The humble, roundabout magic of curiosity
In my last blog post, I shared that it can be a difficult path trying to “follow your dreams” if we don’t really understand what this means. How do we find fulfillment in our career if we’re not even sure what brings us joy? You’re not alone if you haven’t found one passion in life that you know for sure your life will be dedicated to. And for those still searching, Elizabeth Gilbert gives some encouraging advice:
“If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.” Elizabeth Gilbert
In following this sage advice, here are five ways of engaging your curiosity:
- Try new things. One of the best ways to find things that bring you joy is to explore new activities. New events, skills, documentaries, books, outings, hobbies. If you don’t want the commitment of signing up for a long series of classes, webinars or otherwise, try to find opportunities to sample new activities in a stress free way. Volunteer for a one time event, sign up for a one day race, or ask a friend to bring you along to their sport, hobby or club as a guest. As an example, my friend is a member of a dance studio and they offer a guest pass to members each month. This has allowed me to try out some fun new classes with my friend without the commitment of buying a membership. Allow your curiosity to drive this process and try not to let judgement cloud your thinking. Don’t feel guilty if the new activity just isn’t for you. Knowing what you don’t like is just as much a part of the process.
- Pay attention to your thoughts that arise during the day and your dreams. It’s so easy to go about our days on autopilot, but our minds and bodies give us clues as to where we resonate and where we don’t. If a job, hobby, or activity causes you stress, stop and notice if your body is responding with nausea, heartburn, muscle tension or otherwise. Our bodies are generally in tune with how we are feeling, and often times we are given physical signals that we need to make a change. Also pay attention to positive bodily signals! I was talking to a friend and fellow psychotherapist and he couldn’t help but laugh and point out that upon us starting a new topic of conversation, my entire body language had changed. I was suddenly leaning forwards, my face had lit up and I was talking really fast. This all happened without my notice and it was because I so strongly resonated with the topic. That’s an opportunity for me to follow with my curiosity and explore how I can dive deeper into this topic. I also noted dreams in the first line because researchers have demonstrated that our subconscious minds actively solve problems while we sleep. Your dreams may give hints about the new ideas and activities you’re exploring. I’ve posted an article and book on this subject at the bottom of the post if you’re interested in learning more.
- Write in a journal or find someone to speak to about your experiences. The written word is powerful and can be an outlet to reflect on emotions and experiences in a safe space. If you write with an open mind, your curiosity may lead you to conclusions or a new way of understanding your experiences. It can tap into your deeper intuition. Writing isn’t a preference for everyone though, and if you prefer, speaking to a friend, therapist, coach or mentor might be a helpful choice. Sometimes clarity comes when bouncing ideas off of another person.
- Use visualization to try out new scenarios. Try stepping deeper into your new adventures and visualize a new activity or project and how it might play out in your life. If your curiosity leads you to something that sparks your interest, find a quiet space and continue to use your curiosity to fill your mind with images of this new interest. Picture how it might fit into your life. How does it make you feel? If you were to spend more time on this project or activity, what environment would you be spending your time in? And with whom? Try to picture how you might feel after a full day of this? Would you feel exhausted, or energized? Does it inspire you to continue training, practicing or developing skills in this area? This is an article that explores visualization and career exploration in a bit more depth:
You deserve to spend your time doing something that fills you with joy. Remember that as you visualize and try on a new activity for size.
5. Be flexible and open to change. Life is full of cycles, seasons and change so be gentle with yourself if your desires and areas of joy shift as you grow and change.
Elizabeth Gilbert quote:
“What to do if you can’t find your passion”
The brain and dreams:
“The Superhuman Mind: Free the Genius in Your Brain”
“Sleep on it, but only if it is difficult: Effects of sleep on problem solving”
“5 Ways Visualization Will Help You Figure Out Your Next Career Move”