A Curious Life

Discover how curiosity is key to a life that is rich and rewarding.

“I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

What Albert Einstein gave the world extends far beyond his theory of relativity – he modeled a state of being. This week Einstein re-entered our lives.

Scientists recently announced their first detection of gravitational waves, the result of two Black Holes merging together.

The discovery will allow us to see the universe in a completely different way because what was once invisible is visible.

This is big. The discovery will allow us to get an understanding of our beginnings, and know about some fundamental forces of nature – gravity in particular.

Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is 100 years old and now has been proven. Wouldn’t he be delighted to see this happen?

When I think of people who have led a curious life, Albert Einstein would be at the top of the list. Though I struggle to understand the concepts that allow us to know so much about the universe, I am fascinated by this new discovery.

And grateful to those before and around me who keep asking questions. Those who are energized by wanting to know more.

I have found in my life that having the motivation of curiosity opens doors that I never could have imagine. And it keeps me on the right track. Whenever I am driven by fears, life becomes confusing and messy.

But when I pay attention to what intrigues me, what makes me want to know more, then I am feel much more connected. I like to think of it as pulling versus pushing.  What pulls me is what makes me stand up and take notice – it is where I want to direct my attention.  Pushing on the other hand is when I am compelled to go in a direction because it is something I “should” do or what I might consider to be my best interests.

In terms of work, my curiosity will take me to those places where I will do my best work.  I will be pulled by certain kinds of tasks. I will want to learn more.

When I am pushing myself, there is often a grit-my-teeth approach. If I suck this up now, then tomorrow I will reap the rewards. 

You can think of curiosity, then, as a guide. If you pay attention to what grasps your attention, there are a lot of clues about your work and your life. From noticing you will find out about your strengths, passions, motivations and everything else that you need to lead an inspired life.

The challenge is immense. According to an American study, people spend less than 20% of their time doing activities that they enjoyed or were meaningful to them.  In a culture that does value engagement, you can expect some resistance to exploring what makes you curious, internally and externally.

Why is curiosity so important? And how does it improve your life?

You are actively engaged in your life.

Curiosity takes you from an ordinary life to an extraordinary one. With a curiosity, you pay attention in much deeper ways.

Your world opens up to new possibilities.

One of the greatest offshoots of asking questions is this takes you into places that you couldn’t have imagined by yourself. This is how great discoveries and inventions have occurred.

Curiosity keeps you in touch with feeling alive.

A curious life is one that has excitement and adventure and that leads to a rich and satisfying life. 

According to Todd Kashdan, author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, the benefits of leading a curious life include increased health, intelligence, social relationships, happiness and meaning.  

Curiosity is fundamental to all humans. We can cultivate it in our lives, too.  Here are some ideas for making curiosity a daily part of your life. 

Developing a Curiosity Practice

Read a variety of books. Through this practice you will be able to see connections between different ideas and look at a problem through a different lens. For example, fiction books often are well researched, introducing you to a new perspective or thought.

Change the ordinary. When going down a routine route or walking down a familiar path, what do you notice that is different?

Ask a lot of questions. When meeting someone new, step outside of the regular inquiries about the kind of work a person does and explore what new project in their life is exciting them. For people you already know, ask questions about their lives or interests.

Be open to new experiences. Rather than going to an immediate no, think of the experience as a way of learning more about yourself and the world. Practice saying yes for a day.

Dive into those interests and passions that intrigue you. For this week, what is one way that you can go deeper into your interests. This can be about learning more about interests of yours. 

In this Year of the Monkey, develop their spirit of irrepressible curiosity.


How to say YES to your amazing life

Working for the weekend.  Have you ever had a job where it was a countdown to your days off?  How precious was that time between the end of your weekly shift and the beginning of another?

Once upon a time my dream was to own a cottage at the lake, the ultimate getaway.  I dreamed of a place where my children could roam and I could relax. All around the lake were others who came to play on the weekend, holidays and whenever we could plug in time. 

This was the dream.  This was the epitome of my hard work.  If I was lucky, I could retire at 55 and live at the cottage all the time. 

I never lived the dream.  Thankfully.

The problem with this picture is that weekends become increasingly short.  And the rest of the week becomes excruciatingly long.

For those of us who have a desire for something more, those who may not know exactly what that more is but can feel it in quiet times, the cottage dream isn’t enough.

When you are feeling bewildered about your life, dissatisfaction often surfaces in work life.  Understandable, since this is where you spend most of your waking hours.

