They Say Curiosity Killed the Cat-


Forget that old adage- Curiosity is actually key to developing a healthier and happier life all the way around!

A recent Gallup poll surveyed more than 130,000 people from over 100 nations,
a sampling which statistically represents 96% of the world’s population!
(Now that’s some major coverage) The survey was done in the pursuit of happiness- or at least in the pursuit of some solid data on what makes a happy person happy. Armed with all that data, sociologists set out to identify the two factors that have the strongest influence on a person’s happiness.

Here’s what they found-

The two most important factors that contribute to a person’s happiness
on any given day are-

  • Being able to count on someone for help
  • Learning something new

What these findings clearly suggest is that no matter where you live in the world, what job you do, or your economic status- happiness in life requires the ability to establish healthy relationships and a determination to grow as a person.

As it turns out, a healthy dose of curiosity is a factor supporting both endeavors.
Take a look at what Todd Kashdan, author of Curious- Discover the Missing Key to a Happy Life, has to say on the topic.

“One of the most reliable and overlooked keys to happiness is cultivating and exercising our innate sense of curiosity. That’s because curiosity- a state of active interest or genuinely wanting to know more about something- creates an openness to unfamiliar experience, laying the groundwork for greater opportunities to experience new discoveries, joy and delight”

Kashdan goes on to describe the abilities enhanced by a robustly curious outlook- Curiosity, he explains, allows us to:

  • Remain open to new experiences
  • Build strong and resilient relationships
  • Effectively manage uncertainty
  • Adapt to the demands required of different situations
    (what he calls “psychological flexibility”)
  • Discover our strengths, our deepest values and what it is we’re passionate about
  • Strengthen connections to these values and commit to a life aligned with them

If a daily dose of discovery is the key to creating and enriching a meaningful lifestyle and enhancing our relationships-

How do we cultivate this important quality?

We all have an innate curiosity that’s with us from birth- but experience and exposure as well as certain personality traits can dull that drive for discovery.
Think back to when you were a child- did the world seem like a magic place, full of adventures and surprises- Or were you one of those children that imagined danger around every corner and shied away from new experiences and people? A secure base or primary attachment, is one of the keys to allowing our natural curiosity to come forward in new situations. It also allows us to imagine the best in ourselves and of others. This can be intrinsic. Sometimes it is “learned” from our adults and caretakers, the teachers and mentors we come into contact with early in life.

The more positive experiences we have, the more confidence we build and in turn, the more our natural curiosity has a chance to blossom and grow.
Think about when your curiosity is most apparent and noticeable.
When are you the most engaged in learning  about a new topic, new places or new people? When are you the most engaged in learning something new about yourself?
It’s usually when you have the time and security to explore.

I can say from experience, that curiosity is the first skill I attempt to model and develop with my clients. The ability to look with a curious and open mind at the situations and at people we encounter, allows us to broaden our viewpoint and have a better experience with the world around us. Suspending judgment long enough to “take in another’s perspective” is an integral part of developing healthy communication in any relationship.
Responding with compassion and understanding is an ingredient I often find to be lacking in most conflicted relationships.

Opportunities to develop our “curiosity muscle” exist everywhere!

Here are some ways to begin expanding your own capacity for curiosity:

  • In looking at your relationships- look with “fresh eyes”
    Ask yourself- What attributes and strengths would you see in your partner, your children or your co-workers if you were encountering them for the first time?
  • In your communications- ask more questions!
    Why not strive to remain open to what others are saying. Listen with an intent to understand instead of judging or reacting.
  • Imagine that your partner/co-worker/boss/teenager has your best interests at heart..
    One of the things I ask couples to do in this exercise:
    Imagine that your partner loves you deeply and only wants the best for your relationship- Now ask yourself-
    How does that change my interpretation of their behavior?
    How does that change the communication right now?

According to Dr. Brené Brown in her newest book Rising Strong, one of the keys to growth and learning, to process life’s difficulties is- The ability to stay open and curious. Even when we are faced with challenges, difficulties and disappointments. It’s the ability to stay face down in the dirt for long enough to mine the golden nuggets out of the muck.

“The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, be curious with our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”

It appears the latest research has proven the age-old adage lacking- Curiosity may have killed that cat, but it happens to be a key ingredient for a vibrant and wholehearted life!
With a little bit of curiosity, we can more deeply learn from those around us, from our environments and even from the places where we stumble and fall.

Curiosity allows us to turn towards others with an open mind. And if we employ that curiosity while we look inside ourselves for our truths- who knows what new awareness lies in wait.


Meet Cynthia Benge

A therapist for over 20 years, I guide people from their own “stuck” places to a life full of adventure, meaning and satisfying relationships.

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