“What would happen if…?” Curiosity fuels artistic and scientific exploration, and is a characteristic of gifted people. It is also a strength, and a trait that encourages personal growth.
Psychologist Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., declares in his new book – and a video – that being curious is an essential element in creating a fulfilling life.
So what about the old saying “Curiosity killed the cat”? That was delivered a number of times in my childhood, mostly by my mother, who also indulged in other aphorisms like “Don’t poke your nose where it doesn’t belong.”
Like most moms, she probably meant them as warnings to be careful, like “Look both ways before you cross the street.” But we may carry those cautions into our adult lives as stifling brakes on self-exploration. Of course, we need to “Look both ways..” and be reasonably safe, but we can use curiosity to grow.
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PhD notes, “One of the more glaring traits of giftedness is extraordinary goal orientation that coexists with a relentless curiosity.” [From her article Arousing the Sleeping Giant: Giftedness in Adult Psychotherapy. She is author of the book The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius.]
In her Positive Psychology News Daily article Create Your Own Luck, Yee-Ming Tan says cultivating the character strengths of curiosity, gratitude, optimism, zest and the ability to love and be loved, can increase positivity.
One of the items on a list of of traits of gifted and talented people from the Gifted Development Center) is “Do you have persistent curiosity?” [See the page Self-tests: giftedness / high ability.
And gifted children have “advanced cognitive skills that allow them to process what’s going on around them at a different level than most of their age peers. An outcome of this is a sophisticated and heightened curiosity about what’s going on in the world.”
From article Is It Good to Be Gifted?, by David Palmer, Ph.D.
Marylou Kelly Streznewski, author of the book Gifted Grownups: the Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, says she approached her research on gifted adults “armed with a set of informal criteria which had developed over twenty years of spotting misplaced gifted students in high school English classes. What did I look for? Speed, intense curiosity, sophistication of thought processes, sensitivity, concentration, energy, and humor.”
From her article Unrecognized Giftedness: The Frustrating Case of the Gifted Adult.
Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University, is author of the book Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, and talks about it in this video.
In an article in American Psychologist, he writes, “Curiosity appears to be a fundamental motive in facilitating industry and creativity. Writers, artists, inventors, scientists, and others engaged in the creative process often refer to curiosity to describe the compelling psychological need to work at their craft.
“Without curiosity, the act of pursuing success, eminence, and creativity is not enough to motivate an individual to consistently maintain 10-, 12-, or even 16-hour workdays at the expense of developing balance between work and other life roles…”
He adds, “This is because eminence and creativity are not the result only of individuals but of the receptivity of the social milieu to the novelty and adaptivity of ideas.”
From Facilitating Creativity by Regulating Curiosity [on his site: Laboratory for the Study of Social Anxiety, Character Strengths, and Related Phenomena].
That is certainly one of the more significant social issues that impact gifted and talented people: How much other people understand and appreciate creative thinking and work. Cultivating curiosity, Dr. Kashdan notes, can help keep us motivated, perhaps even without the level of social support we may want or think we need.
In a Positive Psychology News Daily interview by Kathryn Britton, Curiosity, an Engine of Well-being, professor of psychology Todd Kashdan talks about his research and book Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life.
“We all have different genetic predispositions to how sensitive we are to novelty and whether we get upset in unfamiliar and uncertain situations. There is also a major age effect.
“Children have boundless curiosity to explore everything. Then there’s something that occurs when we enter adulthood. We learn the rules, we want to develop some closure, we want to feel intelligent, we want to feel some level of certainty and structure in our lives.”
But, he adds, “We get caught up in the struggle to control uncertainty, which we can’t actually do.”
[Photo: The Curious Cat by DH Wright.]