Updated: Dec 7, 2021
"Alongside that, there's a more intimate aspect of curiosity: the journey of self-curiosity.", wrote Vas Narasimhan, CEO Novartis in his 'unboss' blog asking his employees to be curious about mindset. As I tried to unpack these wonderfully sounding words, I went down a rabbit hole of another set of linked questions. What does "Self-Curiosity" mean? Is it possible to embark on this journey midway as we are moving ahead with our lives? Why is the journey even required?
What does "Self Curiosity" mean?
Let us start with the word "curiosity," which comes from the Latin word curiosus, meaning careful, diligent, inquiring. The diligent human inquiry has mostly been associated with our quest to understand the world, nature, and the universe. The curiosity which made Aristotle categorize objects of human apprehension, which drove Vasco De Gama to the shores of India, and which lead Galileo to point his telescope in the sky to find out that Earth is not at the center, has also given humans a meaning of their existence.
We, humans, have intellectually and physically flourished though our curiosity to understand our surroundings. However, with "Self-Curiosity" the needle start pointing internally, and we go back to age-old questions, "Who am I?", "What do I want?" "What is my purpose?". The questions which previously belonged to the area of religion are now becoming an individual responsibility.
Is it possible to embark into this journey mid-way?
Possible, though challenging considering our societal dispositions. We are intrinsically curious beings; however, our current education system forces us on the path of specialized knowledge, many times in isolation, to make us capable of earning a living. The innocent curiosity of the child as they take their first step somehow morphs into the study of established structures in later life. The vision of a star-filled sky, or the exquisite form of animal species, no longer evokes a sense of inner spontaneity, but the potentiality of not finding the right job does keep people awake at night.
What we are missing is a walk in the school of life, where education imparts an intimate sense for the power, beauty, and structure of ideas and not highlight the societal constraints. We need to connect with our curiosity of external to kindle the inner journey. In our industrialized consumeristic society, the motivations to ask the right questions are scarce, and with most of institutionalized religions failing us, we hardly trust anyone with defined answers; the journey of self-curiosity becomes even more individualistic, challenging, and necessary.
Why is the journey even important?
In the Western world, as physical health is getting better, mental health is declining (around 70% increase in mental health issues from 2008 to 2017). The challenges we are facing in the 21st century are more internal than external as it was in past centuries. However, we can use the same tool which Aristotle, Galileo, and Vasco De Gama used and point them internally to undertake of a journey of Self-Curiosity.
The ancient Greek aphorism inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delhi commands "Know Thyself," believing that by knowing our-self we will know whatever is there to know. Undertaking this journey at the primary level, we will understand our behaviors, patterns, and values; and at a deeper level, probably our purpose of existence. The gifts from this journey can empower us to shape our individual and collective reality as we live from the center of our being.
What is required to undertake this journey is unlearning, courage, and resilience. I am inspired to explore it further, and you?
Thank you, Vas! You have started something here!
Deepak Bansal, a philosopher, engineer, & entrepreneur, is a founder of MQ Learning. He is passionate about integrating logic, relations, and human values for meaning driven personal and professional development.