When I ask my clients, "What do you most want in life?" most often the answer is, "I want to be happy!" Happiness is desired as more important than success, intelligence, wisdom, wealth or relationships.
Happiness is good. Though my experience has taught me that when we focus on what we think will make us happy, we can lose track of what actually does.
So, with all this social progress, prosperity, and technological advancement can we ask ourselves, “Are we having fun yet?"
For most of us the answer is NO. Statistics show us that most of our day is engaged in unsatisfying activities, chores and de-stressing in ways that bring neither joy nor challenge.
The solution for me is simple....introduce some element of surprise in your life, by awakening that deep sense of curiosity buried deep inside us all. A state of active interest, a sense of discovery joy and delight.
Curiosity is something that can be nurtured and developed. It all starts with wanting to know more. When we are curious we begin to see things differently; feeling alive and engaged, embracing opportunities, making connections, experiencing moments of insight and meaning, all of which can be a rich and satisfying life experience.
I have found that when I'm interested in something, I think more clearly, understand more deeply and remember more accurately. In fact it has been my experience in dealing with people of all ages, that we grow 'old' when we lose interest....to me interest turbochargers our thinking. By that I mean that it acts as an 'approach urge' that pushes back against the 'avoid urge' that tends to keep us in the safe and familiar as we grow older. Interest pulls us towards the new, the edgy, and the exotic!
George Loewenstein, professor of psychology, says "we get curious when we realise that there's a gap in our knowledge. Such gaps produce the feeling of deprivation. The curious person is motivated to get the missing information to reduce the feeling of deprivation."
Coming back to my earlier question about seeking happiness, I find that the right questions open up the information gap, they stimulate curiosity. For instance when people articulate their desires, I often ask, “when you do get the success/ fame/ relationship how would it change your life?" In professional circles it's called ' Value Intervention'....helping someone see the worth of what they're learning or doing, which is the key to lasting interest....self-interest.
So in conclusion, let's ask ourselves, "How do we stay interested and curious about our lives and the world we live in?" My suggestion may sound pedestrian and simplistic, but it works. Consider the list of low interest but necessary activities in your typical day. Choose one of these ho-hum activities and as you do them search for any 3 new things about them. Or consider learning something entirely new and look for how you could approach this learning in a new way. I have a client who is a business executive and in order to enthuse himself, he started cooking and growing orchids! The options can be so varied and very personal.
Most importantly we owe it to ourselves to focus on and keep alive this vital ingredient that helps us to not just live but thrive!
As Vincent Van Gogh said, " I'd rather die of passion than of boredom."
Until next time....