Making Sense Of The Mess

Changing Messy Thinking

3 Ways Curiosity Increases Self-Awareness

Saturday marked the 5-year anniversary of NASA’s rover landing on Mars. Curiosity, as its called, continues exploring the planet’s surface, puttering along at .9 mph. Eager scientists analyze its findings, anxious to discover answers about life and the universe.

Humans begin life in much the same way. We make our birth landing and immediately begin exploring. Our innate curiosity is insatiable as we develop self-awareness and gain knowledge. Questioning leads to discovery as we look for ways to interpret and make adjustments. Like “Curious George,” we forge ahead, seeking to learn and understand more.

How does curiosity move us along?


The dictionary defines curiosity as a desire or urge to know, or to learn information about something or someone. Many psychologists view it as a character strength, a powerful force in our lives. As such, it has the potential to motivate us to explore, question and discover information about ourselves and our surroundings.

Twelve-year-old Clara Ma described curiosity this way. She submitted the winning entry in a contest to name NASA’s rover, “Curiosity”:

Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone’s mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.”

Wouldn’t it be great to get up every morning, passionately driven by curiosity? Unfortunately, some of us are not. We squelch the flame to explore and seek out new discoveries. Why? Because we get derailed along the way by life’s circumstances. Triggered thoughts resurface, bringing negative beliefs about ourselves, our abilities and surroundings.

Author Todd Kashdan,  (Curious?: Discovering the Missing Ingredient of a Fulfilling Life) put it this way:

“Often the reason people don’t feel this sense of wonder is because they don’t feel like they can handle or tolerate any of the tension that comes with the unknown.”

How do we counter this tendency to lose our sense of wonder? What role does self-awareness play?


Self-awareness occurs in our consciousness. It reveals our physical, emotional and mental states. When we choose to focus, we are able to explore our thoughts, actions, and feelings. This provides us with information, allowing us to make changes or adjustments, to improve our current situation.

What happens when we fail to focus on the present moment? Life gets messy. Our thoughts get transported in time. We find ourselves in the past or projecting into the future. It weakens our curiosity to focus and tackle what’s happening right now.  

Training ourselves to live in the present moment opens the door to self-awareness. We can then use our curiosity to explore, question, and discover.

 3 Ways Curiosity Increases Self-Awareness

1. Explore Mindfully 

Most of us go through our day on autopilot. Daily routines and responsibilities consume out thinking. We miss out on enjoying the present because our focus is elsewhere. Cluttered thinking hinders our real-time awareness. How can we become less “mind full” and more mindful?

Not too long ago, I decided to practice mindfulness. As I walked the dog, I chose one of my five senses to take note of the things I observed. I found it hard to keep my mind from drifting. Then, I began observing my dog.

Her curiosity was evident right away. She sniffed and smelled ever scent left by other dogs. Her eyes found any squirrel or stranger approaching. Various sounds perked up her ears. Food morsels dropped on the ground were quickly gobbled before she could feel me pulling her away. 

Every day I try to practice “dog time.” I purposely choose moments to be curious in, to build awareness. Maybe it’s eating a meal bite by bite. Or, listening attentively while watching facial expressions when in a conversation. Whatever it is, I practice tuning in and paying attention. It teaches me the importance of gathering information to find answers. It makes me aware.

2. Question Relentlessly

Exploring inevitably leads to questioning – or at least it should. As we make observations, our senses are stimulated and create emotional reactions or responses.  We may wonder what is going on and why things are happening. Curiosity prompts us to question and learn.

A curious child will ask over and over again “Why?” You give them an answer only to hear the repetitive why. They want to discover and learn more about themselves and the world.

It’s important to ask questions in the present moment. Curious questions to make us self-aware. Why am I feeling this way? What was just said? Did I hear that right? Will I really lose my job? Am I really a failure? Do I always fail? Is this really going to happen? Questions help us decipher our thoughts. They make us aware of our present state of mind.

When I find myself stirred emotionally, I become curious. I place myself in an imaginary interrogation room and start asking myself questions. This leads me to discovery.

3. Discover Expectantly

The best thing about discovery is how it leads to change. As we become more aware of what’s influencing our physical, emotional and mental states, we can take action.

Curiosity propels us to discover different ways of taking action. We dig in deep to find the best method to help us move forward. When we find it, we do it and our perceptions change. At best, our confidence also grows. And, just like the rover, Curiosity, we keeping puttering along, knowing there’s more to discover.


How about you? How curious are you? Do you ever find yourself not as aware as you’d like to be? Do you wish you were less “mind full” and more mindful?  Let me know your thoughts!

About Pamela Parker

I am a writer. I love spending time with my family, especially my grandchildren. My passion for learning shows up in reading and taking courses on topics that help bring positive change in my life and hopefully those around me.


2 Replies

  1. Thanks Pam! You’ve given me stuff to think about here in terms of awareness of God’s presence in my life. Am I actually looking or am I simply as passive as a sail hoping the wind will fill my sail as I sit still.

    1. Lawrence,
      Please forgive me for not responding sooner. I’m still learning how to navigate my site and “be aware” when I receive comments!!!
      If you haven’t read Brother Lawrence’s book, I think you’d find it motivating and inspiring.It’s a small book with a powerful punch!

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