Sometimes you don’t know how to figure out what to do.  Perhaps you have a plan but that means staying in the job for one more year.  Or two. Perhaps your vision is not clear.  What you do know is how you feel.  Draggy.  Listless.  Frustrated. 

What do you do?

Begin by saying yes to your life. 

Saying yes means paying attention to what excites you, what really engages you.

Saying yes means taking your desires and dreams seriously.  With a lighthearted approach.  It is all about enjoyment!

Saying yes means making the time for what inspires you.

Saying yes means doing the work of self discovery, getting to know who you are, and tying all of that to your dreams.  The work is deep, and too frequently neglected in this hurry-up, accomplishment-driven, not-enough-time world.

Sometimes you don’t say yes to your life because you can’t think of adding even one more thing into your life.  You are already stressed out.  You don’t need another item on the list.  Fun can feel like a burden.

When you feel that way, it is a sign that you need to move toward yes.           

What happens when you say yes to your life?

You enjoy life more. 

When you are connected to being alive, your energy changes.  You feel fuelled. 

You will drawn to others who share your passions. 

And they will be drawn to you.  You also will be a good role model for those around you – like your children.  One of the best things our children can experience is seeing others who are happy.

Your outlook on life shifts. 

You see possibilities where they were none before. 

What does saying yes to your life have to do with work?

You get closer to your dream job. 

By saying yes, you experience the ripple effect.  When you say yes to one part of your life, it affects the other parts.  Doing a volunteer or pleasure activity that inspires you allows you to be in the space where you consider what inspires you about work.  In your most relaxing times is often when the most brilliant ideas arise.  But there also is a deliberateness about saying yes to your life.  You are doing activities which align with who you are.

How do you say yes to your life?

Pay attention to your needs. 

Your needs are a guide to what is going on for you, pointing you towards your values, desires and preferences.  Needs are universal.  For a listing of needs, check it out here.  It is just as important to examine both your unmet and met needs. 

Pay attention to what inspires you. 

One exercise to do get to the core of your inspiration is to write a list of what excites you, using your non-dominant hand.  Take time to create a lengthy list – it allows you to get deeper.  Using your non-dominant hand allows you to tap into unconscious parts of yourself.  Make a life list – check it out here. 

Make room in your life. 


Just as we make room to do the dishes and clean out the basement, plan time to do those activities that you have uncovered in the previous exercise.  Organizers suggest that scheduling these activities in your calendar will ensure that it is a priority. 

Start saying yes. 

The beginning point is to say yes to yourself – to your basic needs such as exercise, eating well, and sleep.  This will allow you to have the energy to be engaged with your life in healthy ways.  And then start saying yes to what is important to you. 

Loving what you do

At the information centre, I ask for a copy of the tide table.   I want to find the tidal pools, those delicate environments with stranded creatures we get to see only when the water is receding. 

I am ready to immerse myself in this fresh world. 

Tidal pools are home to some hearty sea life.  When the sun beats down, the water heats up considerably.  Less than 6 hours later, those same marine animals are exposed to the cold blasts from ocean water. 

What a resilient bunch! 

I have come to the west side of Vancouver Island for the long weekend in September, still a busy time for travellers.

The roads are crowded, as is the ocean.  Surfers flock to the ocean side on a clear, warm day. Wetsuits are the look of the day.

I look toward the horizon where I see no land.  The vastness is immense.

I see a person climb on their board and slide along the water.  I know the surfer is in her element, knowing how waves behave, when to ride the right one.

What I know too is that because this person loves what she is doing, she is motivated to do it again and again. The practice that she gains will improve her abilities. The connection between her love of what she does and her mastery would have a strong correlation if they were graphed.  

I walk along the sides of the surfer’s lives, observing them from my ringside seat.  I am partly inspired and partly awed.  That is what happens when we see people doing what they love.

There is an infectiousness when we are enthused.  I remember the crowd at a Fleetwood Mac concert a couple years ago, positively wired listening to musicians who have become masterful at what they do.

I suspect what we observe about others following their bliss is that sense of being alive.

The skin on my face is smooth from the westerly wind blowing on it all afternoon. Being outdoors for a long time clears the cobwebs.

I grab my camera and walk along the beach. Can I really capture the vastness of Long Beach, so aptly named for miles and miles of sand? I promised myself that I will take my camera out more frequently, an artist date as was first suggested years ago by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way.

