Getting Gritty: Be ‘Curiouser’ and ‘Curiouser’

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.― Samuel JohnsonThe Rambler

Now people who work in a library tend to be a curious bunch. And one of the perks of our job is that we get to research different topics a day. There are always interesting new topics, such as Texas cuisine, zombie culture, and the question of whether penguins have the worst lives in the animal kingdom. Now, granted, some times the topics are familiar: the legalization of drugs, abortion, school uniforms, and home schooling, but even then we like to help students find a new angle on a worn subject. In fact, more than once, we will continue to research a topic after the student has left the library.

 Blessed are the curious, for they will never be bored. Even if this trait did not lead to success, it would still be worthwhile just for that. But, obviously, the curious also have an advantage when it comes to learning:

  • When receiving a poor grade, the curious are more likely to ask, “How did this happen and how I can do better next time?” than cursing and hiding the test away.
  • When conducting research, the curious go beyond the obvious to find better and more reliable sources. And not just because they want a better grade. They sincerely want to know the answers to the questions they’ve asked themselves.
  • Because they are personally invested in their learning, they often remember ideas longer and in more detail.

So if you are not one of the naturally curious, how can you develop the trait?

  • Stop labeling things as boring. Instead, look for a connection that interests you. (As I used to tell my students, “Every subject you call boring has a scholar out there who has dedicated his/her entire life trying to understand its mysteries.”)
  • Ask questions. Spend some time with a toddler and count how many times the child asks ‘why.’ You were once a toddler and you were once as curious. Get back to that state by asking questions. Don’t be satisfied with simple answers. Keep digging.
  • Open your mind. Try new subjects each week. Read!
  • Reframe your fear. Sometimes we label something as boring when we’re really afraid of trying something new or failing. Just realizing that you’re afraid instead of bored can change the way you view a task.
  • Just say yes.  Besides being the title to a Snow Patrol song, it is also a good way to develop your curiosity. Students can get wrapped up in good grades and playing it safe to maintain them. But curiosity means branching out to something new. So make ‘yes’ your default answer to new experiences.   

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. – Albert Einstein




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