Adult: Please pick your toy up from the floor and put it away in your toy box. Toddler: Why? Adult: Because someone might trip over it. Toddler: Why? Adult: Because sometimes people don’t see things on the floor and they trip. Toddler: Why do they trip? Adult: Because they step on things that shouldn’t be there. Toddler: Why do they step on things? Adult: Because they didn’t see it. Toddler: Why? Adult: Because they didn’t look. Toddler: Why didn’t they look? Adult: Because they forgot to look. Toddler: Why? Adult: Would you like a piece of candy? Toddler: Yes! Adult: OK. Let’s get you a piece of candy. Toddler: Why?
Oy, their curiosity never ends! And that’s a good thing.
As children, we have a natural curiosity about everything, and our tendency is to keep asking “Why?” until we reach a satisfactory answer. But somewhere between those toddler years and adulthood many of us lose our sense of curiosity. We stop asking important questions, stop learning, stop finding wonder in the small things, and stop ourselves from dreaming too big.
Curiosity requires that we be actively interested in something, someone, or someplace, and helps us stay open to the unfamiliar. Life is generally better when we stay curious, as it improves our overall quality of life in several ways.
First, studies show that the more curious we are about a subject, the faster we learn. It’s like a primer for our brains and we absorb information more quickly. Our curiosities often lead us to our true calling and/or careers. The renowned psychology professor George Lowenstein believed that curiosity is not just a mental state, but an emotional state that pushes us to complete gaps in our knowledge and become more successful.
Second, a study conducted at the University of Buffalo found that the degree to which we are curious directly relates to our personal growth opportunities, as well as our connection to others. When we’re curious we naturally reach out to others, and this opens the doors for other good things. After all, our quality of life is only as good as the quality of our relationships.
Third, the Academic Journal found that curiosity is our pathway to well-being and meaning in life. Exploring new ideas keeps life interesting, and pushes us to find satisfaction. This brings about true happiness.
Lastly, studies show that curiosity keeps our brains active and alert. This is particularly helpful in preserving our mental faculties as we age. This means it is every bit as important for older people to stay curious as it is for the toddler. The mind, regardless of age, is like a muscle—the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
Let’s learn an important life lesson from our toddlers—never be afraid to ask “Why?” or to let our imaginations run freely. Staying curious is essential for a happy life.