Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Recently, I heard one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, say…
"You can live a curiosity filled life that never sews itself together into something that looks like what the champions of success would tell you a championship successful life looks like. But it will be a really good life, and it will be a really nourishing life, and it will be a life that looks like you. That to me feels like the highest attainment."
She said it during a For the Love with Jen Hatmaker podcast episode. Such a good listen.
Her words, strung together, stopped me in my tracks.
The words that spoke to me were…
“You can live a curiosity filled life… A really good life, a really nourishing life… That to me feels like the highest attainment.”
They landed in my heart and my head at the exact same moment. I paused the podcast, jotted down the quote, and started thinking. Curiosity filled life has been circling my mind ever since.
I mean, let’s be honest. Who sits around thinking about what she is curious about?
Sure, we’ve all seen the cartoon series Curious George. It features an adorable monkey who is always getting into to trouble. Always needing saved. By a man in a big yellow hat, oddly enough.
That’s not what we are talking about here.
And as your days burst at the seams with tasks, goals, to-do’s, who has the time or energy for curiosity? Most of all, you, as you pick up after the kids while trying to be a good employee, a responsive, loving partner, pay the bills, make dinner - again (didn’t you just feed these people?!) - and be good to yourself.
Oh, and let’s add being socially responsible – wearing masks, wrangling kids in masks, staying home to limit exposure, helping your neighbors. While also looking into the future, thinking all the thoughts about the upcoming school year. And what it is going to look like. And just how much will fall to you.
You are having so many conversations, with yourself, and with anyone who will listen. Maybe it is your partner, your mom friends, your family. Heck, maybe it fills the air as you bag your groceries and make small talk with the kind cashier. You read all the headlines. Ugh.
To ground yourself, to bring that steady beat of anxiety down to a reasonable level, lean into your curious spirit. Spending an hour, device free, looking, exploring, reaching for the things that interest you. No news, no social media.
It's your attempt to create a pocket of quiet in the everyday life that you enjoy. Your really good life. Your nourishing life, the one Elizabeth Gilbert spoke of.
Here are 4 ways to develop your curiosity:
1. Listen to your inner self.
What piques your interest? What do you want more of that you tend to put on hold?
Grab a blank piece of paper and jot down all the things that come to mind. Freestyle. Capture the things you like to do. Not the things your child(ren) or your boss want you to do. Focus on the things that really bring joy to your life.
For me, an evening walk while listening to a podcast is high on the list.
2. Think back to your childhood interests.
Picture your younger self, at six or seven, in your childhood home. What does she like to do? What was her favorite subject? When asked by her teacher or an adoring aunt, how did she respond to:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Jot down all the things.
3. Pause and question.
Next, go deeper. Really envision yourself in those early grade school years. Find an old photo album if you have to. Look at it and pause. Really pause.
And when you are ready, allow the questions to flow. Who is this little girl? How did she grow to love that activity, or that subject? What about that toy, that game, kept her interested for hours?
Keep asking why. Dig deeper, explore more. Just like your three-year-old at the sight of something new. Proudly and boldly asking all the asks.
For me, I will never forget the day my first-grade teacher introduced a new activity. She smiled wide and held up a teddy bear. She asked us to pass it around so we could each hold it, examine it.
She then explained the year-long assignment, her way of getting us to practice writing. She told us that one lucky student got to take the teddy bear home for the weekend and write about all they did together. In a black and while composition notebook.
It filled me with light during a dark time in my life, a time of rapid change. It was a month or so after my parents separated, when my mom, her three children in hand, moved in with her parents (my grandparents). It was all brand new… school, home, routine, support system.
A teddy bear and a journal forever changed me. I looked forward to it being my turn. I loved Monday mornings, when Mrs. Thomas - my favorite teacher, ever - would read (paraphrase, really) what a classmate wrote. I loved those candid moments, a small glimpse into another human being's life.
It was a true gift.
4. Read, read, read.
Or listen, listen, listen, it’s totally up to you. Now that you have some notes about what interests you, or at the very least, what your younger self loved doing, now it is time to explore it. In your adult body, adult world. This current version of you, in whatever stage of life you are in.
The point here is to absorb specific information. On a subject that interests you. Or from a thought leader that challenges you. Maybe a billboard catches your eye, and it is just the sign you need to explore something further. The lyrics to a song, an email that opened your eyes, or a headline that stops you in your tracks.
A curiosity filled life is one of learning and growth.
These four points are simple yet powerful. When done over time, you may discover a piece of mind, a grounding of sorts, from this curious attitude of yours.
And if you are called to be a teacher this Fall, you'll understand that it wasn’t the classroom, it wasn’t the curriculum, it wasn’t a superpower that only a classroom teacher has - although I am certain they have them - that had a lasting impact on you.
The most powerful influence is something as simple as a big smile and a warm invitation - while holding a teddy bear and a composition notebook. Or, said differently, it is listening to your child, or children, to be more aware of how they are feeling, and trying your best to instill curiosity.
Here I am, at age 35, writing, reflecting. Everything turned out ok, even in a hard season. Because of a hard season. Chances are your biggest growth came after your hardest season, too.
So instead of a champion life, whatever that means, aim for a really good life, a nourishing life. Fill it with curiosity and encourage those around you to do the same.
You’ve got this.
To cultivate your curiosity, follow Elizabeth Gilbert on social.
And listen to one of my favorite podcasts, For the Love with Jen Hatmaker. Her most recent series is For the Love of the Enneagram. If you're not sure what that is, tune it. It's magic.
And if you want to continue this conversation, please sign up for my weekly email. I promise to respect your time and keep your information just between us.
Wishing you a pocket of quiet to nourish your soul. And less worry.