blog, monthly theme

Latent Lollygagger: Curiosity and Problems

This month’s theme is Curiosity

Last week, I wrote about the relationship between gratitude and problems, that a gratitude practice is key for putting problems into context and getting a different perspective in order to solve them.

Curiosity, for me, is an extension of that idea.

Photo by Dominik VO on Unsplash

I’ll start right off by saying that being curious about a problem, or about what’s “wrong,” is incredibly difficult for me. It’s an edge I find myself pushing against often. As soon as I identify a problem, I want it to go away, I want to fix it. I don’t want to sit with it and be curious about it. Ew. Make it stop.

But.

Jumping right into fix-it mode, by default, defines the problem as wrong, as something bad, that needs to be corrected. Then, problem-solving becomes a means to an end, with the prime objective being “make it stop.” I would argue that rarely does that lead to the most creative, sustainable solution. For instance, as I’ve held my day job now for five years, there have been parts of it that I outgrow, that I no longer love. A quick and easy, “make it stop” solution would be to quit and find another job. Instead, by being curious about why I’m feeling dissatisfied has led to understanding more globally what makes me feel fulfilled, how to adapt my current role to include more of that and less of what doesn’t, and a feeling of safety that I can talk to my boss about this.

Perhaps in an alternate universe, or in your reality, such a process isn’t possible. But by spending just a little bit of time being curious, even if the solution remains to quit and find a new job, you’re less likely to find a job that will end up in the same place because now you know what to look for that’s different than what you’re currently doing.

It also separates the problem from me as a person: that there is nothing wrong with me for an evolving relationship with my job. Because the other solution would be something along the lines of changing my attitude, finding ways to “deal with” the parts I don’t like, buffering myself against triggers and frustrations. Sure, we all need to make sure we have the skills to confront challenges, but at some point, it’s also okay to realize that hey, I’m the kind of person who really gets triggered by x, and it’s not possible for me to become the kind of person who doesn’t get triggered by x, and so I need to find something that doesn’t include having to do x. I can say no to x.

Like a gratitude practice, being curious about a problem opens space around it. It allows us to detach from it. As a ruminator, I churn over solutions because nothing seems perfect. No solution, of course, is ever perfect. Being curious allows me to stop trying to force a solution, and time passes, and new information comes to light, and a way becomes clear. Curiosity opens my mind to the possibility that I can’t solve every problem by brute force alone.

This is the in-between place that is incredibly uncomfortable for me to exist in. Oh, I want boundaries and defined containers for everything. Not being able to solve a problem feels like a failure. Oh, look, something else to be curious about: why do I want to immediately solve this problem?

Taking a moment to ask “why?” automatically lightens my relationship with a problem and makes spending time to find a way through seem less daunting, less scary. Solving problems based on something other than fear then means I can trust my decisions much more easily, so I don’t feel like I’m second-guessing myself after I make a choice, and I can move forward.

How are you curious in your day-to-day life? Comment below or on my Facebook page.

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