My eight-year-old looks at things differently than me. Her opinions are forming but malleable, she wanes between judgment and curiosity, she asks endless questions (so many questions), and has the wide-eyed wonder I admire in children. Its not at all unusual for her to explain to me that one day she and I will get married (to each other) but she will take care of me (because I will be old), and that she will adopt children, own one hundred cats, and become a veterinarian (and I will be her assistant). Her mind paints pictures of endless possibilities and creation, expanding what she loves into hopes and dreams. It is hardly fair when I point out that realistically we will not be getting married (I am touched to have scored 2/2 marriage proposals from my kids), that by the time she’s a veterinarian I’ll be in my seventies (and long since retired from working), and that one hundred cats might be a few too many. I mean, why do I need to squash her childhood creativity with the reality of adulting?
We are meaning-makers – everything we see, do, feel, and think we give meaning to, then judge it as good or bad, and file it away in our meaning filing cabinet. The next time we have a similar thought, feeling, or experience we automatically go to our meaning file folders and make judgements based on what we find there. But what if we leaned more into curiosity and less into judgement? What if we suspend our formed perspective and open to growth and expansion that comes with the idea that our way isn’t the only way? This seems like a relatively easy task until you try it. It is not easy. Surrendering our opinions, attitudes, and beliefs to remain curious of other’s experiences takes intention and conscious effort, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Can you think of a time where you were able to ask questions like an eight-year-old child with the only motive being that of gathering more information? Most of us ask questions and listen to others with the purpose of sharing our own views, commiserating our own stories, and finding evidence to support our truth – or at least our version of the truth. This is not right or wrong, it is all done in a bid for connection. But ask yourself if you can find a space of inquiry of new and different opinions rather than attachment of your own. What if you remained open to expansive thought and got comfortable with the uncomfortable notion that we do not need to know it all, and at the very least we can change our opinion and shift our position without ever being right or wrong.
There are so many current topics that have caused division, with bipartisan camps set up to house each polar opposite viewpoint, each holding fast to the stance that their way is the capital T truth. I will admit that I find myself in those camps from time to time and struggle with my own openness and curiosity. I have all the information, right? I feel strong in my beliefs or opinions and any other side to the argument seems nonsensical and uninformed. But at the end of the day, this creates an island and disconnect, neither of which are attractive to me, and assumes that I simply know better than someone else. Interestingly, those that hold a different perspective are thinking the same.
But what if we open our minds and our hearts to the possibility of learning, growing, expansion, and acceptance that our way of thinking is not the only way, or the right way, or the rightest way……. it's just a way. What if we ask curious questions? And what if we started by asking questions to ourselves?
In The Work by author and speaker Byron Katie, she identifies four questions of self-inquiry that provide freedom from the stories we tell ourselves and launch authentic curiosity. These questions to ask ourselves are:
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know it is true?
What happens when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without that thought?
Asking ourselves these questions grants us the permission to shift our perspective, and sets us up for curiosity, expansion, and growth. There may be a few truths you hold that you would die on a hill for, but I would venture to guess that many more of your truths are just formed opinions based on your life’s experiences, or the experiences of those who influenced you during early growth and development. Your truths are different than my truths – and that is the truth. What if you examined those beliefs with the curiosity of an eight-year-old and challenged yourself to expand and shift by gathering new information?
Somewhere along my journey growing up I experienced that my sadness and anger made others uncomfortable, which then formed my belief that anything other than joy and happiness needs to be kept and expressed to myself or I would not be liked, accepted, included, or belong. Furthermore, my attitude that something was wrong with me and that tears equaled weakness was cultivated and formed into my own truth. I continued to gather evidence that when I had a smile on my face and was outwardly happy, I was accepted and loved. This became my truth. But as I grew and added painful life lessons to my repertoire, I challenged this belief with curiosity. What I had noticed was that when others shared their vulnerability with me that included a whole myriad of emotions, it provided a deep, intimate connection that drew me in and created a bond of acceptance and authenticity. This valuable experience shifted my perspective when I then challenged my previously held beliefs and asked myself if they were true, and who would I be if I did not believe that I had to keep my sadness and anger to myself?
Today, to truly know me is to know the whole spectrum of emotions that come with the human experience, and I believe that my vulnerable expression of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences creates a nonjudgmental, curious place and allows others to do the same. My coaching clients share their gratitude of the warm, safe space I create for authentic self-discovery, as well as my encouragement of their suspension of judgment and increased exploration of life through the curious lens of an eight-year-old. I may not be headed for a life of owning one hundred cats and assisting my daughter in her veterinary clinic, but then again, what if I am?
Tracey Carlson RESULTS COACH . MOTHER . RETIRED MENTAL HEALTH NURSE. BRAIN TUMOUR SURVIVOR.
Tracey specializes in assisting her clients with awareness and acceptance, and then helps them identify and navigate the barriers that are getting in their way. She creates a safe, confidential space where her intention is to provide her clients with the most valuable experience through warmth, trust, attentive listening, and curiosity.