How to Feel Alive – Get Curious!

“Curiosity killed the cat” is an idiom meant to keep you solidly in a box, to limit your imagination, to keep you from asking questions, and to shame you from exploring options others deem trouble.  

Culturally speaking, when a child asks a lot of questions, adults tend to excuse them away as being “too much.” As a result, the child learns to stop asking questions about what makes them curious.  In some cases, they begin to doubt themselves and fear being “too much.”  

Learning to overcome your fear is beneficial. It’s never too late to start paying attention to what interests us, to follow our curiosity, to discover something new, and to ask questions. Here are two experts’ views on how to find the confidence to get curious.

Elizabeth Gilbert On Curiosity

“Curiosity only ever asks one simple thing of you: “Is there anything you are interested in?” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.

There’s a part of the book, Big Magic, where Ms. Gilbert discusses the magic of curiosity.  She sees “follow your passion” as bad advice. Ms. Gilbert writes the definition of passion is an interest you chase obsessively.  It can lead to divorce, selling all your possessions, shaving your head, and moving to Nepal.  

“How do you find the inspiration to work when your passion has flagged?  That’s where curiosity comes in.”  To Ms. Gilbert, curiosity is the secret, the truth, and the way of living. You start with that spark of that one thing that grabs your attention. Then, allow your curiosity to look deeper into that spark.  See it as a clue, and follow it to the next clue. And the next, and the one after that.  Keep following this scavenger hunt of curiosity clues.  It may even, eventually, lead you to discover your passion.  

Ms. Gilbert’s example starts with wanting to have a small garden.  Her scavenger hunt eventually led to her writing a historical fiction novel using her discovered passion for the origins of plants. 

Einstein On Curiosity

Here’s another way that curiosity can help you get unstuck or guide you to discover new solutions to your challenges.  Do what Einstein did! When he was working too hard on a problem and couldn’t come up with the answer – he took a break.  He played the violin or whatever else interested him beyond his work.  He called this “Combinatory play.” 

Combinatory play describes the conscious and unconscious cognitive playful manipulation of two or more ideas, feelings, sensory experiences, images, sounds, words, or objects.  

In other words, when you’re stuck on one thing, try something different and allow space for a new perspective or idea to show up.  Be “too much” and ask all those questions. Challenge yourself to get creative in ways you haven’t before or haven’t since you were a child.  Take yourself on that scavenger hunt, even if, for the moment, it’s following one clue.

Curiosity Didn’t Kill The Cat

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat.  Fear did.  Confronting fears and stepping out of the box using your natural born thirst for knowledge is a cornerstone for feeling alive.  The benefits of being curious are many – learning new things, discovering what you find interesting, uncovering previously unknown passions, and helping you from languishing in life.

“You may spend your whole life following your curiosity, and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end.  You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have passed your entire existence in the devotion to the human virtue of inquisitiveness.  

And that should be more than enough to say you have lived a rich and splendid life.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

By Stacey Newman Weldon

Excerpted from her original post “How To Feel Alive – Get Curious” 

Journals for Seekers Confidence and Curiosity book cover