Time for Curiosity

During my recent time at Modern Elder Academy, “time affluence” was a term we discussed that stayed with me. It resonated because when I was raising four busy kids, I felt much more time poor than I do in my quiet house today.

Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin Seligman unpack that same term in their book Tomorrowmind (curious about it? It’s one of our Wiser by Choice titles this Friday). They recount an experiment that re-creates a Good Samaritan-like experience to test the conditions under which people are most likely to stop to help a stranger. Interestingly, the folks in a hurry were least likely to stop. Perceived time affluence (not values or skills or expertise or resources or…) was the strongest determining factor in developing an other-focused orientation.

So here we are at the C in ELASTIC — curiosity. I’ve written elsewhere about curiosity being correlated with privilege. It also requires humility — if we believe we have all the answers, why ask more questions? But this week, courtesy of a fascinating conversation with Judy Riege, I’m becoming more aware of the relationship between curiosity and time. Building our curiosity skills requires us to slow down and inquire for longer, rather than jumping too quickly to an assumption that we understand a situation or a person. Curiosity benefits from time affluence and is threatened when we perceive ourselves as time poor.

Curiosity has strong positive correlations with many aspects of positive wellbeing, such as stress-tolerance, flourishing and longevity. It leads to what Amanda Lang describes as a “more energized life.” One pathway toward it? Slow down.

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