THE GIFT OF CURIOSITY FOR YOUR EVERYDAY
By Katherine Jahnke, ADHD Coach
What is at the core of who we are as humans? The answer is our character strengths. Character strengths are positive traits and are how we display human goodness and virtue. Expressing our character strengths produces positive effects for society and ourselves and is a good step towards living a more authentic and happier life.
Character strengths are different than your other strengths. Your unique skills, talents, and interests are important as well, but character strengths point to the “real” you – the person you are at your very core. And the character strengths are actually used to develop these other strengths. So my talent might be playing music, but my strengths of perseverance help me to pursue and stay disciplined in my pursuit of playing music. And the love of learning helped to further develop my musical knowledge and abilities.
Character strengths are the positive parts of your personality and they impact how you think or feel or behave. Some strengths are more natural and easier to an individual to express or use. These strengths can feel more natural and more like the “real” me to the owner. The owner uses them frequently in many situations and can feel drawn to use them. Many times these types of strengths can be labeled as “signature strengths” for that individual because they are so natural to that person to use.
The character strength we want to highlight today is the strength of Curiosity. Using the VIA Classification of Character Strengths, we see that curiosity is defined as “taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering”. The words interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience are also included.
The VIA classifies curiosity within the Wisdom and Knowledge Virtue Category. Wisdom and Knowledge is one of the six broad virtue categories which also include Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, and Transcendence. These virtue categories are considered to be morally and universally valued virtues that produce positive outcomes and are of benefit to the whole of humanity.
To be curious is to have something that holds your attention and captures your interest. We might find ourselves asking questions or investigating this more thoroughly. The phrase “inquiring minds want to know” could be applied here. Once our curiosity is lit, we might find ourselves unable to pay attention to anything else until our thirst is quenched. The strength of Curiosity is close to the other character strength of Love of Learning, but curiosity doesn’t always necessarily mean investing the time to learn a new skill around this subject. We might just be interested in something for its own sake and not because we plan to take it further.
So what are the assets of having Curiosity as a signature character strength? For one, a curious person tends to be open to experience and learning new things, so they tend to be open-minded. And curiosity seeks out new experiences and people, so they can be good listeners and conversationalists. They tend to ask questions from a new perspective which can make them excellent problem solvers. And they are rarely bored since there is so much to be curious about.
Curiosity at its core is about noticing and being drawn to things we find interesting. It’s a way of grabbing the power to transform every day into interesting and enjoyable experiences. That’s probably why many say that curiosity is one of the overlooked keys to happiness. Those who are curious have greater opportunities to experience joy and discovery because they are open to wanting to no more about the world around them. Go to the heart of curiosity and you will almost always find exploration.
Of course, our greatest strengths can also become liabilities. And curiosity is no different in that respect. One could find themselves overwhelmed with “things I am curious about” and at risk of not doing those things that are needed to move us forward in work in our life. Our curiosity may answer the siren call of new and enchanting exploration while ignoring the call of duty for the important or urgent.
There might be times when like Odysseus in mythological stories, we have to tie ourselves to the mast of a ship to prevent answering the siren call and ultimately crashing on the rocks. Okay, maybe we don’t literally have a mast available, but we can certainly protect ourselves in other ways such as blocking access to the sources (can you say internet?) that lure us away. Or maybe instead of stuffing wax in my ears to block out the hypnotizing songs of temptation, I use noise-canceling earphones that keep me marching along on my real mission. For sure, I think our present times way more tempting sirens trying to steal away our attention, but that would be a guess since I wasn’t there. We are fortunate to have plenty of great tools to aid in our fight against the sirens of distraction. Tools that are way better and less painful than tying ourselves to the mast of a ship.
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