Anyone who’s read resumes and cover letters has seen all of these “best traits” listed before. Things like: detail oriented, problem solver, multitasker, and more. They’ve been used so much that they’re boring and as a reader, I will skip over them. They no longer mean anything.
Often, these descriptions aren’t traits as much as they’re behaviors. Behaviors can be taught. Traits may change throughout someone’s life, but they’re not really something you can teach.
To me, excellent traits support skills, behaviors, thoughts, and both professional and personal success. They’re the bedrock on which your various abilities and skills are built.
Curiosity has done more to improve my life and performance than any of my other traits. Let’s take a look at how incredible curiosity actually is.
Curious People Are Lifetime Learners
This one is my favorite. I have learned so many things just because I was curious about them. I cook, I make soap, I garden, I make brooms, I weave baskets, I’ve written and published 2 books, I’ve bound books, I crochet, I knit, and I’m getting into hand sewing next.
My life is so much richer just from being curious.
And beyond that, continuing to learn as an adult is actually protective against degenerative conditions in the brain.
It keeps you smarter and sharper and more agile as you age.
It makes you a happier and better employee. It encourages you to keep seeking new avenues in your industry and to develop related skills that support your specialties.
There is no single part of my life that curiosity has not touched, and almost entirely for the better. It’s a fantastic trait to explore and foster.
Curious People Show Increased Empathy
When we’re curious about other people, we engage with people from outside our own social group and expand our worlds. We explore other cultures.
We often struggle with relating to the experiences, feelings, and motivations of people that have very different life experiences from our own. When we approach other points of view with curiosity, it increases our ability to engage in genuine empathy.
Engaging in empathy with others helps us learn, strengthens individual relationships and community well-being, and makes us more pleasant to be around.
Curious People Score Higher in Openness
This one is similar to empathy, but involves more than just people. Openness is the ability to accept and explore and understand new concepts. That’s more than just statistics or studies. It includes things like visual design, art, music, social situations, professional options, everything.
As someone whose identity is very much about art and creativity, an education and a career in business would never have occurred to me when I was a young adult.
Because I’m curious, my world continually expands. It expanded to include an MBA and a career in marketing. If I come to a point in my life in which I face a change in direction, I have more options to choose from, just because I’m curious.
Curious People Feel Happier
Learning new things has been the key to leading a rich life for me. Coming to understand a new concept, that “aha moment,” is so satisfying. The process of getting there is fun. It’s play. Study and work with no consequences for failure is essentially play.
It’s not just me, either. Studies show that curious people are happier, more satisfied with life, and experience lower levels of anxiety.
In fact, our brains release the neurotransmitter dopamine in response to encountering new things. This rewards exploration and learning as a behavior.
When I feel myself in a rut, frustrated, directionless, it really helps me to start learning about something new.
Curiosity Means Better Collaboration
When you’re curious, you tend to take new ideas onboard and explore them instead of outright dismissing them.
If I don’t understand something, I ask. If I’m struggling with someone’s point of view, I’m eager to hear from them about it. If a colleague is suggesting a surprising shift in strategy, I want to know why.
This means that curious people are better able to take ideas and synthesize them, build off of them, and accept feedback and suggestions. We actually want to learn how to work better, succeed more, and drive achievement. I never want to be the smartest person in the room. If I am, I’m not learning.
People talk about curiosity as though it’s something we lose as we become adults, but for some of us that’s not the case. We continue to be curious throughout our lives, even though that trait may become more or less evident at times.
If you’re interested in encouraging curiosity in your employees, try coaching instead of scolding, develop a work environment that accepts and encourages creativity, and model curiosity yourself. Innovation comes from curiosity. The top performers in any field embrace it.