Is curiosity the answer to everything?

Paul Duffy
5 min readFeb 24, 2021
Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

Two cats are enjoying one another’s company as they walk down the street dressed in their Sunday finest. They pull alongside a store. One of the cats turns to his friend and says, “ you know we absolutely HAVE to go in there!

As I read the words in that cat’s speech bubble I cast my eyes up to the top of the frame of the cartoon, to see the name of the store outside which the cats were standing. It was called, ‘The Closed Door.’

I saw this cartoon last week. My mind naturally went to the two cats my wife and I adopted. I guess we used the Delirium Tremens method of determining the correct size for our domestic cat population. The Law of Delirium Tremens states, quite simply, that ‘ one is nowhere near enough, but three is far too many.’ Our cats are insanely curious, and I think they have a thing or two to teach us about the value of curiosity.

Recency bias is behind us suddenly seeing red minis everywhere as soon as we buy our own red mini. My red mini is curiosity. I think curiosity might just be a bit of a panacea.

Curiosity Can Help Break Bad Habits

When I listened to Judson Brewer’s TED Talk — A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit — his 10 minute presentation covered behavior, mindfulness, and of course habits, but what I latched onto was curiosity.

He explains how habits are developed through a reward based learning process, positive and negative reinforcement — Trigger > Behavior > Reward: we feel hungry, see and then eat food, and then we feel good. Repetition of this process creates the habit.

If this were where it ended, if hunger were our only trigger, we might be ok, but our brains are sometimes too smart for their own good. They realize eating food can lead to feeling good, and figure eating could be a solution when we feel bad. The three part mechanism now becomes: we feel bad > we eat food > we feel good. Now we have two triggers for which the behavioral response is, ‘eat food.’

Judson Brewer has researched mindfulness to help break bad habits such as overeating or smoking. When he refers to mindfulness he encourages curiosity. Smoking mindfully means exploring the feelings, the smells, the tastes… When one of the participants tasted mindfully she found (to quote…

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Paul Duffy

An ocean loving, tea drinking nomad. Curiosity can elevate us above our wiring.