From the moment I picked up To Kill a Mockingbird, my all-time favorite book, I was smitten by little Scout Finch. Little in stature but LARGE in curiosity. As I’ve aged I am now intrigued by her story even more. It’s her curiosity that speaks to me now. I am so fascinated by why some people are more wired to be curious than others.
It seems like it takes a special confidence to allow yourself the freedom to be curious. As children, we are born innately curious but few are courageous enough and confident enough to continue forth, not being side-tracked by the social norms surrounding us and forcing us to just “get in line and fall in place”.
I now have my own little Scout, also small in stature but LARGE in curiosity and confidence just like the original Scout Finch. I appreciate even more what she stands for. Can I continue to teach her that her curiosity and her confidence to be so, are her greatest assets? How can I not be another adult that snuffs out what makes children turn into great adults if we allow them space to be a child, full of curiosity?
Our lives for better or worse, are simply made up of the choices we make. It really is as simple as that. Will I choose to drink water every day or soda? That choice alone will decipher whether I am a healthy person or not. Will I choose to save a few bucks each day? If so, I will have money for retirement. Will I choose to get up each day and write? If not, then I am simply not choosing to practice each day to hone my craft and become a writer. Leaders of fortune 500 companies, doctors, professional athletes, presidents, teachers, musicians, and members of the armed forces – all are in their positions because they have learned to make good choices/good decisions. People are paid the big bucks for this crucial skill especially when displayed in difficult and stressful situations.
Studies show that Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Intellectual Curiosity, or Curiosity Quotient (CQ) along with Intelligence Quotient (IQ), are essential to making better decisions and choices. These are the essential skills employers are looking for in their future leaders.
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”Albert Einstein
Show me a curious person who’s willing to learn and improve, and I’ll show you a success story waiting to happen. When you’re curious, you’re passionate, and when you’re passionate you are driven to want to be your best. Your “antennae” are up to the things you love, to wanting to grow and learn more. This learning mindset positively affects other areas of your life not just your work performance.
Tomas Chamorro-Premusic writes:
“First, individuals with higher CQ are generally more tolerant of ambiguity. This nuanced, sophisticated, subtle thinking style defines the very essence of complexity. Second, CQ leads to higher levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition over time, especially in formal domains of education, such as science and art.” Click here for the research.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite takeaways are what Atticus (Scout’s father) teaches his children. He didn’t tell them what to think or how to act but instead provided opportunities for them to learn, to be “scouts”. He fed their curiosity.
Scout’s brother Jem heard a neighbor, Mrs. DuBose say something nasty about their father. In response, he ripped up her flowers to defend his father’s honor. Atticus saw this and took advantage of this teaching opportunity. He didn’t scold his children, instead he taught them. He taught Jem to see Mrs. DuBose differently, to understand why she might be cranky and ornery. So he made Jem spend time reading to Mrs. DuBose so he could get to know her better. In so doing he realized that her crankiness was due to her chronic back pain and loneliness. Atticus taught his children to look further. People aren’t what you first see, there is so much more to a person and we should understand them first before we think to judge them. Atticus could have easily not liked Mrs. DuBose for the nasty things she said about him but he chose to see things differently- to see her differently.
As adults we have choices, we no longer get to use excuses and blame others because we make our own choices. We are the curators of our life. Will we choose this day to sit in discomfort and make the harder choice? Will we be the ones to stand up and speak out in a group of peers, co-workers, community members, and follow what we know to be true? By speaking up we are actually buoying up others that probably have the same differing thoughts that we have. Others assume that they are alone. Not wanting to ruffle feathers or be ostracized from the group if their opinion isn’t accepted, they stay silent. This is called Pluralistic Ignorance.
Pluralistic Ignorance is simply assuming that you are the only one in a group that has a different opinion than the group. When in fact you’re probably not alone.
My daughter often comes to mind when I think of this cognitive bias. When she was just starting middle school she struggled in math. We scheduled a conference with her teacher so we could talk about how to best help her. The first thing her teacher said was, “I really don’t understand why you’re here. Reagan has a B. Usually, parents want teacher conferences when their student is failing. We weren’t there because of her grade. We were there because she had to spend hours most nights just to finish her homework. It frustrated her having to spend hours on the work she should be getting done in 30 minutes.
Her teacher went on to say, “Reagan is by far one of my best students and it’s not because of her grades. Reagan participates in class. She raises her hand and asks questions. She stays after class and asks me to help review concepts she has trouble with. Reagan will be just fine because she has the crucial tools of putting herself out there and searching for solutions. I am grateful for students like Reagan. Her courage and confidence to ask questions helps her classmates, who most likely have the same questions but aren’t comfortable enough to speak up.”
Just having one person in a group willing or courageous enough to speak up makes all the difference. Don’t assume you’re all alone. Challenge the group with a differing idea. It doesn’t mean either viewpoints are wrong. What it does is helps others to see their views differently and can make them reassess their views by showing the holes in them.
SOLDIER vs SCOUT
Just like little Scout Finch, can you be courageous enough to approach every person, every confrontation, every new opportunity to learn something new with a willingness to gather information first?
