Kids are relentless in their urge to learn and master. As John Medina writes in Brain Rules, “This need for explanation is so powerfully stitched into their experience that some scientists describe it as a drive, just as hunger and thirst and sex are drives.” Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it. Great learners retain this childhood drive, or regain it through another application of self-talk. Instead of focusing on and reinforcing initial disinterest in a new subject, they learn to ask themselves “curious questions” about it and follow those questions up with actions. Carol Sansone, a psychology researcher, has found, for example, that people can increase their willingness to tackle necessary tasks by thinking about how they could do the work differently to make it more interesting. In other words, they change their self-talk from This is boring to I wonder if I could…?
You can employ the same strategy in your working life by noticing the language you use in thinking about things that already interest you—How…? Why…? I wonder…?—and drawing on it when you need to become curious. Then take just one step to answer a question you’ve asked yourself: Read an article, query an expert, find a teacher, join a group—whatever feels easiest.
Changing Your Inner Narrative