In Curious?, George Mason University psychologist Todd Kashdan provides self-help backed by science, toting curiosity as the means to a fulfilling life. Kashdan asks his readers: Is life really all about achieving happiness, or is it actually the pursuit of happiness that gives our lives purpose and meaning?
Assisted by experimental data, stories from his therapy practice, and his own life experiences, Kashdan argues that it is the drive for knowledge, fulfillment, and happiness, motivated by one's curiosity, that allows for meaningful personal growth. "Two simple processes—triggering intrigue and sustaining interest—are at the heart of a fulfilling life," he writes.
The book includes strategies to boost one's curiosity and explanations as to why curiosity is so important to so many different situations, from romance to parenting to achieving our goals. Kashdan describes his ideal person, who he dubs the "curious explorer," as one who frequently experiences intense feelings of curiosity and acts on them daily. Curious explorers, evidently, are well-liked, personable, and achieve greater success in their careers. Based on multiple studies, Kashdan concludes, "Very curious people are viewed by strangers and close friends as comfortable, animated, interesting, and fun." This all makes sense: If you deny your feelings of curiosity and avoid new directions, odds are your life is going to be relatively dull and unrewarding.
Kashdan also asks his readers to adjust their perspective on anxiety, depicting it as a necessary byproduct of a life guided by curiosity. "If you view something as new and challenging," writes Kashdan, "you are going to be more engaged and feel more joy and pleasure than if you were in a situation that didn't make you anxious."
Kashdan argues convincingly for the need to remain in active pursuit of our goals, urging readers to embrace the new and unfamiliar instead of fearing them. At times, though, his examples of therapeutic sessions with patients begin to feel redundant, reading just like testimonials as to how and why curiosity works.
Still, it's hard not to feel inspired by Kashdan's notion of curiosity as a key to fulfillment. Curious? offers important insight to anyone trying to live a more meaningful, active life.