Happy People All Have One Thing In Common: They Ask 'Dumb Questions'
One of the best pieces of advice anyone could ever give you is to never be afraid to ask "dumb questions."
If we wish to make the most out of life, we have to recognize and welcome the unfamiliar, regardless of how that makes us appear in front of others.
To borrow from Carl Sagan:
There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.
We've all heard something along these lines at some point or another, likely from a parent or teacher. And when it comes down to it, Sagan is absolutely right.
A thirst for knowledge is as much a marker of intelligence as the possession of it. And in the act of avoiding questions, we condone ignorance.
As Bruce Lee once stated:
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.
The happiest and most fulfilled people you'll find understand this notion better than anyone. They refuse to feel ashamed for being curious.
Thus, embrace your inborn desire to learn; it's a gift that will enrich your life in immeasurable ways.
Our existence in itself is one big question, so explore it from every angle.
Don't be dumb, keep asking "dumb questions."
Research shows many people have a tremendous fear of looking stupid, and it often prevents them from requesting help or asking vital questions.
We do this because we've been conditioned by society to feel embarrassed when we lack certain knowledge, sometimes even when it pertains to complex subject matter. And in the competitive and judgmental world we live in, it's difficult to admit when you don't know something.
But we should never feel stupid for seeking greater perspective.
As astrophysicist Jillian Scudder contends:
Society would be in a better place if we were less fearful of looking ignorant in the face of knowledge. Allow yourself to be curious and ask your questions. ...You don't need to be ashamed of not knowing things, especially things that people spend their lives learning about.
Simply put, you'd be far worse off (dumber) if you didn't ask "dumb" or "stupid" questions.
When we don't ask questions, we deny ourselves a deeper comprehension of the universe and our place in it. In the process, we feel less connected to others and increasingly unfulfilled.
Thus, instead of lambasting ourselves and others for such inquiries, we should celebrate the instinctive curiosity that comes with being human. Or, as Neil deGrasse Tyson once stated:
No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don't ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.
Curiosity is what keeps us moving forward, and maintaining it is the key to leading a fulfilling life.
Curiosity did not kill the cat.
Curiosity is an exponentially underrated trait. We often associate it with dimwitted individuals who impulsively jump into situations without contemplating the consequences. This is where the old saying, "curiosity killed the cat," comes from.
But the truth of the matter is, curiosity is the source of all that is good in our lives, and it should be encouraged.
As a species, humans have survived and thrived because of their innate inquisitiveness.
Throughout history, the greatest discoveries, inventions and innovations have been a product of curiosity. It's what pushed humans across the continents and oceans.
It's what drives us to reach out and connect with others. It's even what helps us fall in love -- when we find someone we're attracted to, we can't help but be curious about his or her personality, thoughts and desires.
Dr. Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology at George Mason University, has done extensive research on the subject of curiosity.
He contends we can consciously choose to be more inquisitive, and our brains help in this regard by releasing dopamine (the happy chemical) when we experience new things.
Speaking with Pacific Standard, he stated,
We are hardwired to experience a rush of excitement when something novel and unpredictable breaks through the routine.
Kashdan encourages people to be what he calls "curious explorers," or individuals who revel in uncertainty and perpetually hunt for new experiences and perspectives.
As he puts it:
When we experience curiosity, we are willing to leave the familiar and routine and take risks, even if it makes us feel anxious and uncomfortable. Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.
Accordingly, curious individuals often experience diminished levels of anxiety and depression.
When we accept and cultivate our inherent curiosity, it assists us in moving beyond fear and apprehension. In turn, we become intoxicated by novelty, and far more open-minded.
In other words, curiosity is the antithesis of apathy and makes all of us explorers in some way or another. It helps us find purpose and meaning by reinvigorating our passion for life and the world.
Perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt put it best when she said:
Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for any reason, turn his back of life.
So be fearlessly inquisitive and unabashedly curious, and you won't have wasted the limited amount of time you've been granted on this incredible planet.
Citations: Why Your Fear of Looking Stupid Is Making You Look Stupid (Time), Curiosity The Killer Catalyst (PS Mag), For a scientist there really is no such thing as a stupid question (The Conversation), 5 Benefits Of Being A Curious Person (Huffington Post), Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals Dopamine Serotonin Endorphins and Oxytocin (Huffington Post)