Curiosity

my-word-for-2017

My one word for 2017 is curiosity. You may have seen or heard about picking one word for the new year, rather than making resolutions you know you’re going to discard by February. The thing is, I’ve never had trouble keeping resolutions. I think it’s because I’ve only ever resolved to do things I know are good for me, and when I know something is good for me, I have no problem making a habit out of it. I think I’ve also always made resolutions that were fairly attainable–like, run 3 times a week, not run 3 marathons this year. Gretchen Rubin might say that I’m a Questioner–if the expectation makes sense to me, then I uphold it. Upholders might have an easy time with resolutions as well, but Rebels and Obligers might not.

I can’t really think of any resolutions to make for 2017. I’m pretty set on fitness and health and work priorities. But one thing I can continue to work on is my internal self: listening to my intuition, aligning my actions with my values, and moving beyond fear in my choices across my life. That being said, I can envision a future in which I spend less time on social media. Canceling the cable has already helped immensely with the amount of time wasted channel surfing or watching something just because it’s on and the sweet, numb feeling that follows often feels so much better than tackling obligations or projects. But I do often resort to Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook to fill time or procrastinate. What might I do in those blocks of time instead? How much less might I scrutinize the lives of others and instead plan and execute in my own life?

I could say that I will only scroll through social media in the evening after dinner when I am taking a mental break. But I have this fear that if I stop getting on and liking people’s posts, then they will get offended. Is this crazy? Probably so. I’m going to try.

But back to curiosity. The idea is that in place of resolutions you pick a word that encompasses something you can focus on in all areas of your life. It’s something you might want to get better at or use as a compass in your day-to-day life. It is character rather than personality-centered, and it helps create a vision for your future. It doesn’t lead to failure like many resolutions do–you can simply be mindful of your word as much as possible and see how it infuses your thinking and behavior.

When I thought about resolutions for 2017, I knew immediately that I would be better off choosing a word in this season of my life, and I also knew immediately that the word was curiosity. Here’s how dictionary.com defines it: 1. the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitive; 2. a curious, rare, or novel thing; 3. a strange, curious, or interesting quality; 4. carefulness or fastidiousness (archaic meaning but still cool!).

Curious is defined as 1. eager to learn or know; inquisitive; 2. prying; meddlesome; 3. arousing or exciting speculation, interest, or attention through being inexplicable or highly unusual; odd; strange.

When you Google the word “curiosity” a lot of the results that come up are for the Mars Rover with that same name.

So perhaps these definitions and space exploration, along with Elizabeth Gilbert and dictionary.com’s Word for 2016, can help guide my own sense of curiosity. Because one of my big goals is learning to value myself enough to live beyond my fears, I want to learn to live from a place of curiosity.

Instead of shutting down when I feel crappy, I want to be curious about why I feel that way. What led to it? What does “feeling crappy” really feel like?

Instead of sticking to a regimented workout schedule or diet, I want to ask my body what it needs.

Instead of beating myself up because I didn’t work on a project as much as I wanted to one day, I want to ask myself, why? Is it because you don’t care? You’re burnt out? Something else?

Instead of getting angry because my boyfriend didn’t wash the dishes, I want to be curious about why he didn’t. Is it because I was expecting him to read my mind and do it? Is it because he had a stressful day and didn’t get to it? How can I be a resource for him? How can we be a good team?

Instead of assuming I know the answer to an intellectual question, I can ask my advisor or a trusted colleague for their thoughts, curious to see what other people know. Where might their knowledge lead me?

Instead of assuming I know how a friend is feeling, I can ask, “how is your heart?”

Curiosity is constant inquiry. It arouses, it excites, it’s eager, it’s interested, it’s attentive. It’s highly conscious. It involves a careful and fastidious opening up, a prying open, of things we take for granted every day, in ourselves and in others. It seeks out the inexplicable or unusual and asks, “Huh. I wonder what’s at the end of this journey or on the other side of this wall?” It doesn’t assume it knows. It’s uncertain but full of wonder at what careful steps of inquiry can lead to.

The Mars Rover doesn’t know exactly what it will find. The scientists certainly have things they hope to find; they have hypotheses driving their search. But ultimately we don’t know. So we keep searching. We keep pushing a little deeper into space, slowly, as time and resources and knowledge allow, using what we already know as a foundation. I want a life like this.

Elizabeth Gilbert suggests using curiosity to overcome fear in the creative process. Curiosity is what allows us to create: to create work, space, relationships, ourselves. She suggests choosing curiosity over passion and certainty. Curiosity is a slower burn than passion, meaning it can sustain us longer. It allows us to put ourselves out there, to be seen, to build meaningful relationships because we aren’t afraid of the reactions in the stands, and we aren’t afraid of uncertainty. We’re just curious. I love how she says, “Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, ‘Hey, that’s kind of interesting…’.” I’m a quiet person, and I like the idea of quiet inquiry. She also says passion is rare but curiosity is every day and that curiosity “doesn’t take a massive effort. Just turn your head an inch. Pause for a instant. Respond to what has caught your attention. Look into it a bit. Is there something there for you? A piece of information?” I don’t have time or energy for massive effort, but I can pause and turn my head just the slightest bit to see what waits there. I like that I won’t always know what I’ll find.

Dictionary.com’s Word for 2016 is xenophobia. Their explanation says it “embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness” in 2016 and that it stems from fear of “the other.” This has much to do with why so many of us have called 2016 a massive dumpster fire. I want to use curiosity to combat this fear in 2017. Instead of feeling alarmed or defensive when someone or something is different, inexplicable, or unusual to me, I want to be curious and seek to understand (I think I have always been this way when it comes to humans, but I can be more conscious and deliberate about it). I don’t want to rest on old certainties, and I don’t want to limit my perceptions because of fear.

What if we all tried to practice Habit 5 a bit more? Seek first to understand, then to be understood. No jumping to conclusions because it feels good and certain and safe, because we want to be right. No responding based on our own autobiographies. Let’s all admit we don’t have all the answers and that’s perfectly okay because that’s the beauty of this wild and precious life. We’re equipped to seek to understand. And how rewarding that journey is. How much it teaches us.

So that’s my “resolution” for 2017. I’ll be sure to post as the months go by and check in with how I’m doing.

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