“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Our desire to know makes us curious and this leads us to ask questions, look for answers, and move forward. Questions create more questions and it becomes a never ending cycle of discovery.
Curiosity helps us to gather knowledge. The more we gather, the better prepared we are to adjust to changing circumstances. We can’t adapt, if we don’t know what we’re adapting to.
If you’ve ever asked why something is the way it is, how things work or what this means, that is your curiosity at work. The space between knowing something and not knowing, forms the curiosity gap. Humans have a built in desire to fill this gap.
By asking questions, we come to understand ourselves and other people. We see a clearer picture of what is around us. Questions lead to better thinking. Many times we fear questioning. In school, we worry the other kids will laugh at us. Teachers sometimes discourage questions and we end up accepting and not questioning what they say. Let go of the fear of being laughed at and called a fool. Question your teachers, your parents, your friends, everyone you meet. Do it from a place of wanting to learn. The more curious you become, the less bored you’ll be. Curious people keep themselves busy; wanting to know more about the world around them. This is what drives progress in all fields.
According to Ian Leslie in his book, Curious,* there are two kinds of curiosity; diversive and epistemic.
Diversive is the kind of curiosity that seeks excitement and novelty. It’s what keeps you scrolling through your social media feed non-stop into the night. You’re looking for anything entertaining. Epistemic curiosity seeks to go deeper into an area to learn something new. You see an interesting article, you read it, then search more on the topic, and go deeper. Learn to use both types to your benefit.
As we age, we lose our curiosity. The way our parents respond to our constant questioning plays a big part in how curious we continue to be, through adolescence and as adults. If our parents tend to ignore our questions and don’t inspire us to keep questioning, eventually, we stop asking. If parents answer questions, they provide incentives for more questions and fuel curiosity. If parents answer questions with more questions, it pushes children to come up with their own answers and think for themselves.
Curiosity helps in keeping us from thinking we have all the answers and already know everything. It keeps us open to different perspectives of seeing the world. In this way curiosity helps to develop two other qualities; open-mindedness and humility.
Open mindedness will keep your eyes open and your ears too. It will remind you that what we know individually, is insignificant compared to what we all know as a whole. That is also small, compared to all the things we still don’t know. Accept that you don’t have all the answers and neither does anyone else. You’ll have to learn from many sources. Even then, you still won’t know that much. That, should keep you humble.
Isidor Rabi won the Nobel Prize in physics, in 1944.
He was once asked,*
”Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer, like the other kids in your neighborhood?”
Rabi answered, ”my mother made me a scientist. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ Not my mother. She always asked me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference made me a scientist.”
You will find questions all over this book. They are meant to inspire you to think and search for answers which will lead you to ask more questions. That will push you to keep expanding as a person and always find something to be fascinated about. Even more important, it will keep you open to all the possibilities you haven’t considered.
Things to try:
- To keep yourself curious, ask questions and think of your own answers. Try explaining things to yourself first.
- Search for answers. Go to the library, search the internet, ask people. Ask everyone you know.
- Never stop questioning!
- Use diversive curiosity to find interesting things and then use epistemic curiosity to dig deeper.
- If you don’t know, ask. It’s better to not know and find out, than to pretend to know and stay ignorant. Be humble, ask, and stretch your mind.
- Ask why three times.
- Ask why not, what, what if, where, when, who, how.
- What good questions did you ask today?
- What are you curious about and how can you learn more about it?
- Why are you curious about that?
- Who could this help?
- Are you curious enough?