Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” I absolutely agree. Because curiosity is powerful. And it’s powerful for many reasons. I talked to coach and author Alexsys Thompson about those reasons, along with how we can cultivate curiosity every day. I hope her words inspire you to be curious about all aspects of your life, your days, your relationships, your work, yourself. Every day.
Q: How do you define curiosity?
A: Curiosity is the entry point for all transformation.
Q: How does curiosity transform our lives for the better?
A: Curiosity is the access point in which you are able to change out your lenses and see old things anew and bring things you couldn’t see into view. One of the most powerful gifts curiosity offers is the ability to suspend judgement.
Q: What are the different ways we can cultivate our curiosity every day?
A: When we slow down and pause in moments that create a swing in our emotions, both the positive and negative, we create an opening for curiosity to take root. By offering a place for curiosity to take root we also create a new possibility that did not exist prior. When we can suspend judgement, and explore the same situation through a curious lens, we expand our ability to live into our greatest expression of ourselves.
Q: How does curiosity help us live into our greatest expression of ourselves?
A: When we are able to offer space for a situation or a person to come into the light as they are rather than as we want them or condemn them as being, we have extended grace. When we extend grace through the inquiry of curiosity the possibility for both parties to live into their best selves exists, where it may not have prior.
Imagine you are sitting in a quiet room and someone comes in loudly and slams the door, you could choose the story of them being rude and inconsiderate or we could suspend that judgement and inquire as to what caused them to slam the door so loudly. In this moment we offer them the space to apologize if in fact it was a lack of consideration on their part. Should it have been a safety issue we would have opened the conversation to learn something to help ourselves and others. Either outcome extends grace and space for both parties to show up as best they can.
Q: You also mentioned the power of pausing when an emotion arises to leave space for curiosity to slip in. What are some questions that readers can ask themselves during this pause to foster curiosity even more?
A: When you are able to pause long enough around an emotion to explore it you are already well on your way to experiencing the benefits of being curious. The truth is emotions run our day far more than we are aware so the being aware is the first part of being able to live the life we want to live.
In the case of positive (as defined by us) emotions being experienced, it is great to be awake to what situations, people etc., are the catalysts for this joy. It may seem obvious to say, do more of those things and if you are not awake to the cause and effect, it will be hard to align your behaviors to the people, situations etc. to make that more likely than not.
When we think about the negative, this is the converse, meaning do less of the things that bring forward the negative emotions. I have found that the inquiry into the “why” behind my emotions is often very layered and as a result has taken time and patience to travel into and create the shifts that I wanted to live my truest life. I believe this is part of the human condition so it is not a “check the box you’re done” event, rather a refining throughout your lifetime.
Q: What else would you like readers to know about curiosity?
A: Curiosity is one of your best weapons against fear. When you make an inquiry into the fear you stall its power long enough to diffuse it and really understand the root of where it is coming from. In this moment you allow new solutions and magic to show up to assist you in moving through your fear, rather than allow it to paralyze you.
Q: What’s an example of how curiosity helps us navigate our fear?
A: Fear is a powerful paralyzer and motivator depending on our relationship with it. When fear shows up it is so helpful to do our best to ask if this is a “real” fear vs. a perceived fear. Our amygdala brain doesn’t have the capacity to make that distinction.
I have a very strong fear of snakes and over the years I have trained myself to be curious when I see a snake. I live in Texas so there are snakes that can kill me. I learned what those snakes look like. Once I had that down when I see a snake I stop and ask myself (yes this is a very rapid conversation internally), “Is this one of the few snakes that can kill me?” The one time the answer was yes, I got a shovel and killed it as it was coming into my home. The rest of the times the answer has been no, and I just step aside and go my own way. This has been a huge deal for me as I used to be paralyzed by the sight of a snake and it had a negative impact on my love for gardening. You can see how the quality of my life changed through being curious, and I actually learned about several snakes I wanted to see around to kill the bugs etc.
Q: Lastly, what’s another powerful way to cultivate our curiosity every day?
A: I believe the desire to learn is key to offering your curiosity room to roam. When we leave our mind and heart open to new ideas, experiences and people, we also leave lots of room for new questions to be asked, and as a result a plethora of new possibilities arise.
Alexsys Thompson, BCC is the creator of the Trybal Gratitude Journal, a keynote speaker, executive coach, and member of the Forbes Coach Council. Her work is guided by her life’s mission to create safe spaces for souls to show up. Learn more at https://alexsysthompson.com and https://www.trybalperformance.com.