It started as a way to motivate me to get out of bed, to generate excitement for the morning to come: use my #2 Signature Strength (Curiosity) to do more of what I'm good at, and WANT to do. To start out my day in a flow of adventure by taking myself on solitary adventures like scavenger hunts, combining my #3 Signature Strength (Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence) to go in search of palm trees planted in our Pacific Northwest town. Seek out gorgeous dead cars, vans and trucks. See who else is up in our neighborhood (hopefully just animals) at 05:30 ... to find out if I'm right that The Buck sleeps in our way-back backyard.
But now it's morphed into something more solid than that: a commitment to DO something out of curiosity EVERY DAY. To make a habit and practice of it.
Meeting my daily curiosity challenge tomorrow could mean looking for answers to a question like
- "What does my favorite big rock in town look like at 07:11?"
- "How will this story end that I had an idea for yesterday?" if I spend an hour writing it just for fun ... just out of curiosity to find out where it takes me
- "How will I feel (any different?) on day seven if I get in all of my steps every one of the six days before?"
- "How do I make vegan tikka masala in the crockpot?" and ... can I learn how to actually make it taste good?
- "Can I establish a payment plan with the collection agency for this super-huge debt?"
- "Can I really make money with low-content books on Amazon?" just by learning to make tools (like daily planners) I have wanted customized for a long time?
- "Is that factoid somebody swore on the bible about true?" and what are some facts to counter its deployment in an argument?
Practicing/exercising my "Curiosity" muscles like this is helping me with my 531 challenge: another HUGE tip to add to these seventeen ways of patiently enjoying posting or submitting at least 531 words a day somewhere daily ... without stress, fear, perfectionism or self-criticism.
Where did this curious idea come from?
A year and a half ago my friend extended an invitation to all of his acquaintances to take a free class together on the Science of Well-Being. Connecting with him through that study helped me in a million ways, including learning about the VIA Institute on Character's Signature Strengths.
Every single day since then, he and I have had a commitment to each other to do things we learned through that course. Every single day I use something I've learned and the lessons help lift me another step further out of my midlife morass of just feeling shitty; I move towards better health and happiness, and get closer to clarity and confidence about how I can help other people do the same. I practice using tools that are proven in studies to improve people's health and well-being, and untangle old dysfunctional habits from wherever the ends stick out of the knotted places on that day ... in that moment.
The best thing is I feel permission as an introvert and weirdo to VALUE WHAT I AM GOOD AT (instead of beating myself up for my social weaknesses). I am giving myself permission to GUILTLESSLY prioritize spending immersive uninterrupted time in flow. Because studies have shown WE ALL DO BETTER WHEN WE HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME. We *all* need time to spend doing work that we are confident about but still challenged by. To lose ourselves doing things that we love, that fully engage us.
I do not have to keep trying to EARN the right to spend time doing things I'm good at where I have the most potential for positive, healthy, rewarding growth by exhausting myself by being accessible to people for social services FIRST, leaving no energy or self-esteem left to do the things where I have actual valuable strengths to offer.
Because of friends like the person who invited me to take the class where we were introduced to Signature Strengths, and other friends and my wife who make self-improvement and mental health a priority, I feel like I have permission to do the same. I have a commitment of gratitude to them, and myself.
Because of all that, I'm starting to see how I can employ my curiosity to get out of fear, learned helplessness, and procrastination.
Curiosity means freedom from attachments to outcomes. A way of practicing tool/behavior/tip #9 -- JUST DO THE WORK (and leave the results to "God") on this list.
Curiosity makes approaching challenges playful ... an inquisitive adventure. No right or wrong. Whatever is discovered is a win. All of the ways it might turn out and steps along the way are successes in satisfying curiosity.
Instead of being afraid things won't turn out the way I want them to, I am CURIOUS: how will things turn out? What will happen next? Not "oh my god I hope X doesn't happen", and a life-sapping spiral of imaginary negative scenarios spin in nightmarish moving pictures on a screen inside my head.
