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Many years back, during my coaching training, one of our teachers gave our class an unusual assignment.
“I want you to open up the cabinet below your kitchen sink,” he said, “and spend 15 minutes looking at what’s there. No distractions. Your job is to bring as much curiosity to those 15 minutes as you can.”
The following week people came back with their reports from the exercise, and they were fascinating.
Some people’s curiosity had led them to all kinds of questions about the plumbing. How did it work? What was the whole system that the pipe they could see was connected to?
For others, the questions were about the people. Who had made the cabinet? Who had fastened the pipes together? What were their lives like?
And for others, their curiosity led them to the water. What path did it travel to get to them? Where did it originate from and where did it end up after going down the drain?
Everyone found a tremendous amount to get interested in, focusing on this seemingly mundane thing – because they brought curiosity to the fore.
For us as coaches-in-training, the point of this exercise was to strengthen our curiosity muscle, because as a coach, you’ve got to bring intense curiosity – rather than your own assumptions and stories – to your client conversations.
For me, the exercise was incredibly energizing. I was traveling at the time, staying in an old hotel in rural Italy. That may sound fabulous, but I was struggling. I’m an extrovert, and I like structure and people to talk to and stuff to do, and I didn’t have much of any of those things there. I was feeling isolated, out of my flow, and restless.
I started to bring curiosity to the fore. I suddenly had so many questions about the place we were staying: Who created it? Why? What was its history? Who else was staying here? What were they all about? The questions gave me a huge surge of energy. I started to talk to the people around me about them. It felt like finding my own path, my inner life again. Through curiosity, I had found my path of pursuing and discovering for the trip.
In the personal growth world, we talk so much about energetic states like joy, peace, acceptance. We also talk a lot about more challenging ones – like guilt, shame, pain, resistance, and suffering. Curiosity absolutely gets short shrift. It’s essential.
For this week, our practice is to start to do a mini-version of the exercise that my teacher gave me. Pick a mundane object in your house and spend 5 minutes sitting in curiosity about it. See what happens.
And then as you move through the week, keep asking yourself – what if I can be curious in this moment?
A few examples:
What if instead of being annoyed about this traffic I can be curious about what’s causing it, or about what comes up for me sitting stuck in it? What if I could just get super curious about everything I can notice about the car next to me and the people in it?
What if instead of being afraid of writing this important email I can get curious about the whole process – curious about what I really want to say, curious about the emotions it raises in me, curious about how things will unfold once I press send?
What if instead of rushing my child through the morning or being frustrated with them I can get incredibly curious: What is happening for them in the morning? What is happening for me? What might work better? What are they really saying to me?
Let curiosity lead.
I look forward to hearing your reports back! Join our private Weekly Practice Facebook group to share your experience and read others’ accounts.