Using Curiosity to get Unstuck

Posted on April 10, 2017 by Amy Rosechandler

What to do when you feel stuck?

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

Stuckness. It’s one of the most common concerns my clients come to me with. My clients often describe battling a problem on their own for years before coming to see me. The tipping point that brings people into counseling is feeling stuck and overwhelmed. Sometimes we get bound up by insecurity, frustration, and weariness with taming life’s problems. Stuckness can feel like not knowing the answer to a complicated problem, or not having the tools you need to get something done. When was the last time you felt stuck? Stuckness can signal a need for different resources or a different perspective. (That’s where counseling can help!)

Curiosity is a skill counselors use to help people understand and solve problems. Many counselors learn to develop their curiosity during their training. We all have our strengths, and curiosity is a counselor super-power. The good news is you can use curiosity on your own. You can learn to hone your own skills for curiosity and strengthen your own super-power.

What is curiosity?
Curiosity is the inner guide that pulls us toward learning more. Curiosity is something everyone has the ability to use, and it's a skill we can practice. It can be like a '6th sense' that helps us listen, investigate and understand.

Curiosity can mean asking and wondering more about a problem you are sorting through. Curiosity might help us approach a problem by 'shining a light on it' so to see and uncover all about it. Using curiosity is like taking the stance of an investigative journalist. Imagine yourself with an old-school field notebook and pen. As you investigate, you'd take notes about your surroundings and what you learn. You may question things that usually go unquestioned- the assumptions and knowledge we take for granted.

I often find myself using curiosity when I am cooking. I stumbled upon my best chili ever when I was facing the problem of running out of chili powder. I used curiosity to look around my kitchen and think about what else might work. I used an open mind to wonder if chipotle peppers, coffee, or even mango might give me a nice flavor. It totally worked!

Curiosity might mean approaching the problem with a sense of playfulness and creativity. Try looking at things without judgment and with openness. To practice curiosity for a few moments, try looking at the things around you. Notice and question at least one object and describe it to yourself. What do you see/feel/hear and notice about it? What is its origin? Where was it made? Who made it? What is its purpose?

How can I use curiosity to help me get unstuck?
If you are feeling completely stuck, curiosity works best when we take a step back from the problem. Writing things down, drawing or another type of creativity can help you step back, brainstorm and get curious. Don’t forget to be playful, non-judgmental and keep an open mind.

When you feel ready, start to wonder and listen to any questions you have about the problem or potential solutions. Write down those questions and consider them. Answer your own questions or see what comes up as you jot questions down. If you notice yourself thinking about the problem or solutions in a different way, write that down too.

Be curious about what the problem might sound like to someone else who is not involved in any way. Write about the problem as if you are describing the problem to an alien, mentioning details you might usually take for granted. Ask yourself questions about solutions, even if you have already considered those solutions before. Consider drawing a picture of yourself acting out the solution.

Curiosity can help when we are at a crossroads- you may find that it can call you toward a direction. Listen to the '6th sense' of curiosity. Using your curiosity may also help you take a needed break from thinking about a problem in the same old way.

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