How to use your natural sense of intrigue to energize your day.
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How do dogs accurately anticipate what time their owners will be home from work each day? Is sugar truly more addictive than some illegal drugs? And does Reddit serve as a forum for lively debate on grammar and syntax?
Don’t click those links. Instead, notice how your mental state may have changed after reading those sentences. Curiosity sits along your brain’s reward pathway, and when an opportunity to consume new information presents itself, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released.
This is why you love going down a rabbit hole of distractions at the office, even when it might result in time management consequences. It’s a slippery slope, and we know shiny object syndrome can quickly derail good intentions. (In fact, distraction and dopamine are so intoxicating that Silicon Valley has seen a rising trend known as “dopamine fasting”.)
But an equal threat to your next entrepreneurial pursuit is to feel uninspired, deflated, or overwhelmed; you continuously need lightbulb moments and great ideas to charge forward. It takes practice to stay inspired without getting distracted, but it can be done.
Here’s how to leverage curiosity to your advantage in three steps.
Scientists long thought that dopamine was released only when we got what we wanted. But a wide-ranging study found that this release of feel-good chemicals actually happens before we’ve reached our goals. Feel-good chemicals are deployed to help you take action and motivate you once a target has been defined.
That said, curiosity-inducing stimuli create different reactions in each of us. Todd Kashdan is a psychologist whose research delineates five dimensions of curiosity, as well as four “curiosity types.” In his research, some participants were curious about many different ideas and hobbies, while others preferred to be passionate about just a few topics. Others still are most enamored by human interaction, both online and offline.
The takeaway? Discern what does and does not make you curious and use that knowledge to your advantage. Drum up a dopamine release and take positive strides forward.
Kashdan’s most recent report, the Five-Dimensional Curiosity Scale Revised (5DCR), delineates five dimensions of curiosity.
1. Joyous Exploration – This first dimension is the type of curiosity we know and love: learning new concepts, diving into new hobbies and having varied interests.
2. Deprivation Sensitivity – In deprivation sensitivity, you seek to solve problems and close gaps, and you cannot rest until the puzzle has been solved. As Kashdan explains, the emotional tone of deprivation sensitivity can be different from joyous exploration. Anxiety, tension or urgency drive the desire to solve the problem rather than joy.
3. Stress Tolerance – This dimension refers to your willingness to take on the distress of the unknown. Does the prospect of uncertainty and all its baggage (failure, success, heartbreak, progress) freak you out or light you up? Knowing this about yourself can also be a window into your entrepreneurial style and risk tolerance.
4. Social Curiosity – In a nutshell, social curiosity sums up our affinity for humans and their behavior. Additionally, Kashdan defines two subsets of this dimension: overt social curiosty, referring to interest in the behavior of others and covert social curiosity, referring more to gossip, eavesdropping or being a snoop.
5. Thrill Seeking – The dimension of thrill seeking measures your appetite for adventure. The yearning for a “complex and varied experience” justifies the physical, financial or social risks that may come along for the ride.
Additionally, Kashdan’s research results yielded four distinct curiosity types, each with a unique combination of results from the answers above. Your curiosity type is one of the following four compositions.
Type #1: “The Fascinated” – This person scores high in pretty much every category of curiosity. If you tend to have a broad range of interests, feel you probably read more than your peers and have your hands in lots of different things, this description probably captures your day-to-day life well.
Type #2: “The Problem Solver” – A problem solver tends to score off the charts on deprivation sensitivity and more moderately in other dimensions. Fewer, deeper interests define this type; problem solvers may lay awake in bed at night thinking about a nagging problem and have a love of figuring out puzzles.
Type #3: “The Empathizer” – An empathizer is a people person. This type scores highest in social curiosity, midrange in joyous exploration and deprivation sensitivity, and lower in stress tolerance and thrills. More than other types, Kashdan’s data set found these people were most likely to use social media, both to project having it all themselves and to observe the behavior of others.
Type #4: “The Avoider” – An avoider has generally lower scores throughout, but particularly in the area of stress tolerance. Interestingly, Dr. Kashdan’s set found this group both read less and reported more stress in their day-to-day lives.
Kashdan’s team also published a separate study outlining the questionnaire his research used on participants. These instructions below are lifted from the original research. To determine your curiosity type and how your brain responds to different stimuli, answer the questions below and diagnose your results.
Below are statements people often use to describe themselves. Please use the scale below to indicate the degree to which these statements accurately describe you. There are no right or wrong answers.
1 – Does not describe me at all
2 – Barely describes me
3 – Somewhat describes me
4 – Neutral
5 – Generally describes me
6 – Mostly describes me
7 – Completely describes me
Stress Tolerance (This category is reverse-scored):
Overt Social Curiosity:
Covert Social Curiosity:
Scoring instructions: Compute the average item score for each dimension and analyze separately (Reverse-score Stress Tolerance items).
Once you’ve identified your curiosity type, take a look at your day-to-day inputs and see where you can consume more of what aligns with your natural affinities. When you work with your brain chemistry, and not against it, you might be surprised how much easier and quicker it is to make progress on your next entrepreneurial pursuit.