We expect a great deal of ourselves in our work lives. When we read articles about how to become better leaders or managers, we expect that we do our jobs, manage time well, set goals, remain calm, be productive, behave politely, think constructively, be innovative, and continually strive toward greatness – all with charisma and a smile.
But doing all of these things every moment of every day can feel a) next to impossible, and b) completely exhausting. We can, however, do something to keep our motivation up and stress levels down as we try, learn, and improve.
The trick to being able to adapt to continuous improvement without overwhelm is curiosity. By curiosity I mean a desire to know, a sense of wonder, and an open appreciation toward information. Curiosity is a frame of mind and an attitude about our own abilities.
Here are 3 quick examples of how to add curiosity to your worklife:
- When you find yourself asking the irritated and rhetorical question, “Why is that person so annoying?! Pause and inhale (pro tip: exhale & repeat). Then re-frame the question, “Huh. I wonder why that person is so annoying.” The key here is to actually mull over few options.
- When you are behind on a deadline and feeling the doom of failure creeping in around you, step back from your desk and take a big, deep sigh. If anxiety is creeping in, ask, “What is ONE thing about this project that I think is going well?” It might be the font you’re using on your reports. That’s fine because there is now one thing that is working, and you can discover other things to keep your momentum moving from there.
- When you feel stuck or lethargic or disinterested about any or every aspect of your work, ask, “If I felt the opposite of this – perhaps fluid, energetic, or generally buoyant – how would I recognize it?” Having a sense of what good feels like is vital, and asking further questions can take you there.
The point of these examples is not to “turn that frown upside down” or “fake it ‘til you make it.” The point is to shift your perspective for a moment. Rather than hanging out in the familiar experiences of rhetorical frustration, crippling anxiety, or stagnating ennui, you open your mind to a point beyond the current situation.
When you shift your perspective even the smallest degree, you can begin developing new ideas and generative thought – highly valuable tools work places that love the words “innovation,” “iteration”, and “adaptation.”
Curiosity, wonder, and a willingness to shift your perspective are vital for better successes at work. Not only because they can help you feel better in the moment, but because they are the essence of the management skills we’re all supposed to know how to do. They are the essence of learning to improve.