Curiosity has been maligned, and it’s a travesty. The phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is actually a mutation of a far earlier expression, ‘care killed a cat’, meaning that excessive worry rather than inquisitiveness will lead to harm.
Why does this matter? Because curiosity is one of the most beneficial skills you can develop as a leader.
As children we’re naturally curious, and we’re taught to curb our inquisitive nature, which dampens our disposition and leads most of us to tucking the curious parts of us into a small box and ‘getting on’ with our lives.
Do you ever find yourself going through the motions of work? Thinking there must be more to life? That’s a direct result of your stuffed curiosity. You stopped questioning and started obeying. It was rewarded, so you did it more. Years later, you are in a job (even if you are the boss) doing all the ‘right’ things and still feeling like there’s something missing.
You don’t realize it, but you’re living someone else’s ‘why’. It’s not just you, it’s endemic in the business world.
We’re often told to have a “why” that drives us towards our goals. Yet we were trained out of being curious and knowing what we want. We take on our parents’ desires for us, ads and social media push towards standards of achievement and no one has taught us to stop, look inside and know ourselves.
The truth is, many of us have never consciously chosen our why. We borrowed them from others or simply went along with what we were supposed to do. This is what has lead us to the lack of fulfillment in our work.
How to Discover your Why
So how do we discover AND articulate our personal, authentic why?
I was recently at an event when the speaker asked a woman what her why was – and she bravely stated that she didn’t know. Some people may think, “how is it possible? that she doesn’t know what her why is?” I found it profound. The fact that she was aware that she didn’t know, AND was willing to admit it – that means she can finally step into her power. She can move past what others want or expect and get to know herself.
That’s true leadership.
What might your life look like if you suspended your beliefs around your personal ‘why’ for one week and embraced curiosity? Could you be brave enough to invest a week of your life into NOT knowing your ‘why’ so that you could explore possibility and discover more of who you are?
If so, let’s play!
Curiosity As Your Superpower
Let’s start with one of my favorite exercises: the list of 100. I use this for so many things! In this instance, allow yourself the space to write a list of 100 different possible reasons for ‘why’ you do what you do. You could focus on one aspect of your life, like your work, or leave it broad.
Society rewards us for answers, so our brain comes up with them – right or wrong, good or bad, helpful or not helpful. We arrive, victorious, at an answer. The quicker the better. Yay – we have our singular ‘why’. (proverbial pat on the back).
Reality is that you don’t have a single ‘why’ for doing anything in your life, and cultivating an on-going exploration is more valuable to you than any one answer could ever be. Allowing your mind to wander, get curious and explore possibilities, sets it (and you) free. This is where you start to get to know yourself and the multiple ‘whys’ that make you uniquely you.
Writing out 100 ‘whys’ might seem excessive, and it starts training your brain to look past the ordinary. This is the key that opens the door. You want to access the genie bottle of possibilities. That means unlearning the aspects of your training that led you to feeling trapped. It means exploring excessively AND playfully.
Approaching a challenge with a sense of curiosity and playfulness is what you would have done as a child. You were trained out of it. If you start to feel uncomfortable, just notice the feeling. It’s not who you are, it’s a feeling based in an old training; school rewarded you for ‘the right answer’, not for exploring for the sheer joy of exploring.
It may take some practice to let go and make the space to sit in the unknown, to not want to glom onto an answer. Creative solutions live in the unknown. They emerge on their timing, not yours. Also, you’ll find that when you’re playful, abundance comes naturally, because you’re experiencing joy in the present moment.
Are you brave enough to let go of what you ‘think you know’ and discover your deeper ‘why’, or ‘whys’?
In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive life coach, speaker, dancer, and serial entrepreneur empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life with her proven combination of proprietary and third party tools, processes and practices. To learn more about how we can work together one-on-one to uncover your unique gifts and get you dancing with life, click here. For corporate trainings or inquiries regarding speaking engagements, please complete this form.