Running businesses or being a leader is more often than not a test of character than it is about skills and experience (though those things are also very important).
It takes courage, it takes confidence, it takes authenticity, it takes empathy, it takes resilience, it takes passion; the list goes on. Each new book published from the latest successful entrepreneur or leadership guru points to another personal trait or quality you need.
These books or movements aren’t wrong, but they typically portray an ‘end point’. They often point to people who are already successful, tease out a particular character trait that can be attributed to that success, and then ask the rest of us to adopt those traits.
And therein lies the problem. How do we adopt those traits? How do we become more resilient? How do we grow our confidence?
By adopting a Curiosity Mindset.
Using Curiosity to cultivate vulnerability and build confidence
“Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. It wasn’t always a choice; we were born curious. But over time, we learn that curiosity, like vulnerability, can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protecting—choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability, and knowing over learning.” -Brené Brown, author of Dare to Lead: Brave Work.
Brené’s words are powerful. What she’s fundamentally challenging is the innate pressure that many people – especially leaders – face, that being to have all the answers. That fear of saying: “I don’t know,” or “I don’t have the answer to that,” for fear of being perceived as weak.
The reason why Brené uses curiosity to overcome that fear is that it gives people a way forward. “I don’t know but I’m going to learn.” “I don’t have the answer to that right now and I’m going to ask around until I find the answer.”
In short, you don’t need to ‘fake it til you make it’. By adopting the Curiosity Mindset, we are giving ourselves the tools to overcome the fear of not knowing, which both humanises us as leaders, and simultaneously helps build our confidence.
Why Curiosity is truly the key to self-development
When we break down the concept of self-development, we recognise that it’s fundamentally about learning. Or more specifically, it’s about learning something new; something we don’t yet know or understand.
However, in order to truly learn, we must first be curious. We must ask questions such as: “Why is this relevant? How does it apply to me? What else can I do with this information? What type of problems can it solve for myself or others?”
“Great leaders are curious. They want to try new things, experience the world and learn from others. Their curiosity fuels their intellect.” -Simon Sinek
Without curiosity, learning can quickly become a rote exercise, little more than simply memorising what has been taught. Curiosity is thus the glue that binds the information that we take in, to our actual self-development.
Curiosity is the tool of professional coaches
Those who have had the experience of working with mentors and professional coaches (business, leadership, or otherwise) will also recognise that the role of the coach is quite often to listen, and then to help you grow by asking you questions: “What are you stuck on? Why? What have you tried previously? Why did you do that? What did you learn from your experience?”
Reflecting on these questions and finding the answers is how many people achieve breakthroughs. However what many coaches do is simply apply the power of their Curiosity Mindset to help you grow.
But what if you could adopt the Curiosity Mindset for yourself?
The first 10 questions for self-development
If you’re not sure, try these 10 common questions on for size. Get your Curiosity Journal out, and start by answer the following questions:
- What is something that I’m stuck on today?
- Why am I stuck?
- How do I feel when I’m stuck?
- When was the last time I felt this way?
- Did I try anything specific that helped me get ‘unstuck’?
- What worked and what didn’t work?
- Why did it work, or why didn’t it work?
- Is there someone I can talk to?
- What else can I read, listen, or watch that might give me some insight?
- What can I do next?
For each question, it’s ok if your answer is: “I don’t know” but if you write this down, it must be followed up with the question: “What can I do to find out?”