Instead of being afraid things won't turn out the way I (fear) I *NEED* them to, I am comfortable that I already have what I need right now; the only thing I need to do right now is the next right thing, and I am capable of doing it with curiosity instead of fear of disappointment or inflated fears of failure.
Instead of worrying about how long a challenge will take or whether it can be successfully resolved, I am curious: I wonder if THIS will work? Ok ... kind of, but let's see if THAT tool is a more effective or pleasurable-to-use solution. I wonder if I know someone else who has a tool I've never considered?
Curiosity is an opportunity to practice. To practice patient confidence that I am absolutely up to the challenge (even if I do not yet know the solution), and I will grow and learn interesting and useful things in the process no matter what (and be more open to enjoying that process if I'm not hyperfocused on how I want something to turn out).
Yesterday was a perfect example of how I can use curiosity to reframe chores and challenges I'm usually anxious about into fun opportunities. Last month my mom surprised me with a check for a significant (to me) amount of money. At first I was touched, grateful and excited about all of the possibilities that were just out of my grasp before I had that gift. But the next morning, instead of just being grateful, it actually filled me with stress, self-loathing, and a bunch of other repellent emotions which I dragged myself to my therapist to whine about like an insufferable baby jackass.
I felt like I needed to hurry up and do something to repay her ... to EARN the money (even though it was a gift, not a loan). I didn't even want to put it in my bank account (one of those big banks that is NOTORIOUS for freezing the accounts of sex workers and that I'd rather not have any meaningful balance stored in). By yesterday, though, I was pretty sick of feeling sorry for myself ... sick of being so pointlessly fearful. So I used curiosity to reframe the situation and just do the next right thing. I decided to just be curious wondering whether or not my bank would cash the check for me even though I did not have an equal balance to cover it. I decided not to resent them in advance. Not to replay all of the times they wouldn't cash a check even though I never bounce checks and have been a customer for DECADES. I decided that instead of wondering whether my sloppy bedraggled low-class appearance made me suspect, that I would walk in wearing a polished outfit, pretty hair and makeup. And I would just find out if they would cash it. That's it. I was not preparing myself for REACTING and being resentful if they didn't, I was simply going to answer a question out of curiosity. And if the answer was "no", I would ask a different question and/or go somewhere else.
If you are a high-functioning adult and/or financially stable, this probably sounds elementary: a remedial assignment for the cognitively-challenged. But a lot a lot a LOT of people are challenged by this stuff. Approaching these scary little challenges (that we are in the habit of taking VERY PERSONALLY when not easily resolved and/or we don't immediately get what we want) requires we learn to use tools other people to seem to have just been born with: the ability to confidently meet hurdles, setbacks and failures with our self-esteem, confidence and hope in tact. The belief that we can eventually solve a problem, and gracefully try changing tack. With enthusiasm (and curiosity) about where our determination to continue will take us. With faith that there are other options. Without emotional fatigue or disappointment.
Anyway ... I went to the bank and ... they didn't / couldn't cash it. But I handled it differently than I would have in the past. I responded with confidence and curiosity instead of being sent into a spiral of reactive despair and resentment. I didn't embarrass myself. I accepted the information and discovered there was a simple solution; the source of the problem was not me and it was easier to solve because I was calm and didn't take the situation personally.
Making a commitment do approaching one thing every day with this kind of curiosity means I am focused on meeting the general challenge of using a strength that is effortless, essential and energizing to me. It means sometimes seeing a mundane or otherwise-stressful challenge as a way to simply meet this commitment. My attachment is to forming and strengthening this habit, and not breaking my streak (on day two now). I know I am capable of fulfilling this commitment to myself ... it doesn't matter what my curiosity leads me to find out, only that I *do* find out *something*. There is no way to fail except to not do it at all. Success is intrinsic to "doing" curiosity.
I am practicing success; it is easy and fun and I look forward to playing with curiosity tomorrow.