Would curiosity really kill the cat?


When I think about it,  I’ve spent a lot of my life driven by fear.   I have a well practiced fear of failure,  fear of making the wrong choices,  fear of other people not liking me and my personal favourite fear of looking stupid.    Despite my older sister calling me stupid on a fairly regular basis,  I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding anything that could potentially put me on the stupid person pedestal.

Of course, there have been times I have let my guard down or been forced into a corner.  I have a distinct memory of being forced into a 2 on 2 game of basketball with my then boyfriend (now husband..and thank goodness, no more basketball is involved).   I can’t catch or throw a ball, so I knew my chances of nailing this game were pretty much zero and none…so I did what my fear told me to do,  I didn’t even try.  Because if you don’t try,  you can’t look stupid… right?   Far worse to look like I am putting effort in and demonstrate that I really couldn’t do it.  Everyone would just laugh.  Instead, I made it obvious I wasn’t putting any effort in and they just got annoyed at me.  And somehow that was easier.   But it has been forever etched in my mind as a moment of complete awkwardness, and a feeling I have continued to spend my life avoiding.

This week I was listening to a podcast interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (she wrote Eat, Pray, Love by the way),  talking about her new book Big Magic.  Yet again, I don’t really remember the actual contents of the conversation (details are not my thing)… but her sentiment is this…  we can either let fear or curiosity guide the choices that we make in life.   Fear limits us and fear is a great “shape shifter”,  appearing as self loathing or embarrassment or anger or a myriad of other things.    And whilst fear has some benefits (it helps to keep us protected)…generally speaking it is way too over protective… much like a helicopter parent.

But living a life full of curiosity,  is open and freeing.   It makes life interesting.  And I have realised,  really by accident,  that just recently I have become immensely curious and it has been extremely enjoyable.  I am loving reading, listening and exploring all these things about personal development and career and life.    And writing this blog has given me a perspective on my own life which is more curious than fearful.  Sometimes, it is like watching myself from an observer point of view rather than a participant.  And through that lens,  things don’t seem as crazy or sad,  they just seem interesting.   And I’m loving this new feeling it is all giving me.

If I think back at my basketball scenario.  And approached the game with a sense of curiosity rather than fear.   What would I have done differently?  I think I would have given it ago,  I would have got in there and been curious.  Perhaps asked the others for some advice or tips.  Thrown the ball,  observed where it went (straight over the roof perhaps?!) and then just learned from that for next time.  I probably would have laughed at myself.  Had fun.

So…when you approach a decision in your life today.  Ask yourself, am I making my choice out of fear, or out of curiosity… because curiosity very rarely actually kills the cat,  infact…maybe their instinctive curiosity is really why they have “nine lives”?!



2 thoughts on “Would curiosity really kill the cat?

  1. Ah yes, I think being driven by a fear of failure is common for many (and particularly among high achievers) and certainly for myself as a student previously. I also wonder if it is associated with a need to be seen to succeed (performance goal) rather than being motivated by a need to develop mastery over something? Certainly being motivated to approach success rather than being motivated to avoid failure would likely lead to a more enjoyable process. We also like to attribute success to ourselves and our failures to external causes so “giving up” is easy because then we can justify that “we didn’t really try anyway”. Our attributions for success can be stable/unstable, internal/external or controllable/uncontrollable and the good news is they can be changed and I know mine have changed for the better over the years 🙂

    • Hi Amanda…good points. It reminds me of the whole concept of enjoying the process rather than the end result. We do have a tendency in our culture to be very focused on that end result, hence the pressure on success rather than failure. Glad to know it is something we can change and we’re not just stuck with!!

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