There is a constant battle between my human brain and my monkey brain. This specific phenomena has inspired me to create this post. My monkey brain wants to go out into the world and discover everything I can observe. So many times, I have my head in the clouds. I dream about a new version of me who is more motivated and executes on the ideas she has. That is exactly the place where these two brains get into conflict. My human, more matured brain, wants to be focused at specific areas in line with the end goals I have in mind. According to my human mind, there is no time for distraction and I should not be bothered with anything except my work.
Because of this constant battle, we sometimes forget about this curious mindset. We forget how many great things have been achieved in history because of curiosity. There is a possibility to integrate both mindsets into your life. They can work together in a peaceful and harmonious way to live the life you want. In the end, it is not only about reaching your goals but it is also about living a meaningful and content life.
The why of this post
First of all, I have written this post because I have a very curious mindset. I feel though a lot of times you will be judged because of that. As an adult, you should not really be that much concerned with the opinions of the outside world. Definitely not, if it drains your energy and creativity. I do not like the limited vision a lot of us have about the world.
In earlier posts, I have already described the world as my playground. The world is there to wander around in and be wondered by everything that crosses your attention. Nature is too beautiful to not be amazed about every single day. I want to show with this post that there is nothing wrong with fostering a curious mindset.
Do not let other people define what mindset you should have.
Second, I have discovered that polymaths are a lot of times people that are really successful. Other people will look down to them because they have so many interests which at a first glance do not really seem to match. The opposite is true. These different interests make sure that they can integrate different ideas to solve a complex problem. They are not narrowly focused but they keep a broad perspective when they express their ideas. We will go further into the benefits of being a polymath in this article. So keep reading if you are interested.
My sources of inspiration
In a previous post, I noticed that I only mentioned famous male entrepreneurs as my sources of inspiration. While it is true, they gave me this initial burst of motivation to start creating. They do not actually inspire me to write about subjects with more depth. I have to excuse myself for the previous post by being a bit shallow and too focused on what would work on social media.
Here are some real “female” inspiration:
Marie Curie is one of these real female badasses. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics. She was literately glowing with happiness when she received it. A little bit later, she won again the Nobel Prize for chemistry. That made her the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice. Until this day, she is still the only person to be honored in two different branches of science.
In 1903, she received her first Nobel prize in physics for her work on radioactivity. Together with her husband, she discovered two elements who were more radioactive than Uranium, Polonium and Radium.
In 1911, she won the Nobel Prize for chemistry after she discovered the different properties of the new elements, Polonium and Radium.
Sadly, Marie Curie also died because of her curiosity in the field. She died from a blood disease that probably originated from her prolonged exposure to radiation. Bottom line, it is good to be curious and radiate good energy as long as the radiation does not take revenge.
Needless to say, Marie Curie had a very curious mindset to continue her learning process throughout her life.
Hildegard of Bingen
People with Hilde in their name are already predestined to become a warrior. (My mom’s name is Hilde.) We go back several hundreds of years on the timeline and we time travel to the Medieval times.
She was a Christian who was a true polymath as she was interested in topics like philosophy, musical composition, herbology, medieval literature, medicine, biology, theology, and natural history.
She could definitely stand on her “manly” position between all the men in the Medieval times.
Mae was the first black woman to travel into space in 1987 aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. She is an American engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut. There is something else very interesting about her life journey besides the fact that she has a lot of courage. She is also a family doctor like me.
Mae knew from a young age she wanted to be a scientist and go into space. Her curiosity to learn about these aspects was stimulated by her mother. She was also a professional dancer and a lot of times she felt torn between the idea of becoming a professional dancer or becoming a scientist. After she got her chemistry degree, she went after her medical degree. After she worked at the peace corps as a doctor, she applied for the NASA astronaut program. That lead here to be the first black woman to get into space. She never got demotivated to follow her dreams, even with the obvious fact that she had a different skin color.
Maria Gaetana Agnesi
Maria Gaetana Agnesi was an Italian mathematician who was one of the first women to earn a reputation in mathematics. She was also capable of mastering different languages. Her best known work is a book about algorithms and analysis. You could thank her for your current math class that discusses integral and differential calculus. The rest of her life ended in a less famous matter as she devoted her time to religion and charity.
Anna Maria Van Schuurman
Anna Maria Van Schuurman was the first female student at the University in Europe. (Utrecht) She had a knowledge in theology, philosophy, medicine, and of at least 14 languages (Dutch, German, French, English, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Syriac, Samaritan, Persian, and Ethiopic). She also wrote a lot of poetry. One work, ‘Opuscula’ contains her logical defense of women’s right to study. As women we can thank Anna for changing the history of female education.
There are probably so much more examples of great female polymaths that I have forgotten about. History teaches us that there is no reason women should not thrive as a scientist or an academician.
