Curious About Curiosity? by Ben Dean, Ph.D.
This week’s featured strength is Curiosity.
Benefits of Curiosity
The Downside to Curiosity: When Curiosity Kills the Cat
All things considered, the benefits of curiosity far outweigh the possible risks. Cultivating this strength can lead to both personal and professional rewards. So how might we go about developing this strength? One idea comes from the work by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, one of the founders of the field of positive psychology and a pioneering researcher in the area of flow.
According to Cskikszentmihalyi, there is a direct relationship between our attentional resources and our interest in the world: Nothing is interesting to us unless we focus our attention on it. Rocks are not interesting until we begin collecting them, people in the mall are not interesting until we become curious about their lives and where they are going, and vacuum cleaners are not interesting until we need to buy a new one. According to Csikszentmihalyi, we can develop our curiosity (and fight boredom) by making a conscious effort to direct our attention to something in particular in our environment.
A Curiosity Challenge I leave you with the following Curiosity Challenge. Test Csikszentmihalyi’s theory in your own lives this week. During those times when you are feeling bored or unstimulated (e.g., while waiting in line at the grocery store), focus your attention on something that ordinarily might not engage your interest. For example, if you are at the grocery store, really notice how various customers interact with the checkout clerk. Are they making eye contact or averting their gaze? Do they make small talk? Do they offer to bag their own groceries? Notice how much effort you need to expend to focus your attention. Is it worth it? Is there a trade off between being bored (but with no demands placed on your psychic energy) and being interested?
I hope you enjoyed this newsletter! See you in two weeks when we discuss the character strength of Open-Mindedness.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Collins.
Lowenstein, G. (1994). The psychology of curiosity: A review and reinterpretation. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 75-98.
Peterson, C. and Seligman, M. E. P. (Eds.). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press
AHC Program Resources
1. To experience the first Authentic Happiness Coaching Program Master Class with Marty, call 1-212-461-2698. (Call anytime, day or night. Only normal long distance charges apply.)
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The Fall 2004 Authentic Happiness Coaching Program launches Thursday, October 28th, 2004. Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., will again direct this program. Openings for the Fall 2004 program remain, and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. For detailed program information and to enroll, please visit our home on the web at .
Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D. is the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the founder of the field of Positive Psychology, a Past President of the American Psychological Association (1998), and the author of 20 books including his most recent best seller, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. With Chris Peterson, he is co-author of the newly-released Character Strengths and Virtues: A Classification and Handbook. He is also the co-founder of Authentic Happiness Coaching LLC.
Ben Dean, Ph.D., co-founder of Authentic Happiness Coaching LLC, is a psychologist and coach, and the CEO of MentorCoach, a virtual university that exclusively trains mental health professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. For MentorCoach's home on the web and to subscribe to Ben's free E-newsletter, the MentorCoach™ eNewsletter, visit .
AHC Speaking Schedule
Marty will be giving a keynote address at the Dental Trade Alliance, 72nd Annual Summer Meeting on Thursday, August 5, 2004. The meeting will be held at the Hotel Del Coronado, 15000 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92188. For more detailed information about this keynote engagement please call, 800-582-2595, or click here, <http://www.dmanews.org/DMASection.cfm?pid=916>.
Ben will be speaking in Iselin, NJ (7/16/04), and Philadelphia, PA (7/18/04). For more detailed information about these speaking engagements please visit, <http://www.mentorcoach.com/ws-schedule.html>.
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