16 October 2017

Life Re-Examined

Curiosity is a quality that underpins everything from amazing discoveries through to the smallest social interaction. Curiosity is closely connected to the concept of 'grit', which Angela Duckworth (2007) has described as the willingness to persevere with a challenge combined with the passion to see that challenge through to the end. Curiosity involves not just the ability to ask questions about a subject, but also the determination to seek answers despite roadblocks and dead-ends.

In a way, curiosity involves patience and optimism: a belief that even though the solution might not be immediately apparent, with hard work and creativity, a solution will be found.

Curiosity also operates at a micro-level, in terms of our day-to-day interactions with others. The strongest social relationships rely on individuals caring about others. Smiling, saying hello and asking someone how they are - genuinely enquiring about that other person's life - may not seem important but it can help that person to feel just a little more valued. Taking time to show interest in others is crucial to strengthening the connection people feel within a community.

Curiosity can also operate internally, if we are willing and brave enough. It takes honesty to ask questions of ourselves: how am I travelling? Why do I feel this way? What can I do to improve the situation? Who can I speak to?

In order to re-examine our lives, we need to be able to pause and reflect. If we can regularly take time to pause, we may find it easier to make small adjustments now and then, which may alleviate the need to make drastic changes further down the path.

There was a review in the weekend newspapers not long ago about a book by Robert Dessaix, called "The Pleasure of Leisure". The book addresses our modern society's preoccupation with us all being as busy as we can be all of the time. He bemoans the lack of room for uncomplicated relaxation. His point is that we have come to believe that our lives need structure and regulation to be meaningful, even our leisure time. There is a sense that even the way that we relax has to conform, so that we must draw something productive and measurable from 'downtime'. He says: "Paradoxically, the richer we get, the harder we work and the less time we have to do what we want. What's gone wrong?"

Doing nothing can actually enable us to reach distant goals. It can allow us time to think, or simply to recharge, or even to do nothing. It can help to raise flagging spirits and find new resolve. It can assist in rekindling curiosity about the world and people around us. It can be satisfying, without it becoming a permanent state.

As Bertrand Russell said, "Time we enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

Mr James Hindle
Director of Student and Staff Wellbeing