I love pinball machines; I always have. From an early age I was curious about how much a machine cost, what it required to keep the machine serviced, and most importantly when I could get one delivered. I did my research, found the name and number of a company that sold pinball machines and I made the call. Sure, I was 10 years old when I did that — but I was an ambitious and curious 10-year-old!
Why curiosity helps us be more fully present
Curiosity is something we have naturally as children. The world is new to us! We want to understand it, so we test the waters, question, experiment and learn. But it can easily take a backseat as we get older. That’s unfortunate, because curiosity is a great tool to help us come back into the present moment—where we can view a situation from multiple angles and perspectives, putting us in position to make optimal decisions.
One of my favorite techniques for coming back into the present moment is to reframe a challenging situation with questions that allow me to observe the situation without attaching to it. When we attach too tightly to a situation we naturally inhibit our curiosity, pushing us to accept the first, and sometimes least optimal, answer.
Someone who’s a fan of being curious—especially of how other smart people see things differently—is Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. In Dalio’s book Principles, which I strongly recommend, Dalio states,
“There is almost always a good path that you just haven’t discovered yet, so look for it until you find it rather than settle for the choice that is then apparent to you.”
Three tips to activate your curiosity
A client once referred to my curiosity by stating, “You’re great at rooting around.” Love that comment! Curiosity, like other skills, is something I practice and often have to activate. Here are three techniques I use to do that. If you’re looking to do the same — and want to improve your ‘rooting around’ — give these three a shot.
Create frameworks. One of my favorite frameworks is the 3x3. I use it at the beginning of one-on-one jam sessions with clients by asking the client to share three highlights and three lowlights since our last call. This technique brings us both into the present moment, and helps us focus on what really matters. It also opens up mindfulness. One client recently shared that she’s using this framework to guide conversations with her team—and her manager is now using it, too.
Create a ‘go to’ question. Having a “go to” question is a practice I use to jump start my curiosity, and I have several ‘go to’ questions. My all-time favorite? “What are the three big rock items you’re focused on?” It’s often one of the first questions I use when meeting prospective clients and diving into their business.
Create moments of stillness. I’m focused on watching for how much I lunge for my IED (Instant Electronic Distractor) aka my iPhone throughout the day. A great example: the photo at the header of this blog is from a recent hiking trip to Zion National Park. As I was waiting for my fellow hikers one morning, I found myself scanning news headlines. I put down my iPhone and just absorbed the natural beauty all around me. Moments of stillness—and they can happen throughout the day—are great at helping us be more curious.
Inspire others to be curious, too
Sharing the story about my early attempt at purchasing a pinball machine brought a smile to my face and additional gratitude to my spirit. I’m grateful to the guy who took my call and encouraged my curiosity. I’m also grateful to my parents who, when they heard me on the phone, nurtured my curiosity by allowing me to have the conversation. The story also reminded me of one more action we can take to ignite our curiosity: inspiring someone else to be curious, too.
If you’re looking for other tips to become more fully present, be sure to check out my recent blog Put the Scorecard Down. And if you’re looking for tips to help you get—and stay—in action for transformative change, be sure to check out my Six Essentials for GSD.