As a child, do you remember your most favourite teacher? Do you remember your least favourite teacher? I certainly do. When I look back, I realize the key difference between the two was their level of enthusiasm and passion – not only for the subject being taught, but their enthusiasm and passion for sharing that knowledge into our youthful minds. My most favourite teacher had an almost childlike quality about her – as though she could speak my language – come back to my level of looking at the world – a level full of curious wonder.
Back in the day, when we were young – very young – we were full of curiosity. We knew nothing, but we wanted to know everything. We drove our parents crazy asking how and wondering why, and even trying to come up with the answers all by ourselves.
So when did we stop asking so many questions – and have you ever wondered why?
As adults, we do and see so many things that would have been bewildering to us as children – but now we just take them at face value, for what they are. We walk into a dark room and reach for the wall switch – we have light! We turn on our computer and we open up our email – a new one pops up – we got mail! But do we ever stop and wonder – how do we get light at the flick of a switch – how do we get mail at the click of a button? It’s amazing!
We just stop wondering – and we stop questioning.
I’m not saying we stop asking questions. In fact, there are billion-dollar industries built on answering our adult-like questions – but they tend to be questions like:
- How do I lose weight?
- What is the best marketing strategy for my business?
- How do I increase my sales revenue?
- How do I get that promotion?
- How do I make friends and influence people?
And the answers to these questions tend to come in the form of a step-by-step process – do this, say that, and practice until you get it – whatever ‘it’ is.
To learn in this way does nothing to spark curiosity – instead, like in high school, we passively absorb the knowledge being delivered with very little intervention. If we don’t get the results we want we tend to put it down to poor teaching, and those doing the teaching put it down to us not following instructions.
We only question when things stop working for us or we don’t understand what we’re being taught – and even then, it’s less from a curiosity perspective and more from a feeling of frustration or inconvenience.
When we ask questions, are we asking them to learn something new or are we asking them because we want to sound clever or feel important?
The reason I ask this is to point out that the act of asking a question doesn’t inherently make us curious. If our desire for learning comes from a place of wonder and personal growth, this is more aligned with feeding our curiosity – and we ask more questions. If we see learning as a way of being smarter than everyone else, chances are this is more aligned with feeding our ego – and we offer more answers.
We are born with curiosity – a desire to learn – because we are born into a world full of wonder. Our grown-up desire to look and sound smarter than others can grow stronger than our childlike desire to ask big ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions.
If you want to tap into your childlike curiosity again you only have to do one very simple, yet powerful, thing – ask more questions than you answer.
Because when we ask more questions – we get curiouser – and curiouser…
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein