If we are to grow as people, we must cultivate our curiosity. We must look at the world with big question marks on our brows, eyes wide as we wander and wonder.
But this takes work. Some of us are naturally curious (you can stop reading now), but many of us have lost that child-like trait and we need to regain it.
So how do you grow your curiosity? Because I’m not sure something we’ve lost just comes back to us all that easily. Are there practices we can adopt to re-grow something that has withered away? Yes, I think there are, and here are five good suggestions.
5 Practices For Becoming Curiouser and Curiouser
Keep asking questions. Why does it work that way? How come this and not that? Where did that come from? Why do we think that? Can you tell me more about what you are doing? Can you describe what it was like growing up there? Become a kind of life journalist in your own community.
Get others talking. Encourage others to share what they know about a certain field or area of passion. There is nothing more inspiring than hearing someone share about a passion of theirs, to see their eyes light up and their voices intensify as they wax on about the training of therapy dogs, the making of banjos or the history of grapes. Master the art of the leading question, so that people, and often the shy and quiet among us, will open up about their projects or passions. And then watch out!!
Watch documentaries on subjects you know nothing about. Not only will the content evoke curiosity in you, you’ll be amazed at how your own curiosity is cultivated when you watch someone else following theirs!
Read books that foster curiosity, perhaps even stories where the author or characters are themselves following a path of inquiry. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Anne Dillard was a wonder-changer for me, as I witnessed the travels of her own curious mind and questing heart.
Put yourself in contexts of wonder and creativity, and then soak it in. The beauty and wonder of God’s creation is an obvious and superlative place to start, from your backyard to a mountain trail. But contexts of wonder and beauty are all around, evidenced through both God’s creativity and the creativity of his human images. Cultivate curiosity through the appreciation of art and poetry. Drink in local music venues. See the world differently through someone’s camera lens or sketch pad.
And a bonus practice: Perhaps along the way, you’ll discover a new love. Lean into it. Maybe it’s nature photography or poetry writing. It could be pottery or hiking. Follow the white rabbit and see where wonder takes you.
When we are curious, the world opens up to us. A little curiosity goes a long way. And as we cultivate curiosity, I think we get closer, just a little, to the kind of people God created us to be. Curious wonderers wandering his world, awed in the landscape and grand scope of his creation, and of ours.
Those who’ve stopped learning should stop leading. Only someone who keeps learning can be trusted with leadership. This is especially true in the church.
A friend of mine and elder at a former church, himself a doctor, reflected on his responsibility for ongoing learning this way: “One year without professional development, and I’m behind. Two years without updated learning, and I’m dangerous. Three years, and I’m a fraud.” This insightful aphorism stuck with me.
I’m taking the month of May to reflect on some lessons learned in my now 20 years of full-time vocational ministry. Be Always Learning is Lesson #7 of 20 I’m sharing.
Ongoing, intentional learning is critical to the sustainability, vibrancy and effectiveness of ministry. As a leader, as a pastor and as a Christian, I must make learning part of my everyday life, as well as engaging more intense learning experiences on a regular basis (a class, a mentoring weekend, a seminar). How do I do that?
Here’s 5 ways I keep learning central in my life.
Read, lots. I practice the maxim: Never be without a book. And so I never am. I have books stashed all over, and I’m reading constantly. And now with the availability of e-books and audio, reading is more portable than ever.
Cultivate curiosity. Learn broadly, cultivating curiosity about the natural world, history, innovation, business, health, politics, poetry, etc, as well as your own field of study. On top of reading, it’s amazing what you can learn from YouTube, TEDtalks, and Netflix, too. And in simple conversation with a new friend.
Resist easy answers or glib explanations. Always ask “why?” Dig deep. Let your assumptions be questioned, and question other’s assumptions, too (graciously!). One of the ways learning slips away is when we rest too easily in the pat or accepted answers, even answers we ourselves established long ago.
Be teachable! Matt Keller believes that “The Key to Everything” is teachability, and I think he’s spot on. Teachability is central to this whole post, but I include it here as an attitude that must be nurtured so we don’t become learning resistant, especially when we become more successful or knowledgeable.
Based on what I’ve observed, creeping burn out or diminishing effectiveness in pastoral leadership can often be traced to a lack of fresh learning in the life of the pastor. You can tell when a leader is learning, because they are bursting with new ideas, passionately sharing what they are reading, hearing, or reflecting upon. You can’t go five minutes without hearing something about their latest questions, inspiring authors or intriguing conversations. On the other hand, you can see the signs of halted learning when leader simply recycles material, lacking freshness in their teaching and vibrancy in their vision.
If I want to keep leading, I need to keep learning.
Why is learning so critical to leadership?
How can you cultivate more learning in your life?
Want to catch up on the first six lessons? Here they are: