If it were not for my unyielding curiosity, I would not be thriving today. There have been days when I was so gripped with despair that I wondered if there was any reason to fight to see another day. I have sat alone, engulfed in tears, and clutching the last bits of my beliefs, confidence, and sanity together by a shoestring. I have almost succumbed to reality. But at some critical moment in each of those junctures in my life, curiosity has brought me through. Simple questions have the power to reshuffle my mental energy away from the darkness and into the light. What if this is happening for a reason? What if I wait to see if this too shall pass? What if I push on? These questions represent the critical corpus of what I refer to as courageous curiosity.
Curiosity is a fierce weapon of the mind. It is the chief foe of fear.
I locked in to the power of courageous curiosity when, nearly a year ago, I walked away from a successful career as a corporate attorney. Fear of the unknown had kept me at work that was only marginally enriching at best, and, at worst demoralizing. I was making six figures, enjoying great responsibility and professional esteem, and rapidly ascending up the corporate ladder with each successful deal. But inside, I knew my work was the ultimate "golden handcuffs." I was anxious each day as I prepared for work and struggled to maintain a fake chipper attitude through grueling 80-hour work weeks. The uneasy duality of being driven to excel at work I grew to detest was beginning to manifest itself in each area of my life. The "work hard, play harder" mantra I had embraced lost its motivational power for me. I wondered each day if I could make it through another day with my sanity intact. I was a tired, irritable, unhealthy, depressed mess.
It was not until I was momentarily sidelined from my regular fret-work-despair-distract-repeat life cycle by a gnarly toothache that my courageous curiosity could take hold. There I sat, in the dentist's chair for an emergency appointment oddly rejoicing that I was about to have an immediate root canal because it meant I would be away from work for at least a day. I wondered, is this really all there is to my life? Aren't I worthy of happiness each day? Am I not I brilliant and brave enough to live the life of my dreams?
As the root canal progressed - and the happy gas was cranked up- more and more questions filled my head. I progressed from open-ended questions about my resolve to leave the job into more defined questions about what I would do with my life when I left work: What criteria will I use to select the books I read? Which native cuisines will I enjoy the most on my travels? How many swimsuits will I bring with me on my maiden backpacking voyage? Will I do yoga each morning or will I mix in Pilates and Tai Chi too? How will I describe myself to others I meet? What will be the best volunteer activities for a reformed lawyer like me? These questions each opened new avenues of imagination and visualization for me. I was hooked on the questions and freed from the fear.
Just like that, I had thought myself out of my dreary job and into the life of my dreams. I no longer feared the uncertainty of leaving my job because the questions I had pondered supplanted my concerns with optimism. The visions of the awesome future I imagined gave me the courage to take the leap towards the life of my dreams. Thank God I had that root canal because it opened the door to the courageous curiosity I needed to break free from the golden handcuffs of my job. There was always courage inside of me, but I needed to submit to my curiosity for it to truly manifest itself.
It takes courageous curiosity to wonder in the midst of signs all around you that things are going horribly and nothing is worth believing in. Remember this scene from The Matrix? It shows us courageous curiosity in a nutshell.
In order to win the battle of life, which is essentially a battle of actualizing your true purpose versus who the world tells you to be, you have to indulge curiosity by asking "why am I here?" When life is most difficult, it is reflexive to ignore curiosity, to remain fixed on what "is." But this is a trap. Always center your mind on the questions which can lead you to a better outcome, and truer life experience, and a more ascendant understanding of reality and your destiny. Ask "how many ways will my destiny be greater than this" and watch a more abundant destiny manifest itself. Be curious. Be courageous. Be free!
***Please share this post with your loved ones and tweet me at aplusashley the most courageous question you pondered today. Use the hashtag #theashleyway.
Soundtrack to this post:
Fall Down the Rabbit Hole:
Read this article on courage.
Listen to the healing sound therapy of Jennifer Nesbit Holt.
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