Curiosity: Let It Be Your Guide

By: Caroline Dowd-Higgins

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“I wonder…”

Whenever I hear coaching clients start off a sentence with these two words, I feel heartened. It means wheels are turning…intuition is kicking in, and mobilization is in the offing. It means my clients are curious, and ready to move past what is safe…beyond the known. It signals that they’re ready to step out of their comfort zones.

[Related: How to Illuminate and Blaze Your Trail]

Curiosity does that. It’s the gas in the tank that moves us forward. It’s what opens new doors and creates new possibilities — whether it’s writing a book, getting a patent, starting a business, or leaving a relationship that no longer serves. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel beckoning us closer.

So what are you curious about? Whatever it is — explore it. Fully. Pull the thread. See where it leads. When I ask clients what they’re curious about and their answer is “I don’t know,” it means it’s time to start excavating, to start un-numbing those natural instincts in order to step out and start exploring.

[Related: Three Ways Women Can Turn Fear of Failure Into Fearless Action]

Polly Campbell, author of Imperfect Spirituality, writes in a Psychology Today article that fear can impede curiosity, but says your unabashed interest can circumvent that fear. Campbell suggests these five tips for exercising your curiosity muscle.

  • Find what fascinates you. If you don’t know what that is off the top of your head, think about the types of magazine articles you’re drawn to, the things you love doing on a day off, or even what you naturally loved doing as a kid. Use these as places to start.
  • Don’t allow boredom to become you. Campbell suggests that even in the most mundane circumstances — in a restaurant, at the grocery store, or waiting in a ticket line — you can exercise your curiosity and find things and people that fascinate you.
  • Ask questions. This will go a long way in helping you further discover what fascinates you. While it can feel risky to ask questions at times, don’t let fear stand in the way.
  • Go to people. Not Google. I love this tip, and it’s so true! Actually asking questions of a real live person can inform and inspire far beyond hitting “Search” on Google.
  • Do things you don’t know how to do. Find ways to challenge yourself — even if it’s just picking up a crossword puzzle or knitting needles, or studying a whole new language.

Curiosity is our natural instinct, so if you’re not immediately aware of what you’re curious about, I promise you it’s there, bubbling just below the surface. I encourage you to push the boundaries of your curiosity and follow your nose. It’s your custom-made guide to enjoyment and expansion in this life!

[Related: Three Leadership Goals to Set for Each Stage of Your Career]

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered,” now in its second edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career and Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Medium, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show, Thrive!, about career and life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life — on iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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