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  • Writer's pictureLinda Buchanan

From Change Your Story - Change Your Life: Is Curiosity a Key to Happiness?

"Why am I like this?" "Why did I do that?" "Why am I so...?"

These are the kinds of questions I often hear when working with people in my psychology practice. The problem is that they are not actually asked with a spirit of curiosity. I often respond with, that's a good question but can you ask it with curiosity instead of criticism. I suggest that we ponder with openness and curiosity the factors that have led to their problems. Only then can they increase the self-awareness that can lead to change.

It is my experience that

criticism leads to anxiety and fear while

curiosity leads to openness and change.

Markham Hied calls curiosity the "secret sauce" to living a happy life and Todd Kashdan calls it the "missing ingredient to a fulfilling life". I call it the secret to change as well. People that I work with have often heard me say that two of my favorite phrases are

"ponder this" and "be curious."

In fact, recent studies have linked curiosity to a sense of well-being, purpose and improved relationships. Based in part on his own research, Todd Kashdan, psychologist, researcher and author, has written a book titled Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. The book offers "a profound new message missing from so many books on happiness: the greatest opportunities for joy, purpose, and personal growth don't, in fact, happen when we're searching for happiness. They happen when we are mindful, when we explore what's novel, when we live in the moment, when we are open to new experiences and relish the unknown".

So as you attempt to improve your life, do you use criticism or curiosity? We all probably know to say that it's better to be curious than critical, but are you really? Especially with yourself?

Statements of curiosity versus criticism

I shouldn't have done that. How can I understand why I did that?

I am stupid. What do I next want to improve or focus on?

I should get a new job. I would like to get a new job.

I am too lazy. I wonder if there is a part of me that doesn't yet want to?

I should be more outgoing. If I were more outgoing, what would I do next?

Practicing Curiosity

Try one new thing a day

Initiate social interactions

Listen more than talk

Notice your environment

Be in the moment

Use a new route to work

Engage in people watching

Ask more questions

Do something unexpected

Try new music or literature

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