Every time you meet someone new or enter into a conversation ask yourself one question. Am I being a soldier right now or a scout?
Soldier Behavior is to see every event as a battle. A battle of will and strength. I need to protect my side. I need to attack, defend and win. My side is the right side and I will protect it at all costs.
Scout Behavior is to peer ahead, to assess the situation. A Scout looks for the obstacles. Where are the blindspots? What can I do to get further? What are the real problems ahead? What can I learn so I don’t fall into a trap or so that I can continue along on the path? A Scout is a gatherer of new information. What is really there? How accurately can I explain the facts? A Scout doesn’t have to win. A Scout’s goal is to learn and get better. A Scout is able to get further along in life. A Scout may lose the battle … but will WIN THE WAR.
“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”Scout Finch
Both mindsets are essential but need to be applied properly. When you are in a conversation does being the “winner” of the conversation apply? Is this the goal of a conversation? Isn’t the war the goal? Winning the war means accomplishing the bigger goal of connection, learning, growth, and friendship. Can we approach information with one simple question?
Maybe I’m wrong?
There is ZERO point in continuing a conversation until you yourself or the person you are communicating with thinks this….maybe, I’m wrong.
Motivated reasoning Is the tendency to find arguments in favor of conclusions we want to believe to be stronger than arguments for conclusions we do not want to believe. It stands in contrast to critical thinking where beliefs are approached in a skeptical and unbiased fashion.
It can lead to forming and clinging to false beliefs despite substantial evidence to the contrary. The desired outcome acts as a filter that affects the evaluation of scientific evidence and of other people. Ask yourself a simple question.
Why do you believe what you believe?
That’s an interesting question to me. Should there be a why? You believe something because it’s true, right?
Unfortunately no, we believe things because it benefits us. To believe something different than what we are used to, different from what we have built our reputations, our whole lives, our communities around is immensely dangerous, uncomfortable, and plain hard! We prefer mental shortcuts. In many cases, it’s easier to have the goal fit our ready made conclusions.
What’s more concerning is we don’t realize that we do this– make these mental shortcuts. It’s a way we cope or satiate ourselves. It’s a way we calm our anxiety and discomfort. This is why asking these questions is even more important. We have to catch ourselves falling into these traps. We need to actively say…” Wait a minute here, this person is pushing back on something that defines who I am. Am I reacting to it like a soldier or a scout?” So what if I am wrong? Can I be courageous enough to say, “Thanks for sharing that. I never thought to look at it that way.”?
WHY SHOULD I RISK CHANGE?
Change happens at the emotional level. Here is another great example of Emotional Intelligence. Can I be comfortable with being wrong? Am I mature and humble enough to think, “I obviously don’t know everything”?
Truly curious people find major joy in having their mind blown. How cool is it to have worked on a project for weeks and finally the clouds part and clarity shine through? It’s so rewarding and exciting to find new answers and to move forward with something that has caused you problems before. Why can’t these answers also come from new people, new experiences, different ways of doing things? I love the quote,
If you did what you always did you will get what you always got.
Don’t build your life as a sounding board to confirm that where you currently are is right. Always look for new ways to stretch and move forward. I know many people that are in tough situations right now with how COVID has changed the way they do business. Life sometimes just flat out sucks and is highly unpredictable but will you be willing to change with it and find new ways to reinvent yourself and work within the changing world?
This is the answer to how to live a fulfilling life. How will I adapt to life as it changes. Will I grow when I’m stretched and will I stand back up when I fall? Can I continue to be curious and look for ways in which I’m wrong? Can I take pleasure in learning something new?
BE A SCOUT
When you show Scout behavior you release others from having to defend themselves. If you posture a Soldier, instantly others feel they are being attacked. Ask questions and show concern. People will love you if you say, “tell me more”. Tell me more doesn’t say, I think you’re right. It shows you’re willing to learn more.
You don’t have to be smart to be a Scout. A Scout mindset is a choice. The choice is, “Can I be OK with feeling uncomfortable”? Is it weak to change your mind or does that show strength? You learned something new, what else can you do but change with it? It especially shows strength because it’s sometimes the harder, more difficult choice to make– the road less traveled. Leaders are leaders for a reason. Because they make the decisions and choices that aren’t easy. When they fail they say they are wrong but they keep learning and proving themselves wrong until they get to their goal.
At the end of a long summer, Scout Finch learned that she was dead wrong about Boo Radley. She learned how to feel proud instead of ashamed when she was wrong about something–about someone. She learned to FEEL differently.
Change is made at the feeling level.
Scout saw Mr. Radley differently–truthfully. She connected with him on the “feeling” level. Jem also saw Mrs. DuBose differently when he saw her– when he “felt” what she felt. Scout learned to yearn instead, for truth and connection and to see people for who they really are. Curiosity taught her so much about life that summer, a summer that would change her life in so many ways.
“So many things had happened to us, Boo Radley was the least of our fears.”SCOUT finch
I want to be more like Scout. I want to put my unreasonable fears behind me and be open to learning new things. Curiosity will teach us more about the world and the way we want to live in it.
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