If you’ve ever heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat” someone was probably trying to convince you not do something. Maybe they want to keep you out of trouble or are warning you to mind your own business. We don’t just get these messages from our parents and grandparents. We hear them all day long from inside our own heads. In fact, part of your brain is hard wired to keep you from trying anything new. This primal brain (often referred to as the lizard brain) has one job – keeping you alive. It isn’t adventurous and can be your own worst enemy when it comes to personal growth. Here are some ways to use curiosity to override this strong impulse.
Activate your “human brain”
When I was trying to adjust my spending habits during my shopping ban I had to put the rest of my brain to work. It had been a long time since I questioned why I bought things and changing this mindset wasn’t easy. Shopping, much like a cupcake or glass of wine is like a straight shot of dopamine to your brain. That’s why even though too much of a good thing has negative consequences – it is hard as hell to stop. Lizard brain likes dopamine! Our human brain or cerebral cortex (the part that thinks slower and makes plans) can help us overcome even the most compulsive habits. Don’t believe me? Try this trick the next time you see something you want to buy, eat or drink.
Get curious about your habits
First, write down what it is that you want (just the facts) with no emotion. Next, instead of jumping to action, write down what this “fact” made you think about. Does it look nice on a person that looks nothing like you do? Does it remind you of a time you were happier? Do you think someone else might pay more attention to you if you had this thing? Would you feel younger or more desirable in it? Do you deserve it for putting up with your boss?
If you make it that far it is time to think of the feeling that all of these thoughts are causing. Maybe you are really feeling unsatisfied with your appearance or job and are looking for a quick fix instead of doing something more difficult. Once you have done all of this thinking and feeling then decide what your next course of action is. For me, it often meant trying to find something I owned that was a close match or eating well and exercising so I felt more comfortable in what I already had. Not as easy as one click shopping but it helped keep me honest.
Sometimes people tell me they are too afraid to invest their money because it is too risky. If that is your mindset there will be plenty of headlines and horror stories to back up your theory. These will also be the stories you seek out because your brain is constantly on the prowl for evidence that reinforces what you already believe. It also means the primal brain is in the drivers seat and is slamming on the brakes.
When you feel yourself going down this path try to ask your brain a new question. Something as simple as “how do good investors become good at it”? This isn’t an easy one but it will cause your brain to start looking for some answers. Maybe this “risky” behavior is just unfamiliar and becoming better at it is no different than becoming good at riding a bike or driving. You could also ask yourself “what could happen if I never learn how to invest or manage my money”? While being in the dark may feel safe right now there is a downside to not understanding what is going on with your finances. Get your brain to work on finding new evidence to new questions if you want to have a different result.
Stay curious and plan ahead
When you want to try something new be prepared to feel discomfort. A good way to move past it is to have a plan in place. For example, if you want to learn how to do something that scares you one easy way to start is to read an article or beginner’s guide about the topic. That is one step you can cross off of your list without jumping in head first. Move slowly, but forward and your brain will begin to support you on your way. Just thinking about things a little differently will help you naturally come up with some ideas that are outside of your comfort zone. You don’t need to be an expert or have all of the answers but that human brain of yours is remarkable. Start asking it different questions and you will be amazed at some of the answers that appear right in front of you.
What is the last bad habit you tried to break? Try talking to yourself more than you listen if you want to make progress. Just be sure to keep it on paper or in your head (airpods?) if you don’t want others to notice!