Asking More Questions

14367876694_13f49979ab_m“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I was blessed recently to share five days with one of my sisters and a nephew. She drove from Connecticut to Colorado Springs where she picked-up her son at school and then continued on to New Mexico for the Thanksgiving holiday. She would have flown but her son asked if she would mind driving his car to school for his use. Being the mother she is, she didn’t hesitate. πŸ™‚

We spent time on three different days hiking in glorious Indian Summer weather, coupled with plenty of intriguing conversations. During one hike along the Sandia Crest (10,600 ft. elevation) trails I got to thinking, out loud, about why many adults spend less time being curious (we were discussing lichen). After all, curiosity is a key value of highly creative and innovative people.

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Curiosity fuels the acquisition of new information. Our brain takes in data and sorts, categorizes, relates, leverages and combines what is already present to create novel connections. And novel neural connections are the source of all that is new. So curiosity is an important learning tool.

Developing a new habit of asking more questions than you do at this point in your life is essential to energize your curiosity. Questioning is a cognitive pattern that can be habituated in our brain. Curiosity is questioning and by training your brain to question more, you become more curious. Why is it then, that children do this frequently and adults do so less?

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We have challenges at work, at home, and in the world that require creative solutions. It’s quite possible that those solutions will emerge from novel connections that we create in our minds. Consider asking yourself: What might be all of the things that I could do to enhance curiosity in myself and those around me? And you don’t even need to be at 10,600 feet altitudes to reflect on this.

If you are interested in exploring newness, here are three ways in which to feed your curiosity:

  1. Post a reminder on your bathroom mirror: “What am I curious about today?” or “What am I interested in learning about today?”
  2. When you hear someone say “It can’t be”, ask, “Why not?” Researcher Andy Aleinikov likes to say “Why not” every not.
  3. Pick up a publication that you wouldn’t typically read. Make yourself read at least one article or abstract that does not look interesting. Seriously. It’ll only take ten minutes and you might discover a new curiosity.

Or you can simply hang out on hiking trails with inquisitive minds. πŸ™‚

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81 thoughts on “Asking More Questions

  1. Love this Eric! Thought I’d add a touch of Einstein into the mix:
    The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. ~Albert Einstein

  2. I live in CT, Eric. What part of the state does your sister live in? Your days of hiking and asking why sound wonderful. I’ve seen something printed that is similar to #3. Something to the effect of reading something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I want to remember to always be curious! πŸ™‚

  3. Thank you for sharing this Eric. There is so much in the world out there that SHOULD be arousing my curiosity. So many jobs, such as mine has the same repetitive routine day after day, that you could almost perform it in your sleep.
    Why it is so Important to be hiking at your 10,600 feet. A change is SO important, to bring back that curious spirit.
    ~Carl~

  4. I think I have continued to be an immensely curious person. I have learned over the years how much I do not know.
    I remember growing up I had a large family of whom at least four were well read and seemed to know everything. At dinners I could ask a question and someone always knew the answer. It was a shock to me when I married and I’d ask a question only for my husband to say, ‘Haven’t a clue!”. Thank goodness for google. πŸ™‚
    As always a thought provoking post. There is nothing like the great outdoors to spark this type of questioning and post.

    • Here’s to your continued state of being immensely curious, Tric. I suspect you may be in the minority of the adult population. And I suspect you may be in the majority of adults who upon marrying find that Google may be more aware and enlightened than a new spouse. πŸ™‚ Appreciate your personal experience share.

  5. I think if I were any more curious they’d put me in a room somewhere. I love nature and explore daily and am always curious about what is just around the next bend. I usually come back with more questions than answers but in the almost 4 years that I’ve been doing a nature blog I’ve learned some amazing things about the world around us. Exploring nature is beneficial in more ways than I can list.

    • Come on in… the room’s cozy. πŸ™‚ I hear and agree with you about nature — her abundant mystery and beauty. And yet, for me, it’s more just exploring nature, it’s all that life has to offer. Thanks for adding to the richness of the thread.

    • To being restored spiritually, I would add physically and mentally. It canbe as invigorating as it is cleansing. And at 10.600 feet, the air is thinner so the appetite grows proportionately. πŸ™‚ Here’s to continued wellness so that we can enjoy our hikes for many years to come.

  6. Another way of keeping curiosity alive is simply to increase the amount of randomness in our lives. Talking to people we would not otherwise do, driving a different route to work, eating a new cuisine, eating at a different time, visiting an unlikely blog etc.

