Today, I want to challenge you to be radically curious. First, let’s define what radically curious even means. In my personal life, I find that if I’m curious about everything, from what’s going on with me internally and what’s going on in the world around me, that I seem to have more joy in my life. My life has less drama, and I have a lot more fun. In a nutshell, radical curiosity is a willingness to continually be curious about yourself, your thoughts, feelings, biases, and everything in between. I liken it to a childlike state of wonder that you hold for yourself.
Proactive Versus Reactive
Let’s take a look at proactive versus reactive. I’m a huge fan of Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He talks a lot about the difference between being proactive and reactive. In both proactive and reactive, you have a stimulus. Some situation has just happened. You are having an experience. In a reactive person, there is an instant response to the stimulus. You blow up, you’re happy, you’re sad, you’re upset, you’re not upset. Whatever the response, it’s instant. In a proactive person, let’s say you experience the exact same stimulus. However, instead of having an instant reactive response, you give yourself space and time. You breathe into it, notice what’s going on, and look at what your options are in response to that stimulus. Your response comes after this space.
This is important, this space between the situation and your response, you can become radically curious.
Let’s Start with an Example
My husband rides motorcycles and has for years now. I’m hyper vigilant about two-wheelers. On this particular day, I was driving down the road, and there’s this little Vespa, and driving next to me and behind the Vespa is this giant Cadillac Escalade. The Escalade was right up on the Vespa, riding it practically. I was having a bit of a reaction to it, even though it had no impact on my life. And still I see this situation, and I don’t like it.
To be clear, the Vespa and the Escalade didn’t seem to be having an issue with each other. It was me who was starting to feel mad. I started thinking judgmental thoughts in my head like, Who drives like that? I was getting so wound up about something that had nothing to do with me. It was partly because my husband rides a motorcycle, and I don’t like the thought of someone driving up on him. However, somehow, this wasn’t the real issue. I took some time when I got to my office to shut the door, lay on the floor, and breathed into what I had just seen.
I realize that the issue of respect is really big. I felt it was so disrespectful to drive like that when one person has so much more power, and one person has so little. If something had happened, the Vespa would have been destroyed, whereas the Escalade would have been relatively safe. Then I realized there were some situations in my own life where I had let some boundaries be crossed. I was feeling like the Vespa. This experience gave me an opportunity to get not only curious about my feelings but also get curious about ways I could take better care of myself.
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Radical Curiosity in Action
By being radically curious about my own internal experience in this situation, it allowed me to get curious about my own life and issues. I sat with the life situations that were impacting me, without me even realizing it. I realized that there were some situations in my own life, where I had let some boundaries be crossed. I was feeling like the little Vespa. And it gave me an opportunity to not only get curious about my experience but also to get curious about what were ways I needed to take better care of myself. Boundaries were being crossed, and I needed to be radically curious about solutions that would work for me in my life.
There’s a spectrum between safety and threat. When a situation happens, it comes into our brain through all of our senses. It immediately goes through the filters in our brain, and we suss out what is most important to notice because our brains can’t manage all that information at once. We filter out what’s most important based on past experiences, our goals, our hopes, and dreams. In the end, something gets shot out of that filtering system, which helps us decide where this fits on the spectrum of safety to threat.
Are you safe, or is there a threat to be concerned about? If there is a threat, how do you take care of yourself? This is where fight, flight, freeze, or freak-out comes in. The spectrum of safety and threat is important because when you’re feeling threatened, you batten down the hatches and everything in your brain shuts down. All you can do is react. If you find yourself being reactive a lot, that’s an opportunity to figure out what you’re being threatened by. Breathe into it, calm down your brain, and chill out a little. Become radically curious and think about the situation.
It’s hard to be in a state of threat or fear, and curious at the same time. You can only be curious when you feel safe. When you don’t feel safe, find a way to breathe into the feeling. You could take deep belly breaths to calm yourself, which will slow your brain down. Get into a calm mindset.
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Back to the Example
So back to the Escalade and the Vespa. After I got to my office and I laid down on the floor and closed my eyes, and I start taking some breaths, deep breaths so that I could calm down my whole internal system. I had all these chemicals, racing in my mind, racing through my body. As I breathed, I began to slowly get into a calm mindset. It’s from this space of calming myself down and getting to a place where my amygdala stops firing, and my brain can start to assess and get curious.
Your Most Powerful Tool
Notice what is going on. Breath is likely the most powerful tool you can use in your life. By breathing, you can bring yourself back into an open mindset and assess what is really going on inside of you. An open mindset is that space of safety where you can start to become radically curious. Breathing is a tool you can carry with you every day; you are probably using it right now. Also, conscious breathing will help you keep yourself calm. Your ability to calm yourself through breathing can support you being more proactive. Ultimately, breathing helps you to be curious as it helps you to feel safe.
The invitation to you is to push through annoyances, frustrations, and anxieties. To breathe into them instead of reacting and challenge yourself to be radically curious. Cheers.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What is something in your life you want to get radically curious about?
- How do you practice breathing to calm your brain down, so you can get curious?
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