This is a sad truth. Most millennials I know are either bored or stressed with respect to their jobs.
One of the hardest lessons I learned after graduating college is that no one is going to force you to stay curious. If we are to maintain a sharp intellect and desire to learn, we have to make it happen ourselves.
It has been said many times that higher education extends our youth: those sweet years spent poring over books and sweating over words end up being some of the most mentally rigorous years of our lives. Also some of the best.
But what if we can stay curious, no matter what our jobs are? What if, despite the challenges that we face to pay the bills, we can keep even just a sliver of that youthful curiosity that was once our sole occupation?
The thing I love about staying curious is that it keeps our options open. Maybe we don’t have to be bored or stressed forever. Maybe we don’t have to feel stuck. If we continue to hone our ability to learn, then possibilities increase.
6 Ways to Stay Curious (despite your job)
1) Read quality work, selectively.
Let me be blunt: there is a lot of crap out there. I know, because I’ve written some of it. What we need is not more words; we need the right ones. The ones that give us life and inspiration. The ones that lead us where we want to go.
I’ve always been careful with magazine subscriptions, because I fear they will eventually pile up and collect dust somewhere in our house. But last month I finally took the plunge and subscribed to the print version of The New Yorker. Many of my favorite authors contribute to it, and reading their work sharpens my own writing. Find your New Yorker.
2) Explore new places.
I’ve noticed that I lose my curiosity and passion for learning when everything I see is familiar. There’s nothing in my routine that sparks that sense of adventure that I love so much.
Therefore, I’m a big proponent of travel, though I don’t think international travel is necessary for everyone. So whether you explore your home country or just wander through a new neighborhood, stepping out of the familiar is likely a good thing.
3) Exchange stories with the people in your life.
Storytelling is not the same as rambling; it requires the succinct construction of a narrative that (hopefully) delights the listener. And, listening to stories can be a challenge for many of us as well. We have to ask questions, empathize, use our imagination.
Exchanging stories not only builds relationships, but also helps us to step aside and look at ourselves from another perspective. A good occasional exercise, if you ask me.
4) Commit to creativity.
The term “creative” has become a noun, indicating a professional. But, though to varying degrees of financial success, we are all creative. Cultivating our innate creativity takes time and intentionality. Despite the world’s desperate need for human creativity, not all of us are in positions where our own creativity is on demand.
To confront this, we have to make a point of practicing creative pursuits, whether they are in demand or not. One of the major reasons why I started blogging was to force myself to create content. Returning to this place again and again has kept my creative pursuits at the forefront of my priorities. I’m glad that I write so much more than just emails now.
5) Seek the greats.
Traditionally, artists learned their craft by imitating their forebears and studying under the masters. We, too, need people in our lives to inspire us. We ache to be challenged– not by corporate deadlines and un-empathetic bosses– but by those who desire success for our sake. Seeking those individuals, whether they are friends we know or experts we only admire, can build our motivation to learn and improve.
Curiosity is awakened when we see something that fascinates us but that we cannot figure out immediately. I’ve always been drawn to those who point me towards discovery, and have found those relationships to be quite fruitful.
6) Invite others in.
Sometimes the best motivation is someone who enjoys your curiosity. For example, we love feeding people, and their enthusiasm only further fuels our desire to make better food. Our friends know that they can count on us for a good meal, so we push ourselves to try new recipes and techniques to share with them.
When someone else is invested in our curiosity, we become more willing to indulge it. They give us purpose beyond simply fulfilling our own goal. And ultimately, we want our curiosity to benefit others.