Cultivate curiosity - a resiliency and relationship superpower

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Karen Natzel
BridgeTower Media Newswires

Curiosity is a mindset, a feeling, a way of showing up and interacting with the world. It’s not just for researchers, writers, scientists, engineers, artists, or kids! It is a lens by which we choose to perceive our experiences, and it is a pathway for building resiliency and relationships.

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Expanding our comfort zones

Resiliency requires an openness and willingness to take on new experiences and thereby encounter different perspectives, ways of doing things, and even belief systems. By doing so, we expand our capacity to sit with unease and uncertainty. When we make room for novelty, we invite aliveness into our world. Embracing new experiences with curiosity expands our comfort zones, giving us more skills to navigate the one constant in life – change.

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Mitigating our stress

Stress seems to be ubiquitous in our lives. Even the word can conjure up feelings of negativity or weighty matters.  Yet stress can be a healthy influence.

For example, deadlines can be a procrastinator’s saving grace by providing the necessary push to decide or act. For those who identify as perfectionists, stress may come in the form of “never good enough.” Inquisitiveness grants one permission to experiment. Think of it as a way to travel lighter on your path.

“Control enthusiasts,” as you might imagine, often find their stress emanating from the feeling of not being in control. In these instances, curiosity is a gift that nudges us to let go of what we cannot control and play in the domain of “what if?” It can afford us the space to differentiate where we have agency and where we do not. Rather than be preoccupied with worry or anxiety, we can tap into curiosity as a tool to practice being fully present. It is less about having control over something and more about savoring the process.

We can also mitigate our stress by artfully reframing. Resilient people have an extraordinary capacity to do so. Reframing expands our way of perceiving so that we may relate to what is happening in a healthy way. It’s capturing the silver linings and looking through a lens of positivity and possibility. Reframing something that feels difficult and overwhelming allows us to channel our energies into remedies.

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Raising our awareness

In a recent resiliency workshop, we talked about the connection of raising our awareness to emotional resiliency. When we get stuck in seeing things a certain way (i.e., being right), we slip into a constrictive, limiting mindset. It may look like justification, stubbornly defending one’s position, or protecting oneself from anything that challenges the status quo. Curiosity is a way to get unstuck. Think of it as stepping outside of what you think you know, to re-examine from a neutral, unbiased position. Raising our awareness gets us out of the space of resistance and into a place of discovery.

It is in the raising of awareness that we strengthen our emotional resiliency – that ability to return to a calm state of mind after a negative experience. It is what gives us the insight to think before we act – consciously choosing a response that is more aligned with how we want to be.

One simple technique to raise our awareness is to pay attention to our emotional reactions. They are indicators of what matters to us, our attachments, and our insecurities. When you experience a strong emotional reaction (pleasant or unpleasant), pause to reflect on what it means to you. I often use, “Hmm, that’s interesting,” as a reminder to stay curious. There’s wisdom to glean in our emotional realms!

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A conduit for learning

Cultivating a sense of curiosity puts us in the headspace of learning. In fact, I would argue it is a required trait of a growth mindset. It is a direct conduit for unearthing mysteries or generating fresh solutions. Curiosity ignites our creativity and our inspiration. With curiosity, we experience, as we often did as children, the feeling of wonder and excitement about the world around us.

Zen Buddhism encourages the “beginner’s mind” – an empty mind that “holds no preconceived ideas or rules about what is. It is open, eager, and receptive,” according to CEOsage founder Scott Jeffrey. It helps us get unstuck by seeing obstacles, frustrations, people, and situations anew. It invites us to let go of the ego, and along with it the need to be right or appear competent. In this way, curiosity can simultaneously expand our knowledge and build our confidence.

The best problem-solving does not start with knowing the answers, but in wondering out loud about a better way. Hal Gregersen, founder of the 4-24 Project, notes that, “Answers are more valued than inquisitive thought, and curiosity is trained out of us.” Shift that tendency by getting comfortable with saying, “I don’t know” and “I wonder how we could approach this differently?”

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A means for tending to relationships

When we step into being curious, we suspend our tendency to judge, point fingers, or blame. We create a genuine space to understand another’s perspective. It is a mindful pause to listen for what really matters and ask questions that take us to new places and deeper understandings. Asking questions and listening openly is a simple yet powerful way to demonstrate respect. When we listen without judgment or a hidden agenda, we invite collaboration and innovation. You can start by seeking others’ opinions and advice. You can ask “How do you see things?” or simply say, “Tell me more.”

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Expanding possibilities

Cultivating curiosity affords us more expansive visions to lead our lives and our organizations. It is a place we can invite more joy, purpose, and energy into our daily experiences.

How will you cultivate a sense of curiosity?

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Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or karen@natzel.net.


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