  7. Hi Eric,
    I do try to read something which is more challenging than interesting…rarely can I reach the end. I love to learn from nature, which is more natural and feel blessed to have Google. However there was a time when we went to libraries, opened those big, bulky books to find answers to our questions!! Thanks for the reminder!

    • Me as well, Balroop. Even when I challenge myself with reading something out of my preferred genre, I don’t force myself to finish it, it its that uninspiring. I still go to libraries when I can, especially large, old ones with endless shelves, rows and nooks in which to get lost in a book. Glad the post served to remind and rekindle good memories.

  8. I have always been one who loves looking at the details in life and nature. I am sometimes quite annoying, at least to ones who know me well, since I am constantly noticing and pointing out things. I love lichen, moss and spider’s webs. My grandchildren who seem to love computers and technology enjoy our creek walks and they know I am grateful if they notice something along the way. We have spent a lot of time watching bees go from flower to flower. It helps that I stayed home with my own children and babysat 5 more. I am still a ‘kid at heart.’ I loved this post, Eric. I really hope others did, too!

  9. Authentic curiosity is quite thrilling….but I dare to add that usually when we ask Siri a question, it’s not of the type that leads to innovation. We are a knowledge hungry society, stashing bits and pieces of others innovations into our mind, when we would be far better off with the mind of a child. Explore it for ourselves. Great post.

    • Indeed it can be thrilling, Teresa. I am one of those who has yet to activate/rely on Siri. Call me a traditionalist but I revel in being and experiencing ‘the old way.’ If we don’t initiate the exploration ourselves, who is going to do it for us? πŸ™‚ Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  10. Great post, Eric, and timely for me. I’m in the middle of reading a book called “Curious?” by Todd Kashdan, Ph.D. I picked it up at the library because that’s all the cover says (and I was)! It’s pretty much along the same lines as your post. πŸ™‚

  11. I especially like point #3. I practice this approach to the world because the alternative is to just stick with what is easy or what comes ‘naturally’. I think we all could use more practice in doing what is uncomfortable or seems uninteresting. Dive in.

  12. I think it was Bertrand Russell who said that to always reach conclusions is a sign of lazy thinking. I suppose when the questions stop we actually stop thinking. I don’t think there is anything more deadening than that. Thanks Eric. good post and reminder.

  13. I reckon that school, and the horror of rote learning to try and gain as many points as possible in that enclosed system, plays quite a role in knocking the magic of curiosity.
    That said, I think there is nothing like talking with strangers ~ and seeing the world through their eyes, to raise curiosity.
    You won’t be surprised to learn that curiosity is re-generated in me everyday by the changing moods, feel and visions of the sea that I’m lucky enough to live (almost) in.

    • I agree and love the prospect of talking with strangers, Jean. Opportunity right in front of us. To your thought about rote learning and how it can stifle curiosity, this is one of several factors I appreciate in people who choose to home school rather that subject their children and their education to rigid systems and curricula. Here’s to your love of and proximity to the sea. πŸ™‚

  14. I am saddened at the number of adults I interact with (through volunteering, work or in various social settings) who do not have an inquisitive mind/nature. When discussing solutions to this or that problem, they often reply that they hadn’t thought of the answer that way.

    Children and young adults don’t fully understand the world around them. It’s hardwired in our brains at those ages to learn, to discover, to explore; what we’re really doing is wiring the neurons in our brain with information. Then, somewhere along the way, we wake up and think we’ve got it all figured out. I think that does something in the subconscious mind, turns off some kind of motivator circuitry, so we tend to go through life on autopilot, never really desiring to “turn over that rock” to see what’s on its underbelly.

    Another suggestion for developing curiosity, like your “get on the trail” one is to simply hang around children as they play. Grab some crayons and let them teach you how to color again. Pick up some dolls and play house with them…let them teach you about interpersonal skills through their eyes.

    As you point out, it’s clear. Curiosity can be developed. If it’s gone, it doesn’t mean we can’t get it back. We just have to refire and rewire those neurons. Once rewired, we’ll be able to look at the world with new eyes. Again.

    Great post, Eric.

    • I always appreciate the depth of you thoughtful comments, Michael. Thanks for creating time to share them (and this). I agree that we too easily default to autopilot mode. It’s convenient and requires little physical, mental or emotional effort. And in today’s ever-accelerating pace of things, who consciously wants to pause, reflect, and appreciate simplicity in beauty or learning something new from someone you’ve just met? It seems a dwindling cohort who enjoy exploring, discovering and simply being.

      A take-away for me from your words is the simple expression, “…refire and rewire…” because if we don’t those neural pathways will just grow into a tangled mess.