What is curiosity?
I have been talking about curiosity non-stop now but we have not gotten into the explanation of the word itself.
Merriam-Webster defines curiosity as a desire to know. It can be defined as an interest in other concerns or as an interest leading to inquiry. An inquiry is any process that has the aim of augmenting knowledge. This blog goes specifically about expanding your own knowledge so we will not use the first definition which is being curious about other people’s concerns. That last behavior should be considered toxic in my opinion as you should never be occupied with what other people are doing if it has no relationship with your own life.
Curiosity was very interestingly described as a desire. A desire is like an impulse coming from your brain to move yourself towards something that may give satisfaction or enjoyment in the end. That is by essence the entire reason why people get curious. They have an impulse they cannot really deny. That impulse makes them want to improve and learn more in order to achieve a better version of themselves than yesterday. Desire is one of the strongest forms of intrinsic motivation.
What is a mindset?
The real definition
Mindset is quite a buzzword nowadays. I find myself using it a lot because I hear it over and over again on social media. The danger with that is when you use a word too much, it can actually lose its real meaning. So what is a mindset now really?
Merriam-Webster defines mindset as a mental attitude or inclination. It is basically comparable to the attitude that directly links with your character. Another more curious definition was ’a fixed state of mind’. In my eyes, I always saw mindset more as something you could impact easily but maybe it is more fixed than we actually may presume.
The medical definition
There is also a medical definition (my personal favorite), ’a mental inclination, tendency, or habit’. That definition keeps us in a vague state of mind. A habit is something you can definitely impact but in my opinion, it does not define mindset as a whole. A tendency can be more defined as a direction. It is the direction you have in mind when you want to do something. I guess a mindset is the combination of your stacked habits, your sense of purpose, and the direction together with your character that help you to define who you are and what kind of actions and decisions you will make. Every little action you do is meant to give more clarity about who you really are and what you want to become.
When you have a curious mindset, you have something very special in your character. Most likely you will be compelled by seeking novelties in mundane tasks. Your habits will be involved in creating the environment and time to explore your ideas in an expanded way. Your direction is purposeful but you allow yourself to get distracted in a productive way.
This was the more proper definition that I have extracted from the online dictionary.
What can social media tell us about mindset?
Let us now have a look at more popular social media posts. I typed in mindset into the search bar of YouTube. These are the search suggestions I got.
I will make a quick gallery of the most popular videos of these search terms. Maybe we can spot a trend about what people really want to hear about mindset. They probably do not want to hear that it is more defined by your character and habits because that is just boring talk. These videos will probably give us some hacks to become a complete different you and become some kind of super human. They will also try to convince us that literally everyone can change their mindset which I do not really agree with.
A couple of things have been very noticeable when you search for mindset on YouTube:
- It mostly goes about money and not about happiness or contentment.
- It talks a lot about athletes and top popular performers. Apparently, with the right mindset you become some kind of top performer in your field and you cannot make up any excuses. Excuse me?
- Brainwash yourself in 21 days? WTF?
- Mindset hacks is one of the first search results…
- There is very little about learning and real self-improvement. I do not see any of the boring examples like Marie Curie here.
Maybe YouTube is not the best place to learn about mindset. Nevertheless I still have included one video below:
How to combine your monkey brain and human brain?
The most important question I need to answer in this blog post is how we can combine these two parts of our brain. How can we actually use our monkey brain to our own benefit? I will illustrate my own vision on how I believe we can integrate them in a helpful way.
You have two very essential parts in your life. When you are really successful, these two can integrate as well but normally your life consists of your job and your free time.
What I do during my working time
During my working time, I need to give my full energy to my human brain. When you are working, you need to be laser focused. I have talked about attention residue before. This happens when you find yourself switching between different tasks and having to reset your mind each time.
You can use whatever works fine for you to focus. Maybe you will find that small time slots like the Pomodoro technique works better for you. Maybe you are more of a person who wants to work two hours non-stop and be finished for the day. It is your personal choice as long as you can stay one hundred percent focused on your job.
During my free time
I will give my monkey brain more freedom in my own free time. my human brain still controls my monkey brain. I do not need to be curious about the next social media gossip as that will not lead to any personal growth.
I need to be curious about different aspects in life and wonder how they can relate to my life right now. If I go into nature, I will be paying attention to all the flowers, clouds in the sky, rain drops falling on my shoulders, and leaves falling on the ground. I like to call this attentive curiosity. You could also call it something like mindfulness. When I am reading a blog article, I get curious about the insights from the writer. I get curious about the design skills, editorial skills, and the social media techniques. Since I have been genuinely curious about these aspects of blogging and video making, I have been seeing small progress in my content. Like I said in my post about the consumption diet, I like to consume but I like to keep it intentional.
What are the benefits of this mindset?
