By Christine Peace, Behavior Coach
When was the last time you were curious? What occurred that made you experience the childlike inquisitiveness that we see in your students? And, what could you do to regain that curiosity and wonder, if it has been long-gone?
These are questions worth exploring, as curiosity is one of the key contributors to our creativity and ingenuity as humans. Specifically, curiosity plays a vital role in maintaining our intellectual health throughout the lifespan. Thus, finding ways to keep the curious mind stimulated can be crucially beneficial in our work, particularly as we engage with the curious minds of our students and clients. Therefore, below we will highlight four ways to boost your curiosity, to promote intellectual wellness.
We live in a unique time in history in that the answer to almost any question is available at our fingertips. However, this wealth of easily-accessible information is often left untapped by many. The problem therein lies that, despite having a seemingly unlimited amount of answers only a short Google search away, many people simply aren’t asking enough questions.
My curiosity has remained strong because whenever I have a question, I ask. I ask other people. I ask the internet. I ask books. Even if the question might seem silly or dumb, I just ask. In fact, sometimes, before I seek the answer from external sources, I ask myself first. From there, that initial question serves as a launching point for my curious mind to explore the vastness of where wonder can take me.
In the classroom, this inquisitiveness is what I encourage my students to regularly practice. When they start asking questions and I see that light in them switch on, the light of curiosity, it is truly exciting. For my students and myself, cultivating an unhindered curiosity is a daily goal.
It seems like, especially in our roles as educators and counselors, we spend so much time teaching that we forget a simple truth: there is always something someone else can teach us. In particular, with those with whom we work it can be truly enlightening to allow ourselves to ponder, “what led this student, coworker, stranger, etc. to be who they are in this moment?” Remaining open to what others can teach us through their actions, knowledge, and stories can create a whole new level of curiosity in us.
Take a Walk
Although it may seem simplistic, going for a walk can actually improve your brain’s overall functioning (literally getting your creative juices flowing). As you step along, you might generate new ideas, clear out mental clutter, or ponder some of the many questions you have started asking. These are great ways to promote and enhance the curious process while simultaneously getting in some exercise.
A walk can also be a time to be in the moment and focus on yourself internally, called mindfulness. For example, while walking you can consider each of your five senses. With each step and breath that you take, you can slowly shift your attention onto what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. And while some of these may seem tricky (perhaps you taste a sip of your water/coffee, or feel the smooth texture of a petal or the rough exterior of a stone), giving each of your senses adequate time and focus can allow you truly to be in the moment. Further, a mindful walk might be an excellent exercise to do with your students!
Adjust Your Perception
A final major practice to cultivate your curiosity and your intellectual wellness is acknowledging that, often, perception influences reality. Meaning, how we label things in our lives dictates how we will interact with them. For instance, I tend to expect that all documentaries are going to be boring. I assume they will not engage me at the same level as, say, one of my favorite TV shows or movies. And so, I rarely will put on a documentary myself but, much to my surprise when someone else turns one on, I quickly discover that I am wrong! In this way, if we label certain subjects, activities, or events as boring or uninteresting, then they most likely will be. On the other hand, if we decide to label them as fun, intriguing, or full of possibility, they will be just that.
Perhaps after reading these four ways, your curiosity has already been piqued with how to apply them to your life. Maybe today you can ask one more question than yesterday, or allow yourself a moment to pause and consider what a “difficult” student has to teach you. Maybe, as you walk from your office or classroom to your car, you slow down and notice each of your senses with your breath. Lastly, perhaps you shift one label from boring to intriguing. Who knows? You might find yourself wondering like a curious child once more.