Episode 296: Finding Yourself Through Curiosity

Episode Summary

In this episode, I’m excited about sharing some fantastic results I got by exploring the power of curiosity. We look at the possibilities curiosity can open for us by asking simple questions about our habits, our fears, the things that make us angry or even anxious. We take a step back to look at ourselves, the way we act and think, and get curious about our thoughts and actions. Today’s show’s purpose is to empower ourselves by asking questions and use curiosity to open the door of imagination. 

Rob Shallenberger: Alright, welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. This is your host, Rob Shallenberger. And I hope you’re having a great day wherever you’re at. And these podcasts, as you know, some of them go as much as 35 minutes, and sometimes they’re a little shorter than that. Today is going to be one of those that is a little shorter, probably more on the 15-minute side, a quick hitter that you can listen to as you’re making breakfast on your way to or from work – something simple like that.  

And I’m actually in Pittsburgh, getting ready to do an event here in Pittsburgh. This is something that I’ve been thinking about – and doing now – over the past couple of days, what I’m about to share here. I did on the flight on the way here to Pittsburgh. And I’ve really had a chance to practice this quite a bit in the last few days, and it’s been fascinating, and I really wanted to share this with you. So, I’m excited for this outlet and this ability to share what I’ve been practicing in the past couple of days, and that is the power of curiosity. Now, I’ve read this in several other books, and I’ve certainly tried it to an extent, but I haven’t put it to practice like I have in the last two days. And what I’ve learned about the power of curiosity is that it can really empower us to find ourselves, to break all the habits and thought loops, and generate new ideas and ways of living our lives that maybe previously we hadn’t considered or thought about. The mind is a fascinating tool if we can just simply unlock it.  

And so, what I want to share with you are a few ways that we can do that, and actually apply this to yourself. Now, to make this applicable, and to make this really personal to you, I’m going to ask you to do something. And that is, first of all, to rate yourself on a scale of one to 10. In other words, take your whole life snapshot right now: your finances, your relationships with the people who are close to you in your life, what you feel like when you wake up in the morning, your job, your work-life balance, stress levels, mental and emotional and physical health. Take the whole picture and rate yourself on a scale of one to 10; one is not good, 10 is outstanding. So, hopefully, everyone has a number. You visualize that number in your brain. So, let’s say you rated yourself maybe a six or a seven, maybe a five, maybe it was even a two or three – things are not going so well right now. Wherever you rated yourself, what if you could move from a six to a nine, or from a two to a seven, or a five to a nine? That’s the difference between a good day and a great day. That’s the difference between a good relationship and a great relationship.  

And the other thing that’s interesting about this is the numbers can move on us. For example, as a 21-year-old college student, if I would have rated myself as an eight financially back then, well, that eight would certainly look very different right now. And so, what may be a nine to you today, eight months from today, that’s a totally different number because where you’re at mentally has shifted, it’s changed. The same can apply to a relationship or to our well-being. And so what I’m going to invite us to do is look at the power of curiosity in conjunction with our other tools into how we can move that needle and have a big shift in that number. So, if you rated yourself a six, we want to be able to move that to a nine. And then that nine out in the future may become a six. And the new nine appears and what that might look like will change.  

So, first of all, I’m moving the needle. I want to acknowledge all of the other tools and resources. So, do what matters most – that’s a powerful resource you’ve heard us talk about countless times. And if you haven’t downloaded the app, or I should say the Google or Outlook extension, I encourage you to do that; take action now and get that tool on your computer, on your device, so that you can have your vision, goals, and pre-week planning in one place. To get it, it’s simple. You go to, you pay a small monthly fee, it’s like $2.97 a month, something like that, and you have it right there on your computer. So, a powerful tool. You have the 12 principles. You gotta start with the vision and the six-step process. You have our other book, Conquer Anxiety. So, all of these contain tools and processes that will move the needle dramatically when we apply the tool and use the habit.  

Well, today I’m going to focus on a little bit more of what would be a niche topic within the 12 principles, specifically innovating through imagination, tapping into that part of the brain that really is a part of everything else we do, yet it’s a part of our brain that I would suggest is often neglected. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised just like any other muscle. And we’re going to look at how to exercise that muscle. And it’s a simple, yet powerful lens. And like I mentioned, that lens is curiosity.  

Now, I want you to think about this. Why would curiosity be so important as we go throughout our day? How often do you and I get caught in a thought or a habit loop? I would suggest it actually happens all the time. The statistics behind this are that the average person thinks around 50 thoughts per day. Now, I’ve always wondered how they conducted that research. I’ve read several different studies that show approximately the same thing. But nonetheless, that’s what they say that we think, on average, 50,000 thoughts per day. 90% of those thoughts are the same, day to day. And for most adults, 70% of those thoughts tend to be negative. This is the perfect example of a thought loop. Can you relate to that? At least with the 90% of thoughts being the same, I certainly can. And for most people, it sounds like it’s the same for them as well, where you’re thinking about your children if you have children, your finances, your job, what you’re going to do in the evening – it’s pretty much a similar thought process day in and day out. And so the question is, not that it’s bad, but how do we break that loop and come up with new ideas, and generate new ways of thinking and break that habit loop, or in other words, that thought loop?