Number one: Holistic thinking
You will most likely become smarter and more educated in different domains. You will acquire the possibility to think holistically and to think outside the box. This is necessary to rise above different people. You cannot expect to be a visionary if you talk and behave like all other people on this planet. You need to be curious though to understand this human behavior and how to use it in your benefit (ethically of course).
Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
– Samuel Johnson
Number two: Building relationships
Being curious will help you with building deep relationships. You could ask yourself why this would happen when you are curious. First of all, you will be more interested in what people will have to say. You will truly listen as you believe that you can learn something from most people. Second, you will also be more fun to hang around with. You will be really adaptable to talk about different subjects that suit the given conversation. There is only one thing that holds you back in conversations and that is engaging in gossips and endless small-talk.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
– Albert Einstein
Number three: Improve your learning
Curiosity is the foundation of learning. Without curiosity we would not even start to learn. Why would you learn about computer programming if you were not curious in the first place about how programs function.
As kids, we are very curious and we like to ask a lot of questions. We lose this beautiful ability as we grow older and drain our emotional energy by consumption of mindless activities. We lose the ability to balance our monkey brain and human brain. One part loves to rationalize everything and the other part loves to numb our brain and enjoy the constant Dopamine flows. A curious mindset will make learning fun again and balance these two parts of the brain.
Leisure and curiosity might soon make great advances in useful knowledge, were they not diverted by minute emulation and laborious trifles.
– Samuel Johnson
Number four: Possibilities arise
The moment you choose to live with curiosity, you start to see so many more possibilities. I never saw myself as a writer but the entire blogging culture made me very curious. I decided to have a small peek at other people’s work. the next phase consisted out of a lot of consumption of blog posts without really having a purpose of creating my own blog. Today, I have finally taken that step and can proudly say that it is curiosity that made me a blogger.
What are the potential drawbacks?
Number one: Too many questions
People will dislike that you ask so many questions. They will find it annoying that you want to understand everything before you want to enter a discussion despite that being the wisest thing to do. The people that dislike you because of that should not really be in your life anyways. You should always surround yourself with people who have more or less the same values in life. You can choose your own network. Sometimes we feel like our network has already been formed and we cannot leave certain ‘friends’ behind. That is a wrong way of thinking. You can always look for a better, more fitting network. Just be aware that sometimes the problem is not your network but you. If that is the case, you should be curious about yourself first.
Number two: Social awkwardness
You can be called too ambitious or weird. You can be called quirky which is actually positive. This one is again about the opinion of other people. You can detect a trend in these drawbacks. Most of the drawbacks associated with a curious mindset are more of a social matter. Society does not really want to promote curiosity in public. It is generally accepted to act like a sheep and follow the herd. If you decide to be that one black sheep that stands out, you will be rejected at first. Only the people that really support your quirkiness, will keep supporting you. Weirdness only happens when you feel disconnected with yourself and not when you are disconnected with societal standards.
When I finally gave up any hope of doing anything representative of the American family, I actually seemed to have tapped into other people’s weirdness in that way.
Number three: The struggle with time management
Your hobbies can be so time consuming you lack time to focus on your job or family. This should be easily solvable when you go into prioritization of your time. You have to think about your time as the most valuable resource you have. Your time is worth more than you probably think. When you plan your day ahead, keep this mental picture alive. People have to respect how you spend your time. They also have to respect when you cut a meeting short because you do not have anymore time for it. Personally, family time is the only time I do not really count. It rejuvenates me so much that I know I will get a positive ROI.
Number four: What was my purpose again?
You can lose sight of the bigger picture. Sometimes, curiosity can take over your life and you can feel lost with all the possibilities you have. I notice that feel overwhelmed when I want too much. I want to build a business, be an athlete, be a YouTuber, be a blogger, etc. You have to realize it is almost impossible to be all of these at the same time. Make sure that you prioritize the most important tasks and work on them with deep focus. Then, like I said before, use your free time to explore different possibilities and different ideas.
You also have to be aware that you do not start a new project just because it looks shiny. Research before you start. You still know that your time is priceless!
But in the end…
You should not actually worry about these drawbacks. When you are not coming from an anxious place, then everything is going to be alright. When you are confident about your goals and capacities, you should know that you will not lose the bigger picture and you will not get overwhelmed when ideas stack up. You need to document your ideas and new hobbies and maybe share them with the world. It will dazzle you how much closer that will bring you to the person you want to become.
Social contacts, nature, learning new skills?
Having a curious mindset is an ancient mindset we have to find again. We need to allow ourselves to give this curiosity some room.
When you balance curiosity with a deep focus, the curious mindset will help you move forward instead of holding you back. You can combine your human brain with your monkey brain to make you a better human and to overcome obstacles in life. You will overcome these obstacles by inventing creative solutions.
Curiosity feeds your mind.