Over the summer I spent a few days in Hawaii. I have always enjoyed running, but running in Hawaii was a whole new experience for me. Each day, I would find myself running for longer stretches than the day before, simply because I was so curious about what lay ahead. I felt so captivated by what I could discover on this new path, that stretch of beach, around the next corner on a quiet trail, or seeing a whale swimming on the horizon.
When visiting a new place, I always (for a moment) envision how my life would be if I lived there. My curiosity about the locals, the culture, the small villages off-the-beaten path, and the landscape was insatiable. It was a wonderful way to explore parts of the island, far from the usual, local tourist attractions. I was connecting to the world around me in a very real and personal way. The further I ran, the more invigorated I felt.
One day, I was running along the beach—there was a big surfing competition going on—the sea was peppered with surfboards, and the sand teeming with supporters, banners, energy and excitement. Just past the crowd, I ran out of beach and veered on to a street. A little further up ahead I noticed a few locals running, and decided to follow them.
Keeping them in sight I pursued, curious about where the pack might lead me. I had no idea where this troupe of runners was heading, but there I was, my feet pounding the road at a steady rhythm, endorphins pumping, and my curiosity beckoning me to keep going.
Next thing I knew I was at the base of Diamond Head, a dormant volcano for about 150,000 years, which is a significant feature of Waikiki
Before that run, I had been looking at the view from our hotel room… the magnificent shore line, Diamond Head just there in the distance… the ridgeline hard to mistake for any other – it resembles the dorsal fin of a tuna – and I remember thinking to myself that I would probably need a helicopter to get to it.
There I was, standing at the base of Diamond Head, simply because I had followed a group of runners. No, it wasn’t that at all… it was no coincidence that just a few days before I had been intrigued by it, and then, there I was! I was curious. In looking back on some of my most challenging situations or difficult goals (nearly impossible ones in fact) it’s my curiosity that keeps me going.
I believe that in difficult times, when it feels uncomfortable to push through difficulty, and our goals seem out of reach, it’s our curiosity that can get us there. There are times when we’ve all wondered if we’ve chosen the right path. But the key is simply to cultivate your curious nature. Curiosity is that feeling of being struck by something new. We tend to dismiss curiosity as a childish, naïve trait (Curious George.) But it can actually give us profound advantages. Crucially, curiosity helps us approach uncertainty in our daily lives with a positive attitude. Curiosity and openness are, in essence, the same thing.
However, curiosity is more than just keeping an open mind. Curious people are seekers, and they’re actively looking for challenges that will stretch them. A mistake most people make is they think that curiosity is a characteristic they are born with, but curiosity is more like a muscle that we can grow.
We’re all born with boundless curiosity, but somewhere along the way we learn to stop listening, stop exploring – our instinct to explore is tempered by our desire to conform. We stop asking questions, because we might look stupid. We stop putting ourselves in positions where we’re uncertain, because we don’t want to be vulnerable.
I used to be led by my logic, now I feel like I’m led more by my spirit. My curiosity takes me places, and I do not just mean to the base of Diamond Head. My curiosity is a journey of self-discovery, and it can be the same for you. You don’t need a plan. It’s not necessary to know where you’re going. You don’t need to know much of anything; all you need is to let go. Take the path less traveled, and step out into uncertainty. The unknown is a journey, and you end up where you need to be, perhaps somewhere you would never have imagined.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION:
What have you been curious about and are afraid to explore?
The first way to develop a more curious attitude is to recognize the moments you feel uncomfortable. When you’re avoiding a situation, but you keep thinking about it, curious about the possibilities of what would ensue from it, it’s a good sign that there’s something novel there, something uncertain. And you can take advantage of that.
Pursue ‘that’ thing you’ve been afraid to try. Share your experience in the comments section.