The Mike Mantell Blog

How to Cultivate Curiosity

curious boy

Curiosity is an awesome skill

Curiosity is one of my ABSOLUTE favorite parts about being a human.

It is my fuel to living a meaningful and fun life. It drives me to explore the nature of existence, meaning, and reality. It pushes me to get to know people in ways they’ve never been known before. It gives rise to a nonstop inquiry of my own self and experience. It leaves me in a frequent state of wonderment. It turns life into a game.

I have a successful coaching business, run primarily off my curiosity, where I allow people to know their deepest selves, possibilities, and psyches. I am co-producing a podcast, run primarily off curiosity, where we pick the minds of those at the forefront of today’s consciousness movement.

Curiosity is my livelihood, my source of inspiration, the engine to my spiritual investigation, my means to connection, and my gateway into excitement.

I want to deconstruct my passion for curiosity and present how you can cultivate your own sense of curiosity.

Two Types of Curiosity

Curiosity has two parts to it:

  1. Curiosity as a state of being (general curiosity), and
  2. Curiosity in something (particular curiosity)

General curiosity is the skill of wondering. While in such a state, it’s as if every stimulus (objects, people, thoughts, feelings, funky smells) becomes a pinata, stuffed with the fulfillment and fascination of exploration.

Particular curiosity is the gateway into passion. It’s finding a thing, or process, or theme, or question that infinitely captivates your interest.

Both types of curiosity have the potential to feed each other. If your general curiosity improves, then you can use that curious energy to fuel your particular curiosity (ie passion). If your particular curiosity improves, then you can transfer that curious state into a state of general curiosity.

If you want practices to cultivate greater curiosity, here’s what I would recommend.

Curiosity Practices

Practice with yourself

Become curious about yourself. This is vital.

Here’s my advice: start a journaling practice.

Try this: Write for 10 minutes a day. Within these 10 minutes, try the following:

  • Ask yourself a question. Any question. And answer that question for as long as you can. If you run out of steam, ask another question. Continue to do this, and you will eventually completely lose yourself in the flow of questioning.
  • Start with the stem ‘I wonder…’ write until you complete the thought. Then do it again, and again until you run out of time.

 

These practice have two benefits: 1, it increases your ability to take interest (ie cultivate general curiosity), and 2, if you flow through enough questions/wonderings, you will notice where your curiosity tends to hang out (ie you will hone in on your nexus of particular curiosity, and hence tune into the membranes of your passion).

Curiosity is ALL about questions. Good questions lead to more questions. So it’s useful to practice your skill in asking questions.

Try spending 2 minutes every morning just asking questions. 2 minutes straight. The questions can be about anything.

Then pick one of those questions, and spend 2 minutes asking it in as many different ways as possible. (eg: what am I afraid of? What holds me back? What thoughts does fear latch on to? Where does fear get energy from me? What thoughts scare me the most? etc)

Do this for a week, and see how much easier it gets

Now you can use your enhanced question-asking skills to wonder about yourself, your passions, and the world 🙂

Practice with others

Every interaction you have is a chance to practice honing your curiosity. Here are some conversational tips:

  • Get interested in whatever they bring up
    • When I was younger I worked at a senior center. Half of my job consisted of having conversations with older folks, many of whom weren’t totally with it. These conversations were very one-sided; I did 10% of the talking. However I practiced being interested in whatever they brought up. When they told me a story about how their washing machine was broken, I practiced evoking my own curiosity. How did you fix it? What did you do to wash your clothes? Do your machines often break? I was cultivating my general curiosity around everything that came up
  • Find their curiosity. Get curious about it
    • When you’re with your friends or new people, ask them questions until you find what they are particularly curious about. And then try as hard as you can to get curious about their curiosities (developing what I call passion-empathy). This is using your general curiosity to feed their particular curiosity.
  • Use other people to explore your own particular curiosities
    • Try guiding people to your interests. I’m currently interested in mastery. So I ask people about their relationship with mastery, and I probe their experience around my interests. I use my curiosity-generated enthusiasm to engage people in my particular curiosities. People love talking about themselves. So fuse your particular curiosities with their life, and it’s a win-win.
  • Get curious ABOUT people
    • Challenge yourself to see how deeply you can get to know someone. Someone who you’ve known a long time. Challenge yourself to see if you can learn something new everyday about your childhood best friend, or your lover. Try to learn something new about everyone you meet for the next week.
  • Practice your questions
    • When you do your 2-minute morning question-creating process, try brainstorm questions you’d actually ask people. Eg: What’s your relationship with routine? Where do you hold yourself back? How did you play as a child? When did you start to care about your aesthetic?

There’s really no excuse for any conversation to ever be uninteresting. You have the power to take interest in whatever comes up, to extract interest from the other person, and to bring the conversations to your own interests. It just takes practice.

Make life more awesome

The more curious you become, the more interesting life becomes. By increasing your curiosity, you actually make life (and people) more interesting.

Nothing is more fun to me than being curious, and for that reason I love being by myself, because I get to wonder about all of my interests. And I love being with other people because I get to wonder about them, their interests, and my interests through them.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but you know that cat was having a damned good time!

 

2 thoughts on “How to Cultivate Curiosity”

  1. Loved this Mike! It was a pleasure having met you. If you’re ever in Toronto again, feel free to pop by. Best regards.

    1. Aw, thank you Silvana 🙂 that’s very sweet of you. it was great to meet you as well. And I’ll let you know if I do find my way back to Toronto

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