The Recipe for Student Success – Ingredient Four : A Curious Mind

“Cogito Ergo Sum” – “I think, therefore I am”. – Rene Descartes

When it came to naming this ingredient, I considered calling it a ‘Great Mind’. But I thought that would imply that one needed to achieve or find ‘great’ things that rocked the world in order to be successful, when the truth is, success can mean so many things including, in my opinion, that you don’t necessarily have to make an amazing realization or discovery in order to be successful. Also, I realized that ‘great’ in a way means ‘better than someone else’. I am a firm believer that you do not need to trample or compete with others in order to be successful. And then the perfect term hit me. A Curious Mind.

A Curious Mind is unique. It’s not a passive thing that happens in your brain, neither are you born with one, you have to actively desire it and train yourself in order to obtain one. A Curious Mind is:

1. Hungry. A Curious Mind always wants more. It never gets tired of being fed, and will take a starter, snack, main and dessert when it comes to learning. It loves to discover, especially things it has never considered before. It lives on the edge of what it knows and what it can do, and endeavours to push itself even further.

2. Open. A Curious Mind is always open to new ideas and ways of seeing things. Sure, it can have opinions, but it allows others to have theirs, and will always try to see things from their point of view.  A Curious Mind considers many possibilities before deciding which path to follow. It is open to changing attitudes and doesn’t let others dictate what it believes.

3. Balanced. A Curious Mind tries to keep a balance between all of the things that concern it. It will have interests, and can focus on those, but will not neglect other important things either. It is calm, yet sharp. It thinks before it leaps. It’s decisive yet it considers other options. It is can make rational and logical decisions, but it can also be passionate and creative.

How to Cultivate a Curious Mind

1. Read. The single most important thing you can do to cultivate a Curious Mind is to read. Not only books, but also blogs, websites, Wikipedia, ebooks, magazines, newspapers and textbooks. In fact, reading is so important, here are three further tips to help:

  • Diversify. Try reading things outside of your comfort zone to expand your general knowledge. Can you imagine not having tried chocolate before? You would be missing out! There is so much knowledge out there, it doesn’t make sense to only stay in one area. Who knows, you may end up finding something new and fascinating.
  • Focus. Having said that, it might also be good to have a subject that you concentrate a bigger proportion of reading time to. If you spend between 30-45 minutes a day reading, that equates to about one book a week, which can make you an expert in a subject in a year. If it sounds too much to you, even two or three years isn’t that long if it means being a pro at something. Sometimes it helps to have a solid foundation of knowledge as well as a good general knowledge, otherwise you might end with too many half-eaten cakes. (Ok, obviously I am very hungry right now).
  • Write it down. As much as I don’t like to admit it, we tend to forget most of the things we read. Keeping a reading notebook can really help you retain some of the information you invested those hours into. It doesn’t have to be entire chapter summaries, sometimes a few quotes or lines that you liked will suffice to remind you of a fact that surprised you, or an interesting plotline or a character you liked.

The same rules also applies to listening to podcasts. Podcasts and audiobooks are fantastic ways for you to ‘read’  and gain knowledge if you feel you don’t have too much time to physically sit down with a book often enough.

2. Meet people. Try to meet new people who are different from you, make friends with them and ask them about their background, opinions and ideas. Don’t be too nosey if they feel uncomfortable, but most of the time people are more than happy to talk, chat and debate. Don’t ignore cultural differences, use them to your advantage to open up your mind to new ways of thinking.  A lot of the things we believe in are because of the way we were raised, our society or our early education. We were conditioned to think that way, so we hadn’t had the chance to make up our own minds, until now. Experiences like this can turn things you were so sure about upside down, and that’s a good thing.

3. Meditate. Sometimes, our minds get slowed down from jumping from thought to thought constantly. You can get a more balanced mind by clearing up some of the clutter. There are lot’s of different types of meditation, but contrary to popular belief, it isn’t about pushing all thoughts out of your head. Instead, it is about becoming aware and acknowledging when your mind has wondered off and bringing it back to the centre. With practice, meditation can help you control your mind to be calmer, more stable and less easily distracted.

4. Sleep. In a way, your mind is like your body, you have to wake it up in the morning, feed it and let it grow. But you also have to let it rest. Olympic athletes have the healthiest bodies in the world, but even they don’t spend all their time training. They have to let their bodies recover and rest often, and your mind works in a similar way. Sleeping and napping can help you feel energized, and make your mind more receptive. Sleep can also greatly help with retention and recall.

Fairly obviously, we are here at university as students to grow our minds. However, there are two ways of going about it, one is passively letting knowledge seep into our minds, with only what people decide to tell us making up what we know and think. Or, we can seek to develop a Curious Mind, one that pro-actively seeks to find things that build discipline, character and imagination.

I’d love to hear what you think, do you consider a Curious Mind important to success? Let me know in the comments!

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  • http://abhisheknarayansjourney.blogspot.com Abhishek narayan

    Yes, i agree with your view that curious mind is essential for human growth , but i think success is most misunderstood word. We lives in a world where every body is only concerned about future , so every actions related to future growth is considered good, but any thing for your present satisfaction is considered waste of time & money. Curiousity lives in that corner of mind which doesn’t survive on material foods, it needs new informations as feedings. It is like a greedy man who wants more & more money , who may or may not use his money in his life time but the monetary profits gives him amazing satisfaction.
    Thats what i want to say , curious mind gives you amazing satisfaction when you feeds it with new informations, either through books, travelling, meeting new peoples or by experiments. It can be helpful for future growth , but it’s motive is present sattisfaction.

    Abhishek Narayan
    businesszunoon@rediffmail.com

  • Phil Maguire

    Definitely a good call on the podcasts. One of my favourites is “Stuff You Should Know”. It’s run by howstuffworks.com, which in turn is run by the Discovery Network, and is about anything and everything!