Living Series: Cultivating Curiosity

funny-cat-cobra-snake-eye-contact

Curiosity killed the cat.

An article in the August issue of Psychology Today caught my eye this morning. The title What Happy People Do Differently grabbed my attention, but I was really intrigued by the tag line which read #1 They Seek Risk, Not Reward. I consider myself a risk-taker, but I haven’t always been that way. My battle with anxiety and fear in my early years forced me to play within the lines of more tried and true ways of living. It was not until I started to push the boundaries of what I believe that I truly found contentment and what I would describe as happiness.

“One of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that the key to satisfaction is doing things that feel risky, uncomfortable, and occasionally bad,” reads the first sentence of the article by Todd B. Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The article insists that curiosity is the key to happiness. I love that word curiosity. It makes me think of that old saying, Curiosity killed the cat. Yes, it may have killed the cat, but I’ve also heard that cats have nine lives. And, taking that analogy even further, if I kill a belief that I have because I’ve been curious enough to explore something new, I just may open doors to a new life or a new of way of seeing life. It’s happened to me more than once. I used to believe that being single was a lonely way to live, and it was what I was until I found the right partner. But, when I finally decided to be curious about what kinds of things single people can do to be happy being single – not just waiting for the right partner to come along – I discovered that being single is not just a state of transition. Singleness can be a very fulfilling lifestyle… and, I might add, one that I might choose over the alternative.

Senn Delaney is a consulting company who helps companies define their cultures. I worked at a company who had hired Senn Delaney to help establish a common culture among several different operating companies. They have a concept they call the Mood Elevator. It’s a visual that helps you see where you are at any given time. At the bottom of the mood elevator are emotions that are more negative in nature, and at the top are more positive emotions. If I am at the bottom on the Mood Elevator, they say, I just have to become curious in order to move up the Mood Elevator. That goes right along with what the article says. If’ I’m in a bad mood, and I’m arguing with somebody to prove a point, all I need to do is to become curious about their point of view, the nature of our interaction or other ways of doing things to become more open. It really does work. Being curious can increase happiness or at least contentment.

Through my twelve step journey, I have met all kinds of people. I have met people who are still addicted and in the proverbial pit of hell. I’ve met people who are very spiritual. The thing about addiction is that it knows no limits. Anyone can be affected. I’ve learned to be curious about other people in that journey. I need them for support, and they understand me at least in one area of my life. I have to suspend judgment about what they do and who they are in other areas of their lives. We are honest about our struggles because it’s a support group, so we don’t keep secrets for the most part. I’ve learned what it’s like not to be judged for my decisions and life choices, and I’ve learned to give that acceptance to others. Because of that acceptance, I’ve been able to be curious about why people do the things they do and who they are. No matter who I’ve come across, I’ve always learned something from them. Being curious has increased my relationship potential and enriched my life.

A friend of mine told me today that he admired the way I’d handled my move this past month. He said he would have been freaking out if other people had been packing his household.  I don’t really know if I thought about it much, and, maybe if I did, I would have been a little freaked out about it, but I needed the help, and my primary motivator was to get it done. I’ve found in the last few years that having rigid beliefs, being afraid and wanting things done a certain way just make me closed off and nervous. My lifestyle is not for everybody. I tend to be reckless and extremely flexible. But, I do think that everyone can take a risk every now and then in order to experience something new. When I started letting go and letting other people into my life with all of their chaos and color, my life got better. All you’d have to do is to do something outside your comfort zone. What if you drove to work a different way tomorrow morning just for kicks? What if you risked saying hi to the person next to you in line at Starbucks? What if you actually went to that meeting you said you’d been wanting to check out? If you knew that taking that small risk would be one small step to becoming happier, would you do it? Well, according to Psychology Today, it will. Approach life with some curiosity. It might make all the difference.

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