We’ve all been around them, kids who ask question after question after question. You have to wonder why? Why so many questions? Why from kids of a certain age? Just why? Why?
Well, the truth is we could and probably should learn something from these questioning youngsters. They are engaged in the simplest form of learning., seeking information from those who have it. Unfortunately, we adults don’t always have the correct answer to some of those innocent questions.
Curiosity is simply the desire to know something, the desire to learn.
As adults we sometimes turn off our inquisitiveness, we turn off our desire to learn. There are several reasons for this, none of them good, but some worse than others.
In this era of the Internet, 24/7 news and multiple voices on any and every topic; we often find ourselves in information overload. Too much information is just as bad as too little. With dozens or hundreds of opinions on any and every topic, how do we hear them all? Digest them all? Find the “right” or acceptable answer, fact, position or explanation.
The simple answer is that we can’t. Not every issue, question or problem will have one and only one perfect answer or solution. It’s not the result that overwhelms us; it’s the overload of facts, details and just noise about everything. And it’s everywhere, all the time!
Just last week, I wanted to smoke a brisket on my friend’s new electric smoker. I asked the Internet: “How to smoke a brisket on an electric smoker?” Dozens of answers popped up, a lot of them with the same five-step process. But I’m Internet savvy. I knew to read the comment section for feedback from actual users, and sure enough, the “professional” advice had some holes in it. Once I read the methods advocated by actual backyard smoking veterans, I had some real insight into how to go about the process. The brisket was great, by the way.
So, information overload can kill our curious nature. That’s one problem.
The next one is similar but is more about us than about all that information. We simply don’t have either the time or the energy to take on every question that pops up before our eyes. Once again, the Internet shows the way. How many times have you been searching for something on the Web, when another question pops up and you chase after it.
We’ve all just wandered the Internet; web-surfing can be enjoyable; but not when it pulls us away from a search task we needed. Work distractions happen all the time; it’s how the search algorithms are built. The solution here is simple: don’t chase after information teasers. Know what information you are after and keep you focus narrow.
The third killer of our curious behavior is the worse.
Once we “know” something, we tend to ignore or ridicule arguments or information that would contradict what we “know.”
Now, there are certain facts we probably should accept; you can’t question everything, all the time.
I believe the Earth orbits the Sun and the Moon circles the Earth. Unless some gigantic scientific breakthrough occurs, I think we’re all good with those bits of knowledge. Also, I think we can reject those claiming the Earth is the center of the universe and the Moon is an alien spaceship.
But not all knowledge is quite so settled.
Do you remember growing up that we all knew ulcers were caused by stress? You might still believe that, but it’s not true. In 2005, researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for proving that ulcers were caused by bacterium and were treatable, even preventable with medication.
The fact that stress causes ulcers was wrong. Any guess how many people still believe that completely disproven fact to be true?
By not enshrining our knowledge as absolutely true be remain curious. We, hopefully, are open to new information, new reasoning, new facts.
Yes, some things are 100% true, until they’re not.
Let me try that again.
Yes, some things are true, will remain true, will not be disproven (probably).
I know it’s hard to accept that what we know to be true, real and enduring; just might not be. But the very essence of being curious is to be open to change. The kids know this inherently, which is why they are always asking: WHY?
A good lesson for adults to learn from the curious kids. Ask why at least once or twice a day, it’s good for you and good for keeping an open and curious mind.