Unlearning + Curiosity = Your Edge

Posted on Sep 5, 2012

We’ve all heard that curiosity killed the cat, which is sad indeed. But I would argue that curiosity gets a bad rap here. In fact, it was likely poor feline judgment or simply a falling heavy object that did the deed, not curiosity.

Where would we be without curiosity? The drive to seek the unknown and understand it is the foundation of scientific inquiry. Even this very moment, Curiosity, the Martian rover, is representing its name beautifully by creating images and gathering information about a distant land for us to dissect.

Curiosity in science is crucial and impossible to forget. Curiosity in human interaction and personal growth is equally as crucial, but can become a tool we employ less as we settle into routine in relationships and life. If I could deliver the ethos of my entire practice in one word, it would be curiosity.

We have the tendency to employ curiosity to learn more at work, acquire a new skill like cooking or tennis, or read up on a new hobby like sailing. Our tendency with other human beings is to assume that once we “get to know them,” well, we know them. It is fascinating that we will take for granted that cooking techniques, the sport of tennis and the technology of sailing will all change and evolve over time, but we don’t afford the same respect for change in human beings.

The beauty of curiosity is it acknowledges that we will never know everything there is to know about our partners or even ourselves. What an incredible opportunity to wake up every morning and know that with our drive to explore and discover we can constantly open ourselves up to a new universe, the new universe our partner has become and the new universe we are becoming today.

The complexity of individuals and the exponential complexity of relationships guarantees we will never be experts, but must always hold on to the mindset of the motivated apprentice. Constantly asking questions, mindfully listening to the answers and knowing that what we know today merely informs what we will learn tomorrow.

There is an element of embracing this ethos of curiosity that requires a playfulness and an openness to the unknown. For many adults, this requires unlearning that as we have gathered experience we have somehow gotten closer to an end result of expert or having acquired all the knowledge we need.

Unlearning leaves space and energy for exploration and pushing oneself into the discomfort of not knowing. As we cast off the dock of what we know for sure, we float free in the direction of discovery of our choosing. We often encourage children in our midst to push themselves by employing their curiosity while we concurrently withdraw onto the solid ground of what we already know for certain.

Unlearning means we realize that “certain” is rarely certain and we have the capacity through our curiosity to gather the most current information about our reality. Curiosity supports our adaptability and the fact that how we did it before may have been the best practice at the time, but that method is now obsolete. Until we embrace the discomfort of disconnecting emotionally from what we knew was the best knowledge then in place of the exploration for what is the best knowledge now, we will be stagnant. Our actions will only be appropriate in response to a stimulus that occurred in the past like the eight-minute delay in the sunlight we receive here on Earth.

In an existence of constant change, unlearning and curiosity are a formidable team. Letting go of the obsolete despite the comfort it affords and constantly exploring foster adaptability and satisfaction. Pushing beyond our comfort zone to our edge into the realm of the knowledge of now allows us to create our lives and relationships true to our vision.