Did you ever have a parent tell you, possibly after you had asked one too many questions, “Curiosity killed the cat!” Were you taught the story of Pandora who was given a box of gifts from the gods with instructions never to open the box? Unfortunately her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box that released all the misfortunes that would plague mankind forever. These and other childhood messages paint curiosity as bad and dangerous, something to avoid. So is it any wonder a child brimming with questions and innate curiosity becomes an adult who is stuck or dissatisfied with life, lacking the natural ability to be curious? What if curiosity doesn’t kill the cat or unleash misfortune? What if curiosity gives you clues to what lights you up, to your passions and purpose? What if curiosity offers an antidote to judgment of yourself and others? Curiosity can be one of your most valuable allies in discovering and creating a life you love. Curious? Read on. Clues to Passion & Purpose When using the tool of “checking your lights” to determine if an idea, activity, or goal energizes and enlivens you, most of the time you are clearly lit up or not. Sometimes, though, you are not strongly “lights on” and yet you sense a spark of light, a subtle increase in your energy. You’re curious about something. Your curiosity is worth pursuing: it offers clues to explore and steps to take to discover what you are passionate about. Follow the sparks of your curiosity. Journey the paths you haven’t traveled before and be open to new interests and passions that could unfold. You might even have an experience like mine: an initial spark of curiosity led me to discover my calling. In my case, I had long known I preferred to be the question “asker” rather than the question “answerer” in social and business situations. I saw no relation, though, between this and the life calling I’d been seeking for years. Then I attended a Clarity International workshop to learn what lit me up. I was told I had “curiosity” about “interviewing.” I was also curious about the process my Clarity coaches were using and the profound effect that process was having on people. So I followed my curiosity. I attended more Clarity events and began Clarity coaches’ training, staying curious and noticing what lit me up. Eventually I had the opportunity to “interview” workshop participants, asking questions in a way that helped them discover what truly lit them up. When I used my questioning skills to help others find their passions — I had found my own passion and purpose! All this from following my initial sparks of curiosity. This experience definitely made me a believer in the power of curiosity! I often ask clients to ‘stay curious’ about something or to follow their curiosity. When they do, they often discover something that helps them create more pleasure, passion, and purpose in work or life. That’s not all though. What else do you think curiosity can do for you? Antidote to Judgment Do you tend to be critical of yourself and others? That’s a habit or trait that many of us have. Curiosity is an amazing antidote to judgment. It is impossible to be curious and critical at the same time. Try it! Think of someone or something you judge. Now flip your switch to curiosity. You must be sincere; if you’re just pretending to be curious, it won’t work. However, if you can play with your mind and focus on something in that person or situation that you’re genuinely curious about, you cannot be judgmental at the same time. Here’s an example. You’re stopped at a traffic light and when the light turns green the car in front of you doesn’t go. You could start thinking “What’s wrong with that woman holding everybody up?” Instead, you could switch to curiosity with questions like “Did that woman just get some bad news?” Or “Is my being stopped here keeping me from getting into an accident further down the road?” Judgment. Curiosity. Which would be less stressful? Which is lighter and more fun? Which has more possibilities in it? By the way, this example was prompted by a story in O Magazine in which the woman who didn’t go at the green light was desperately trying to save her baby who was choking. We never really know what’s going on with other people, do we? Curiosity is valuable in so many ways. It gives us clues to passion. It shifts us out of our judgments. It also fuels our learning. And it’s a great tool to get an enlivening conversation going at cocktail parties and other social events. Have I piqued your curiosity about curiosity? I hope so! So now what? In Your Life Curiosity is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. When you value, nurture, and follow your curiosity it will grow. Try playing with your curiosity. Each day set your intention to be curious. You can do this in the morning, before meetings and social events, whenever you realize that curiosity would be a good ally (which is usually!). If you want to see what clues to your passions and purpose are hidden in your curiosity, try this: 1) What’s something you are curious about? A person, an idea, a place, a book, an activity. Your curiosity could be a tiny glimmer or voracious. 2) What could you do to explore this curiosity? Make it a small, doable action that lights you up. Of course, if you want to do something big and bold, go for it! 3) What do you learn when you take this action? Do you have more energy, more curiosity? Do you want to take another step in this direction? By the way, sometimes when you are curious about something and explore it a bit, your curiosity drops. This is fine. You just check this item off your list and move toward the next spark of light. 4) Repeat as desired. For, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” Enjoy!