The Extraordinary Gift of Being Curious | Santa Fe Monthly - April 10, 2013

'...the real journey of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes'

Poet and humanitarian Samuel Ullman once said, “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old when they desert their ideals.” There is a great deal of truth in this statement. We also find that one of the ways some of us desert our ideals as we age is that we stop being curious about life.

So a particularly valuable step—especially for those of us who weren’t born yesterday—is to stop pretending we know or have done it all and start turning our attention toward what we do not yet know and have not yet done. In this way we believe the next stage of our lives can become a real-time adventure in which each moment is an opportunity for greater wonder and joy.

Yes, we invite you to start being really curious about life again. After all, if it were not for the fact that we were once curious about the things we did not know and could not yet do, we would not have learned all of the things we now know and can do. But let’s also be curious about our inner selves. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” We believe this one shift in focus will serve you extraordinarily well in the years ahead.

Steps To Being Curious

Change The Way You Look and What You Do—Begin with something easy and within your control. Change something about the way you look, the way you cut or wear your hair or the color or style of the clothes you wear. Change the route you drive to your home, store or office; what you do for entertainment; the kind of exercise you do or the food you eat. Yes, experiment with your physical appearance and some of your habits and notice the impact this change has on your relationship to yourself and your life.

Change Your Perspectives—Try seeing life from someone else’s point of view. Imagine what the things you do say and feel every day sound, look and feel like to others, younger people, peers, those who are more or less fortunate than you, people who don’t speak your language, and those who are older than you. In short, become a student of life again. Experience the familiar from a fresh perspective and you will find that life no longer feels as automatic and ordinary.

Change Your Physical Environment —Change the color of the room you are in or the layout of the furniture in your home or home. Travel to other parts of the city or even a different part of the world. Take up a new hobby or a different sport that requires you to go to new places and interact with different people. And above all, get involved in what you are doing and if your inner critic arises, tell it to sit back down for this is your life and your goal is enjoyment and learning not perfection.

Be Curious About The Way Things Work—Take courses, take things apart and learn how to put them together, watch, observe, understand! And we are not just talking about physical objects, pay attention to the less tangible phenomenon. Notice what happens between the notes in a musical composition. Pay attention to what happens in the space between you breaths, between your laughter and your tears, between this moment, and this one.

Take a page from the French novelist, Marcel Proust who suggested that “the real journey of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Excerpted from Do Not Go Quietly, A Guide To Living Consciously and Aging Wisely For People Who Weren’t Born Yesterday