6 Reasons to Cultivate Your Curious Side

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but most people view it positively. It’s what drives scientific inquiry, personal development, artistic creation, and so many other societal benefits.

Yet it’s not always easy to maintain one’s curious side. As we get older and fall into our boring old routines, we find it easier and easier to say “no thanks” when confronted with the opportunity to learn something new. Some of us stop seeking out these opportunities altogether, maybe even shying away from them.

We shouldn’t, not if we can help it. If you feel your own curiosity slipping away, remember that it’s a good thing to keep around. Here are six reasons why.

1. It Could Lead to Undiscovered Opportunities

From a practical perspective, this could be the biggest reason of all to cultivate your curiosity. Some of the best ideas in history come from people asking the “next question,” refusing to accept what they saw at face value.

Entrepreneurs tend to be good at this. Most are intensely curious by nature and adept at drawing connections that others don’t. They’re skilled at surveying the landscape of a particular issue or market and drilling down on the most important aspects of it. Or as fintech entrepreneur and investor Steve Streit puts it, learning “what’s out there, what matters and what’s possible.”

2. It Can Spark New Connections 

This can be interpreted in more than one way. 

We’ll talk about the most literal sense, new neural connections, in a moment. But in a less-literal-but-more-practical sense, curiosity encourages us to find relationships that aren’t always obvious. This is a pretty basic observation — the essence of “thinking” — but one that many of us forget as we shy away from personal discovery.

3. It Could Be Good for Your Mental Health…

A pathbreaking paper by Celeste Kidd and Benjamin Y. Hayden draws a clear connection between higher levels of curiosity and higher levels of self-reported mental well-being. In other words, curiosity could be good for your mental health.

Of course, it’s just one factor among many. Curiosity isn’t a shortcut to personal bliss or a magical cure for mental health struggles. It’s certainly a tool in the toolkit though.

4. …And Your Cognitive Function Too

A study published by scientists at McGill University finds that neural plasticity actually increases (by some measures) as we age. Unfortunately, it’s also more “dysregulated,” which makes it less effective in supporting executive function.

Curiosity may help counteract that “dysregulatory” effect by pushing us outside our cognitive comfort zone. By going out of our way to learn new information or acquire new skills, we force our brains to operate differently, maintaining neural connections that might otherwise be lost.

5. It’s a Low-Cost Hobby (Until You Really Get Into It)

Curiosity costs nothing. Well, next to nothing. It helps to have an Internet connection.

Some “professionally curious” people might go down the rabbit hole of their choosing: family trees, gardening, culinary arts, and on and on. Then there’s a cost issue (maybe). But the amateurs among us can rest easy.

6. It’s Fun!

At the end of the day, do you really need a reason to exercise your curiosity? Learning new things is fun, rewarding even. In a world that seemingly never fails to emphasize material gain over intellectual pursuits, it’s worth stepping back to consider this.

Never Stop Asking “Why”

If you’ve read this far, you probably consider yourself a curious soul. But perhaps you feel some of that curiosity slipping away as you get more comfortable in your own skin, or simply get too busy to exercise your more curious muscles.

Do your best to fight against the urge to say, “Who cares?” The most interesting people you know — and probably the most successful too — never stop asking the next question. Neither should you.

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