The Power of Curiosity as a Motive Force

Curiosity is a powerful force. It is no wonder that people fear it. It is also not surprising that those who have wanted to dominate, to remain in authority  over the centuries, have been wary of this force rearing its head.

They have tried nipping it in the bud with tales of warnings and punishments against those who dare give in to and feed their curiosities.

Tales of tasting the forbidden fruit of knowledge and looking inside Pandora’s box. Such tales end the same way, hell for the curious!

“God fashioned hell for the inquisitive”.

“From this disease of curiosity are all those strange sights exhibited in the theatre.”

Saint Augustine, Confessions

And yet, curiosity thrives on. So much so that humans have ventured into space. We continue to explore uncharted territories all the time. Curiosity seems to be an unquenchable force!

Curiosity Mars Rover

Curiosity is neither inherently evil nor inherently good. It just is. It is what you do with your curiosity that matters. This means that it can be a driving force for good if you have discipline and control your curiosity.

If your curiosity is undisciplined and you let it drive your actions on a whim, instead of first thinking about the consequences, then it can be driving force for destruction.

So then, it pays to look into this subject. Let’s run with the definitions of three categories of curiosities found in the book Curious by Ian Leslie.

  • Diversive curiosity — “attraction to everything novel”.
  • Empathic curiosity– “curiosity about the thoughts and feelings of other people”.
  • Epistemic curiosity — “quest for knowledge and understanding”, “deeper, more disciplined and effortful type of curiosity”, “wide ranging desire for intellectual and cultural exploration”.

Diversive Curiosity

All children are attracted to novel things. It is in their nature to want to learn about everything they see, hear, touch, taste and smell. This is what leads to their development. And this is what makes infants and toddlers put their toys in their mouths or hit you with them.

This is what makes them poke you in the eye or pull your hair. The bizarre actions of babies and kids are just their way of exploring and making sense of the world around them.

And through it all, diversive curiosity drives them onward.

Diversive curiosity can help you discover and experience new things, expand your horizons and get you out of your comfort zone. It can also get you in trouble, introducing distractions in life that derail you from your priorities.

Cat with Curiosity

It can be the call of procrastination. Do the click-baits of social media sound familiar?

As a writer, curiosity can lead you to a story idea of a lifetime. Or it can be a daily battle to keep it in check, to keep distractions caused by curiosity at bay when trying to focus on that one thing that you want to finish.

For instance, it is easy to give in to the temptations of research in the middle of writing a scene for a novel. An innocent-sounding question arises within the mind and itches to be answered. You open up the browser and before you know you are drowning in a hundred open tabs. One rabbit hole leads to the next. Next thing you know the day has come to an end and the writing is still waiting to be done. Damn you, diversive curiosity!

Diversive curiosity gone unchecked has the power to derail the career of the undisciplined mind.

Sometimes it may be justified to do research on the question that arose in your mind.  But every time you give in to diversive curiosity, keep in mind the goal for which you gave in. Do not be baited into wandering off-track, away from your goal, never to return…

Empathic Curiosity

People have many motivations for gossiping, some of these motivations are not so innocent. Rumours have been known to ruin reputations and end careers.

But sometimes people gossip simply because of the desire to learn about the thoughts and feelings of other people. Trying to understand human nature is part of human nature.

Understanding human behaviour, actions and motivations behind them enables one to better judge them. It lets you tell the good ones from the bad ones. It helps you to tell the difference between those who are simply making an error of knowledge, an honest mistake, from the ones who are willfully dishonest, ignorant and evasive.

This sets the course for one to have mutually beneficial dealings and relationships with the good ones and steer clear of the bad ones. And in this, emphatic curiosity is essentially a wonderfully selfish trait!

Epistemic Curiosity

Epistemic curiosity drives the desire to learn in a smarter way by prioritizing. Dedication to lifelong learning is how a human being improves and moves forward rather than stagnating in their pursuits and life.

This is the curiosity that requires one to be disciplined and active rather than whimsical and passive in what one explores. And this is the curiosity that drives one to discipline their attraction to everything novel.

Curiosity Owl

Diversive curiosity makes one want to learn anything and everything new that they come across that holds the slightest interest to them. It inspires one to learn, but it can spread one thin if left unchecked. 

Epistemic curiosity keeps diversive curiosity in check and keep one’s priorities straight, keep the hierarchy of one’s values in check. 

Diversive curiosity might make an artist go “Oooh, wouldn’t it be cool if I learned all the apps in the Adobe Creative Cloud! Imagine the things I could do!”.

Epistemic curiosity should make one go “Yes but what do I actually need to learn to meet my actual creative goals? What should I learn in great depth? What should I invest my time in? Is going down this path of learning going to help me achieve my goals?”

In this sense, diversive and emphatic curiosities are the heart and epistemic curiosity the brains of the operation!

I certainly do not have the time to divulge in learning every new and interesting thing that catches my attention. If I am distracted by diversive curiosity, I eventually become unhappy and frustrated. I usually end up being unable to focus on any one thing, jumping around from one thing to the next, constantly distracted.

To be happy, I need to be productive. To be productive I need to be purpose-driven according to the hierarchy of my values.

This means that I need to be selective about what I spend my time on, what curiosities I give the time of the day and which curiosities I nip in the bud.

Diversive and empathic curiosities can be strong forces of distraction.

They can make a person surf the net for hours and get into social media wars in the attempt to get inside another person’s head. Even if they don’t deserve your empathic curiosity.

Since their motivation might not go down as deep as you have given them credit for. Sometimes the motivations of people are as shallow as they appear and there are no onion layers to peel away.

Ultimately giving in to temptations of curiosity every time it rears its head can start to feel impulsive and out actions out of our control.

Be ruthlessly selective.

This is one way to combat such temptation in the age of social media and apps. If said social media actions, conversations with people and usage of apps are helping you further your goals or give you the pleasure of social interaction, they stay. If not, purge them from your devices and schedules. 

The exception being cat and dog videos. Watch those to your heart’s content!

In the age of the internet, it is easy to find answers to your questions. But it is also easy to get lost in all the information that is available to us.

That is why it is important to know exactly what you want to know before diving into the cyberspace of information to retrieve the answers. And coming back up out of this maze of information for a breath of air, before you are lost for time.

The internet can give us answers to many questions but not to the question of what it is that you want to know, learn or achieve.

Diversive and emphatic curiosities will help you explore and discover what you want to learn and what your interests are and epistemic curiosity will help you sustain and actualize said interests towards a productive goal.

On the other hand, some people need help being more curious. In that case, don’t forget to ask why of anything and everything. And don’t forget to have a to-read list longer than you can ever hope to finish.

Keep your diversive and empathic curiosities at bay while feeding and fueling your epistemic curiosities. Then you will be in charge of your curious nature rather than your curious nature being in charge of you. Control you curiosity but don’t let others try to control it for you!

And when you are in control of your curious nature, you are ready to use your curiosity to achieve wonderful things!

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