As children, we were often warned against being too curious. As adults, it is time we reclaim the beauty of this trait.
Do you remember when you first heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat?” No? That is okay, me either. For most of us, this saying was taught to us in grade school. Right when we were beginning to learn and blossom as young adults. For many of you like myself, you were probably admonished with this phrase at the first sign of trouble. Once we began poking our heads where we didn’t belong, we were quickly warned.
Although not a literal threat to our own wellbeing, as children the message we received from this phrase was clear. Be careful to not poke around too far. Stay within the lines. Accept whatever it is you are being told. Don’t ask questions.
We always blamed curiosity as the trait that killed the cat. The connotations behind this then is that curiosity became a negative term. The problem with this is where curiosity is often attributed for the death of the feline, in reality it is the key that offers freedom to our most creative mind. Where we have been taught that curiosity is an evil, it is important we recognize it for the power it enables us and the way it changes our lives.
While the colloquial saying “curiosity killed the cat” likely emerged in the 16th century, how it is used with current generations of children is all that really matters. Presently, the messages these simple four words speak arrive in volumes.
At a young age, these concepts assault your tiny brain with enough imagery to instill fear. You better not be curious. Don’t you dare explore. Breaking the rules has deadly consequences. Just as soon as we can be forced into standardized boxes of measurement, we are being told to move away from our natural habits of exploring and questioning.
Where there may be a benefit to this natural tailoring of a too inquisitive mind, at the same time the concept we are taught is dangerous. While curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, in real life it is key for us to spark our creativity.
If we as adults are ever to rekindle that sense of wonder that we possessed as children, we must be certain that we run towards curiosity as opposed to away from it. Becoming the best creative version of ourselves means recognizing our inherent curiosity, our desires to explore, and our will to grow.
Becoming creative means opening ourselves up to this nature feeling of wanting to know more, asking why, and not being afraid of the danger of sticking our head where it does not belong.
The benefits of curiosity in reclaiming our creativity are many but foremost, this trait provides us the room necessary to make mistakes. When you are curious, there is nothing wrong with the potential of mistakes, instead taking new steps and failing becomes a part of the trial and error process that is the most essential to our growth as a person. Being curious means we go into any situation with the willingness to learn. It is that willingness that drives us forward.
Embracing curiosity in our work means that we open ourselves up to a number of the critical elements of what it means to be a good creator, person, member of an organization, and productive human being. How we become more curious is a process just like learning any other skill.
Being curious means doing exactly what we were told not to when we were in grade school; when we were warned about the cat. It means opening up to the possibility that our efforts may fail greatly. The trait of curiosity is inherently built around risk.
Being curious means that we are willing to embrace this risk. Over the years we are slowly trained that asking questions, challenging, and pushing beyond the status quo is going to hurt. We are told there is nothing safe about being curious. That is the very importance of curiosity. It gives us permission to live a little more dangerously, especially where our work and passions intersect.
There is a beauty once you are able to become friends with that risk. If you are driven by curiosity, nothing is sacred and everything can be explored. Life moves from something that needs to handled with care to instead becoming something that can exist in a rough manner. Embracing curiosity means not only opening ourselves up to potential risk but indeed welcoming this healthy fear, and allowing ourselves to use risk in a positive manner.
Learning From Failure
One of the potential difficulties with opening ourselves up to risk is that as people, we are then more likely to fail. When you are curious and take bold leaps, you never necessarily land easily.
Being curious makes this failure okay. One of its key attributes means we move beyond coping with hurt and instead start questioning it. If you are not curious, generally when you fail it is easy to internalize this defeat, to hurt, to become afraid of experiencing it again. Most times when we fail, our natural instinct is to protect ourselves. To be sure that we will not get hurt again, we seek to remove what hurt us in the first place; the risk we took.
In a world where we are curious, it makes it easier for us to ask questions. Instead of every action having an opposite reaction of pain, our natural instincts can become a reaction where we are willing to learn. In the world of fight or flight, curiosity opens the door to fancy. We stop reacting by running away from the hurt or lashing out but instead use this pain as the impetus for imaging something greater and learning from what happened.
The key to growth is through this questioning, especially in situations that make us uncomfortable or where we stand to lose much. Any one can be curious when the environment is safe and your learning cost you nothing. Curiosity means you grow even when the cost might be great. With the right curiosity, the world becomes a little less scary because we know we can explore anything.
Curiosity killed the cat is not where this phrase ends. Although we have recycled this proverb, using it to instill amounts of healthy fear, there is more to the picture. Eugene O’Neill, the American Irish author and playwright, who is often misattributed as first using this phrase, added his own healthy addition.
“Where curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back.”
That is the significant piece often forgotten when considering curiosity. Yes, there are dangers and risk that come from exploration. Being careless in how we explore can be damning but being curious is not the end of the line nor is it a negative thing. Where curiosity comes with elements of risk that manifest in a certain degree of failure, curiosity is not without reward. The lessons that we learn, the things that we take away, the pieces we capitalize; these are the benefits to curiosity.
Implicit in any degree of curiosity is a greater sense of learning, of growth and sometimes, a large capacity for reward. In the battle for curiosity, we have to decide what is more important to us; being safe and stagnating or growing from those risks.
In the end, curiosity is not the demon it was made out to be. Practicing curiosity is a natural part of life and unlocking this trait allows us to succeed as people by growing from risks and pursuing more dangerous passions. Only if we are willing to take these risks in the first place however. The choice to be curious is the first step in a journey of discovery and becoming a better version of ourselves. As said by my favorite role model, the cookie monster, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”