  15. Curiosity, in my way of thinking, is the root of what I call the sixth natural sense — the sense of wonder. It’s my favorite sense, one that I devote a whole chapter to in my book, “Life Is Full of Sweet Spots – An Exploration of Joy.”

  16. Great post, Eric. I think that one of the things that lured me into the world of blogging initially was not only to share my own thoughts, but to learn about the thoughts and ideas of others. Remaining open to other people’s insights is so incredibly valuable to stimulating our curiosity. It’s like caffeine for the mind and soul.

    Unfortunately, with age comes a false sense of wisdom. I usually don’t need to stray to far off the straight and narrow to be reminded there is always something new to learn. It’s deciding to stray off the well laid path in the first place that is the challenge. I’m looking forward to wandering a bit more – thank you.

    “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

    • Straying, Dave, seems an easy default to me. There are too many triggers that can easily identify that one is off their desired path. The challenge can be– choosing to realign with matters most.

      I’m with you on the value in learning from others. My latest post features a friend who has spent many years advocating for adding to our own, perceived knowledge base — for a variety of beneficial reasons. To your comment, the stimulation is necessary. As is intentionally aimless wandering sometimes. πŸ™‚

      Glad the post’s message resonated with you. Onward, path finder.

  17. I notice a distinct lack of curiosity in some of my younger nieces and nephews. Perhaps their perpetual slack-jawed positions in front of various computer devices has contributed to this state. Oooh, that sounds mean, sorry. But honestly I feel that all of this technology blasted into the developing young brain is doing harm. Does any child lie on his back and stare at the clouds anymore? I must be getting old….Great post, Eric.

    • It neither sounds mean or is mean, Barbara. At least in your and my mind. I love the visual of a child (and any adult for that matter) lying on their back and staring at the clouds. If your perspective indicates one is getting old, then I am too. And I’m quite fine with doing childish things, when I do.

  18. ah…curiosity! The very best asset we always have…and most often forget about. Sounds as if you have a wonderful time with your family, Eric. How wonderful!

    • It’s in my genes, Carrie. It just took a couple of immediate family members a few minutes to reactivate what it is we do well when together. It was wonderful! Thank you for seeing/feeling that.

  19. Eric love your thoughts on curiosity, I know if I am learning something new my head is clearer and I am excited about my day. We should be curious until the day we leave here. There is so much to learn, see and do.

  20. Sweet photos to go with this post! Your second way of feeding curiosity reminded me of a former boyfriend who used to say “Unbelievable!” in response to amazing things. I was curious about why he thought these things were unbelievable. He said it was just an expression. I’d say, “Well, I believe it.” I prefer to believe with the delight of curiosity.

    • I’m unsure about the brilliant tag, Shauna, but I appreciate your kind acknowledgment nonetheless. I concur, being naturally curious does tend to keep us young, at least at heart and in mind. And you have the perfect captive audience at work on which to experiment. πŸ™‚

  21. I like all of your suggestions, and I was happy to hear I don’t have to be at 10,600 feet to reflect on curiosity. We’re barely above sea level here. lol! πŸ™‚

    • Ahh, but the rarefied air would lend to the light-headedness of exploring your curiosity. πŸ™‚ Then again, you could have the same experiences on a beach walk or a park stroll. It matters not where. Here’s to your appreciating exploring, wherever you choose, Robin!

  22. This is such an interesting post ~ curiosity. As I’ve gotten older, it seems I have become less curious about ‘world news’ and more curious about things such as the cosmos, spending time with those I love, and then the greatest question “why am I still working so hard…when there is life to be lived!”. I like your ideas of exploring newness ~ of asking questions even though no one may know the answer.

    Great post ~ as it will lead people to be curious about their curiosity, and that is a great start to the day πŸ™‚

    • So you leave me with little choice but to ask the question: Why are you still working so hard? πŸ™‚ Simply curious here, too, yet I sense an (compelling?) urge to “live life.” You seem to have the curiosity ‘thing’ down and will continue to explore. Why not actively couple your curiosity with what you know really matters?

      Ok, off my soap box.

      • A good question ~ contribution to those I work with plays some role, but also being able to make enough money to support those, those around me and to “explore well” should the opportunity come.

        Trying to find that balance between all this little variables in life ~ difficult to do, and sometimes I know I get swept in one direction and need to adjust… I’m usually pretty good at this, but at times it just takes a bit longer to make the move πŸ™‚

    • I would concur about blogging, whether it’s research one chooses to include with a post or simply enjoying what others have to share through their interesting views and curiosity. Appreciate your reading and sharing a comment.

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