Curious George, curious cats, and getting into trouble.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but maybe it killed the stoic.
Thrivability doesn’t arise from knowing it all in advance. It comes from not knowing together and wondering what might be possible, it invites us to dive headlong into curiosity. When we bring curiosity to challenges like “Upper Limit Problems” that include any of the ways we resist and sabotage the great things that come our way, then we can transform our experience. We humans so often try to protect ourselves by not enjoying this moment, not savoring this person, or not doing this thing by telling ourselves it will have some down side or hidden negatives. We end up trying to be stoic, not feeling our feelings. Like Schrödinger's cat, not fully present, not fully dead.
We can bring curiosity and ask ourselves, “how great might this be?” or “What if good things don’t have a hidden bad thing in them?” and “What if this joy won’t come at some later expense?”
We can also bring our curiosity to other feelings. It isn’t just, “What if I allowed myself to feel this joy and delight?” It can also be, “What if I brought curiosity to my sadness or frustration? What would happen? What would happen if you believed that life was worth it, worth taking the risk of being curious about your own emotional experience?
When we avoid how we feel and try to control our experience, we can end up faking the good stuff. Why would you fake it if you can have the real thing! The path to toxic positivity and the emotional shut down of stoics is the path without curiosity. Take the risk, feel the feelings, all of them.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but maybe it killed the stoic. And that’s not really such a bad thing, is it?
The Great Toothpaste Debate: Getting Curious about Conflict with Others
Drop the Defense! Bring your curious cat.
When we bring curiosity into our relationships, we can drop the defensive anticipation of whatever concerns the other may have and just allow them to express. Then we get to discover who they are today, now, and open the door for the vulnerability of evolving beings living inside these super cool meat sacks. So much interpersonal conflict arises from our anticipation of what others have going on and defending ourselves from it. While what many people actually want is to be heard rather than go to court over differences in preferences on the toothpaste cap. Bringing curiosity may require us to let go of some absolutes like, “Toothpaste caps should always be replaced or the toothpaste dries out.” And get curious about what other strategies someone is using. Maybe they feel like saving the three seconds is more important than toothpaste you add more water to anyway. We won’t even get into whether to roll it from the bottom or not.
The point is, everyone is choosing strategies, and when we get curious we can learn what those are and grow alignment and connection. So, ask yourself, what might happen if I bring curiosity to this conflict? What is going on for someone else? Already there? Level up with: What OTHER stories can we create about what is happening?
For organizations, these times of pandemic+climate crisis can be super challenging: adjusting to work at home, supply chain snafus, or escalating costs. In response to these changes, it can be easy or feel natural to panic and make decisions quickly in order to feel like we are doing something, anything. But what would happen if we allowed ourselves to sit in the unknown and get past our fear? Can we wonder into what might come? Can we be curious about what path could open? What would happen if we zoomed out from the immediate decisions and conflicts to assess the broader flows so we can be strategic from a place of groundedness. Fear of change is often a killer of curiosity.
Our brains contract when we are feeling fearful, so we don’t have our best resources to bring to challenges. Fear is often reasonable, and we find it worth it to sit and befriend fear a bit to find out what concerns it has as part of risk assessment. Then, after we face our fear, then we can turn our attention to being curious about possibilities. Mindblowing, I know. Or at least mind-expanding.
Curious about the Way Forward?
It surely won’t surprise you that I am curious about systemic dynamics. However, you might not know how curiosity has helped me shift from being a planning/control freak to dance with emergence. I have been learning about how that planning mode and desire for control can be rooted in a trauma response.
What is the “prepared” but not “controlled” way of working with systems? One stop on my learning journey has been through my interaction with the Quaker community of late (thanks Eric) and its “way forward” way of asking with curiosity whether a way might open then waiting, together, to sense into what way that is.
I am finding this an increasingly useful way to approach the climate crisis. I wonder what way might open. What if we don’t know how it might turn out? What if we can’t plan forward the things that must unfold before us but only discover them as the systems interact and open the way? What if this isn’t the end of humanity?