By Gayle Van Gils
Do you ever wonder how it is possible to foster greater happiness in the workplace? If so, that’s a great sign! Curiosity opens us – it is a cousin to love and an antidote to fear. When we are fearful we close our minds to new possibilities and perspectives. Curiosity opens the door to new ways of being, experiencing and communicating. It is a harbinger of greater happiness.
How can we cultivate more curiosity in our lives? We can re-awaken the “not-knowing” openness we had as children. Distortions, personal biases, cultural views, habits and fear all limit our ability to connect directly with what is happening and what is being communicated.
Fortunately, the practice of mindfulness and the resulting awareness of limiting beliefs opens the door to a powerful antidote to these afflictions: curiosity! As Albert Einstein said of his accomplishments, “I have no particular talents, I am only passionately curious.”
Curiosity starts with choosing to be present. This increase of awareness is an incremental process that you can notice even as a beginner of mindfulness practice. As you begin to slow down your tumble of thoughts and develop an ability to return to the present moment, you will naturally start to take a greater interest in the details of your life.
Forbes magazine cites curiosity as a source of innovation, and one of the most important skills for today’s successful leader. After all, as a leader, if you are not open and curious, you can only take your company down paths that have already been explored. In his article, “Steve Jobs and the One Trait All Innovative Leaders Share,” author August Turak points out that voracious curiosity early in life greatly affected the careers of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs. He notes, “Jobs wasn’t curious because he wanted to be successful, he was successful because he was so curious.”
Here are Five Ways to Reap the Benefits of Curiosity Every Day:
1. Move toward uncertainty.
Instinctively, you may think that you will be happier if you choose to perform familiar activities. However, we derive a more intense and longer lasting positive experience from trying something new. The discovery and surprise is worth the anxiety and tension which may precede it.
2. Challenge yourself by doing something unfamiliar this week.
For instance: pick up an instrument you haven’t touched in years, or try writing a poem, or take a walk in a neighborhood you have never visited. Notice how you feel and what you are aware of and remember.
3. Look for the unexpected in the familiar.
This is an exercise in suspending your ordinary judgment and peer into what is really happening, rather than your expectation of the situation.
4. Transform an ordinary activity.
Choose an ordinary “boring” activity you must perform each day such as filing the papers on your desk or creating a “to do list” for the next day. As you do it, see if you can notice three aspects of that task that you had not noticed before.
5. Try something entirely new.
Challenge yourself to learn something you have previously not been interested in. See what you notice about that activity. For instance: Try a yoga class; try singing; put on some roller blades (and protective gear!); you get the idea!
6. Get curious about yourself.
What excites your passions? What did you use to love that is no longer part of your world? What do you feel called to do that is not a part of your day? Go ahead and try it!
About the Author
Gayle Van Gils is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. She is a speaker, leadership coach, and corporate mindfulness trainer certified to teach Search Inside Yourself, the emotional intelligence course developed at Google. Gayle is the founder of the consulting company Transform Your Culture, and the author of Happier at Work: The Power of Love to Transform the Workplace.