So, let me give you another example of a thought loop. And I could tie this habit loop into all kinds of things. You can tie this into addictions, whether it’s eating, when you feel that crave for no other reason than just to eat to satisfy that feeling that you have inside, there’s a trigger, there’s a reward behavior associated with it. For smoking, there’s this reward-based learning that comes with it; you have the craving, you have the addiction, you smoke, and there’s this perceived short-term reward for smoking the cigarette, even though we know the long-term cost to it. So, we operate out this rewards-based thinking cycle. And oftentimes, it’s easy to get caught in these thinking loops or habit loops that are actually not rewarding long term but appear to be rewarding short term.  

So, let me see if I can make sense of that. Let’s take one that is common, and that is like I mentioned, food. How often have you ever gotten bored, nervous, or anxious, and then you default to food? I know for a lot of people that’s a common thing. I’ve certainly done that throughout my life at different periods where it’s seven or eight o’clock in the evening, and for whatever reason, I’m just defaulting to food. I’m not hungry, I’m just going in there and say, “Give me some food to eat.” And for other people, that can be a real – we’ll call it – outlet for anxiety or other things where there’s this short-term perceived reward. Whereas we know that long term, that’s not the case.  

And so what we want to think about are the different anxiety loops, thought loops, habit loops that are really not serving you. And let’s use curiosity to look at those in a different light. In other words, we need to break our typical thought cycles or habit cycles that aren’t serving us. Einstein’s 2nd Law is “The objects in motion or at rest remain in motion or at rest unless an external force imposes change.” Now, those are a lot of big words. In other words, things are going to continue doing the same thing unless there’s something that will bump them, shift them, or impose a change upon them.  

So, let’s take this anxious feeling as an example. I know that anxiety is something that a lot of people have felt in the last year and a half – many people who have never experienced it previously have now realized that this is something that they have in their family or their lives. So, let’s take a stressed or anxious feeling, and instead of fearing it, get curious about it. Because oftentimes, fear feeds fear. And instead, when we get curious about it, it loses its teeth. What makes a lion dangerous are the claws and the teeth. Anxiety and all of these other thought loops that are not held for serving us, it’s the same thing. What makes them so powerful are the teeth or the claws, and once we take those out of it, there’s nothing really left there. And so instead of fearing it, get curious about it. Like I said, fear tends to breed fear. So, if you’re ever feeling anxious, using this example, in particular, ask questions such as, where do you feel that anxiety right now? Physically, where do you actually feel it in your body? Is it in your heart? Is it in your hands? And what is that like? Get curious about it, start asking questions. What does the fear or the stress feel like? Where’s it coming from? And then ask curious questions such as, how is that serving you? Just get curious. Can you see how these are all interesting questions? There’s no judgment in these questions. These are just simply exploratory, curious questions. And when we start asking these types of questions, it’s amazing how often it takes the teeth out of whatever the habit or thought loop is. And I’m just using anxiety as one of those right now.  

How about another one? How about anger? Get curious, ask questions, start really digging into it. Don’t fear the anger, don’t necessarily embrace it either because it’s something we want to get curious about. How is that anger serving you? Where do you feel the anger? What does it feel like? Where is it emanated from? What triggered that? If there’s a response to that anger, is that response or that what is perceived as a short-term reward serving you? How is it helping you? Is it really a reward in the short and the long term?  

Let’s take one more example, and let’s say it’s an addiction. And there are about a million different types of addictions out there. It could be anywhere from TV to drugs to alcohol, smoking, pornography, anger, whatever. So, let’s think about addiction. Rather than beating yourself up or using the famous word “should” – and my brother-in-law, he has a good phrase for this – “Quit shoulding on yourselves.” In other words, how often do we look at our own past when we say, “I should have done this, I should have done that.”? See, think of it this way. Depression is something that oftentimes is a result of being focused in the past. Anxiety is oftentimes a fear of being too focused in the future. We really want to maximize the present. So, the word “should” is not a present-type word. It’s usually focused on the past, sometimes in the future. But let’s stop shoulding on ourselves if you will. 

And let me go back to the addiction example here. So, instead of shoulding on ourselves, let’s get curious. Let’s start asking questions about a habit. If it’s an addiction, how is that habit serving you? So, whether it’s eating food, whether it’s smoking, drinking, pornography – whatever it is, ask how that habit is serving you. What does it feel like? Again, our brain tends to operate off of a rewards-based system. So, while certain things may appear to satisfy that, like, say, for example, for a certain person, anxiety may trigger the habit of eating or going to eat to numb themselves or disconnect from the anxiety. Well, that satisfies a short-term reward in the brain. But in the long term, we know that that’s not really helping us or serving us. So, start asking questions about that, get curious. Why is that a reward? Ask how that habit is serving you. What does that habit feel like? Where do you feel it? What is the trigger for that habit? What creates that craving or desire in the first place? – Another word for trigger. And what are other alternatives when you feel the desire or a triggering event? What might be the longer-term reward rather than the short-term perceived reward?  

