Building resilience: Curiosity is key

Cathy MacLellan

When I was about eight years old I wondered if I could jump across the creek that flowed along the side of our yard. I backed up a few paces, ran and leaped. My leading right leg jammed into some scraggly roots that were sticking out of the opposite side of the bank. Not only did I get a soaker, I added yet another scar to my battered legs. Undaunted, I succeeded in clearing that creek within a few weeks.

The most important part of that experience is the fact that  “I wondered” if I could make it. Children do a lot of wondering about stuff. Sadly, adults don’t do near enough of it.

The curiosity of a child leads to all kinds of interesting questions and activities and creates a solid base
of experience on which to build a resilient life. Curiosity is not just for children. A continuously curious adult will build a competent, compelling, confident and resilient life. Why do we stop asking and wondering about things?

Note that there were no adults around to tell me to not even try jumping the creek, I wasn’t defying anyone, just being curious.

New research indicates that this kind of “free range” play is essential to build resilient adults. A resilient person has the ability to cope and even thrive when life is difficult and every life will be difficult at various times.

Einstein said: “curiosity is more important than knowledge.” Knowledge, in the Google age is easily acquired, curiosity on the other hand seems less ubiquitous.

People who ask a lot of questions are described as nosy, boring, pushy, irritating, attention grabbers, or having “an agenda” or a “bone to pick.” At least for the greatly curious, they can surreptitiously find many answers online instead of bothering an actual person.

Being curious, exploring new things, is also one of the best stress reducing strategies to deal with the complexities of life. Curiosity builds connections in our brains and increases the brain’s plasticity, which makes the brain more resistant to disease or age related damages.

There is no end of things to be curious about either. From the utilitarian – I recently learned and successfully replaced a toilet fill valve – to the esoteric – as in our Senate expense rules, being curious creates energy and a zest for life. In seeking answers, curious people create experiences, which equip them with tools to lead resilient lives at home, in their neighbourhood, city, province, country and our world.