a Zen monastery, it’s not practical to do this for every activity of every day. Do it when you can and see what you can get curious about in the process. It’s particularly helpful in finding a resolution to a problem you’ve been butting your head up against without resolution.
Take the long way home
Routine is supremely helpful—until it’s not. It’s one of those things that deserves, begs, to be broken from time to time. If you can’t get out of town to break up the monotony, shake up your schedule at home.
Put efficiency, productivity, and beating traffic on the back burner for a moment and take a new route home. Take local roads and explore new neighborhoods. Make a game out of your commute by turning left when you would have turned right and see where it takes you.
Stop a different grocery store. Eat dinner at the first restaurant you see that you’ve never been to. You never know what you might find.
Create a curiosity challenge
Try this: Every night before bed, write down one thing to be curious about the next day. It could be anything from getting to know your new co-worker to trying a new spice.
The key is to take one subject and go deeper. Ask questions, read articles, taste, smell, listen. At the end of the day, write down what you’ve learned and choose the next day’s topic. Challenge yourself to do this for 30 days as see what it inspires.
Follow the breadcrumbs
Let go of the need for plans and outcomes and explore what could happen if you take things one step at a time. That report you’ve procrastinated on because you don’t know where to start? Just start and see where it goes. Use what you don’t know to spark more insights, strategies, and resolutions than you would be relying on the status quo. (There’s that beginner’s mind again.)
That class you want to take but fear not being good at? Go on now, just do it. Use it as an opportunity to play, have fun, and relish in the relaxed mindset of not needing to be perfect. Let the thrill of discovery drive you and see what else wakes up inside you.
Play spin the globe
You might have heard stories about people who’ve spun the globe and traveled to whatever country their finger landed on. More power to those adventurous folks. If letting your finger determine your next trip sound like too much left up to chance, you can still use the game to cultivate curiosity at home.
Spin the globe. Stop it with your finger. Then make it a focus to explore everything you can about that country. What kind of food do they eat? Find a recipe for a local dish and make it for dinner. Learn how to say a few basic words in their language. Explore their fashion, politics, current events. What traditions do they have that you can try out for yourself at home? Turn a boring weekday or your next date night into a little mind-adventure.
Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash
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