Now, let me just switch this to the positive. What about if we got curious about words like love? What about if we got curious on how to love our partner or our spouse, our children? How to show up even more than we’re currently doing in our current job or in our work? Here’s an example of what I mean. The other day, I was laying in bed, I woke up in the morning, and I got curious about the word “love.” And so I just started asking questions – so, I’ve used some negative examples of this up to this point, now we’re going to use some positive – and I thought, “Let’s get curious, Rob. What does the word love mean? What does it mean to love my wife? What does that look like? How does that show up? How does love manifest itself in our relationship?” And these were powerful questions. I mean, it was really like this epiphany was happening right there that morning. I hadn’t climbed out of bed yet. And I’m having this huge revelation, and it was awesome because I realized love is so much more than just a feeling; it’s an action, it’s a connection, there’s a unity, it’s a very deep and powerful word. And this wouldn’t have happened, this epiphany wouldn’t have happened without the accompanying curiosity and questions.  

Now, let me throw one more spin on this thought of question and asking ourselves questions. It’s important to phrase questions the right way. There are low vibration or weak questions. There are also high vibration or strong energy type questions. And it’s kind of like goals. You’ve heard us talk about goals all the time. The way we word our goals matter, every word matters. It’s the same with questions we ask ourselves. Let me just give you one example. Instead of saying, “How do I add value to the world?” I can make a slight shift to that question and say, “How could I add even more value to the world?” So, see, that first question came from a place of scarcity; being not enough, as if I’m not doing something already. The second question came from a place of abundance. In other words, how could I do even more for the world? How could I add even more value? So, there’s this acknowledgment, there’s already value being added that I’m already doing something. And so the way you ask your question is important. I like the words “even more” because it creates this abundance question if you will. And it’s not putting us in a place of guilt or shame. So, think about that. I would just invite you as we get ready to wrap up this thought on curiosity, and finding yourself through curiosity and questions is to empower yourself by asking yourself important questions. Phrase those in a way that starts you off thinking from a place of abundance. Whether it is an addiction, whether it’s anger, whether it’s anxiety – any of those things that are not serving us very well – start getting curious about them. And instead of fearing them, instead of fearing the addiction, or fearing the anger, or fearing whatever it is, start getting curious about it because curiosity opens up the door to imagination. It’s just like Einstein’s 2nd Law, nothing’s gonna change unless we have an external force imposed upon it. Curiosity can be that exact external force.   

And so, start asking questions. I don’t know where you’re at right now, maybe you’re in a car, maybe you’re at home, if you feel like it and you really want to take this to the next level, get out a piece of paper and start writing down some of the questions that would really empower you. What do those look like for you? And get curious about them and start really asking them of yourself. I’ll just give you one example. Here on the flight to Pittsburgh, I wrote down a few more questions, specifically, that I’m really starting to thinking about, and I’ll spend days on these. These are not take-a-few-seconds-and-then-move-on type questions. So, one of the questions I asked is, “How can I help Tanya – my wife – feel even more loved and valued?” Can you see how that word “even more” versus, “How can I help her feel loved and valued?” It’s a question from a low vibration state. “Even more”, is a place from abundance. And so just a little tweak in the question can have an impact. What are some of the experiences I would like to have? How can I add even more value to the world? What are some things I would like to do, experience, or accomplish in the next five to 10 years? I already shared with you the word “love.” What does the word “love” mean? What is love?  

And so, just really be curious as you go out throughout the day. And maybe make that the thought or the focus on today – curiosity – and see where it takes you. So, I hope this has been helpful. For me, it’s been a powerful couple of days, just really observing thoughts, feelings, cravings, desires. And I just get curious about them. I don’t beat myself up, which tends to be a first instinct for most of us as humans, at least if it’s a negative desire, or a habit, a thought, or whatever it is. Instead of going towards that route, immediately go towards curiosity. And for me, it’s been fascinating to just start asking questions, “Hmm, that’s an interesting thought. I wonder how that would serve me.” And then it gives our logical brain a chance to chime in here and have a voice. And so again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – curiosity. What are some of the questions that you’re asking yourself? What are some of the things that you’re getting curious about? And I really honestly would love to hear from you on this.  

So, if you wouldn’t mind, write us an email to, and several other members of our team will be able to see it when you share it at that email address. And share with us some of the questions that you’re asking yourself. This curiosity idea, whether you’re using it in the form of looking a little deeper into an addiction, whatever thought loop or habit loop that you’re looking at. Or maybe you’re looking at a word like love or a relationship? What are some of your curiosity questions that you’re thinking about? And let us learn from you as well. I love hearing what’s out there. This whole idea of curiosity I got from a couple of other books that I’ve had for years, but it’s really piqued my interest over the last couple of days, which is why we’re all growing, right? Here I am at age 46, and we’re always learning and developing new ideas and things and constantly stretching.  

So, again, thank you for being here today. I hope you have a great rest of the week, excited to hear from you, your thoughts on curiosity. And remember, if you haven’t already done it, go get the pre-week planning extension, so that you can start using now on your desktop or your laptop. Alright, between now and next week, we hope you have a great day and a wonderful rest of your week. 

Rob Shallenberger

CEO, Becoming Your Best

Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father

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