I walk for a considerable time in one direction, barely remembering that I have to walk back.  The rocky shore ahead beckons me but I am distracted by waves.  I wander out to my ankles and a wave splashes up to my knees.

Icy cold.

I am loving what I am doing. I love being a part of that lively exchange of water in and out. I love looking through the lens of my camera to find what presents itself.  The way the sky is reflected back in the shallow water, the sand formed into ridges by the water’s movement. 

I want to catch a moment.  I find it later when I am walking along a rocky shore, freezing the spray of the water coming over the rocks.

I am grateful for this time that I have, for being able to come to such a beautiful place. This fuels me.

What I know for sure is that loving what I am doing here is going to spill out into the rest of my life. I just don’t know how.

There is a connection between loving what I do in one moment connecting me to the rest of my life.

When I facilitate workshops on finding work that matters, I encourage everyone to do something that they love, even if they haven’t yet found the career that they love. Doing any activity that you love creates the right environment for figuring out the career. Because of the contagious nature of observing people loving what they do.  That person can even be us, inspiring ourselves.

So if you are struggling with finding the work that matters to you, take some time to do something you love, paying attention to that feeling.  Really enjoy the moment. 

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Try this:  I feel most alive when_______________.  In the comments section below, add your response to the statement. 



Life List Challenge

What do you want to do with this glorious life of yours?

Last year after I quit my job, moved to a new city and began the plans for launching my business, I found a coffee shop by the ocean and considered what it is that I wanted to do with my amazing life that was spread out before my eyes.  There were so many possibilities.

Sitting and looking at the vastness before me, I remembered a task that I gave to clients when they were puzzled about what work they wanted to do.  I called it a "Life List."  Things to achieve in my lifetime. 

Work is one part of our lives and who we are is so much bigger, much bigger than we actually even know.  What I figured out is that getting excited about our work means getting excited about our lives.  "What excites you?" I asked. 

As it turns out, probably a lot of things. 

The task I assigned was this.  Write down a list of what you want to accomplish in your life.  Big or small.  Give it a good hearty effort.  Write down 100 items.  "Really?" I heard many times.  The longer the list, the more you find out about yourself and what you love. 

My challenge to you is to do your own Life List.  100 or more items.  Investing time in exploring your dreams is one way to take them seriously. 

Here are some questions to get you rolling:

  • What have you always wanted to do but haven't yet?
  • Where in the world would you like to go?
  • What experiences do you want to have?
  • What would you do if you didn't have to worry about money?
  • What adventures would you like to experience?
  • Who would you like to meet?
  • What would you like to learn?
  • Is there anything in particular that you would like to have?

Here is the list that I created almost a year ago.  If you are sparked by any of the ideas, you are welcome to add them to your list.

  1. Fly in a hot-air balloon.
  2. Do a 10 km walk/run.
  3. Fall in love - many times - people, places, things.
  4. Watch the sun set in the Grand Canyon.
  5. Watch all of The Good Wife.
  6. See orcas up close.
  7. Go to New York City.
  8. Learn Spanish.
  9. Write a book.
  10. Become a Returning to Spirit facilitator.
  11. Visit Julia (my cat that didn't move with me).
  12. Become a travel writer.
  13. Success as a career facilitator.
  14. Visit the Maritimes.
  15. Take a 365-day challenge.
  16. Be silent for a day.
  17. Make over $120K in a year.
  18. Ride a gondola in Venus.
  19. Go to Burning Man.
  20. Do my dad's family tree.
  21. Have $250,000 in savings.
  22. Stay in a 5-star hotel.
  23. Travel for 3 consecutive months.
  24. Think to myself - I'm living my dream.
  25. Winter storm watching in Tofino.
  26. Alaska cruise with my mother.
  27. Make a difference in someone else's life.
  28. Create my own manifesto.
  29. Travel around Europe.
  30. Be invited to speak at a conference.
  31. Achieve 5,000 subscribers.
  32. Have my dream home.
  33. Speak to over 1,000 people.
  34. Explore a castle.
  35. Throw a big party.
  36. Sleep in a hammock.
  37. Interview people about their work.
  38. Host a talk show.
  39. Find a job where I travel.
  40. Visit Australia.
  41. Go star gazing in the southern hemisphere.
  42. See northern lights with many colours.
  43. Create cards with inspirational sayings - leave for strangers to find.
  44. Write a list of 101 life lessons.  Share it.
  45. Learn a musical instrument.
  46. Find a mentor.
  47. Be a mentor.
  48. Create.  Frequently.
  49. Find work I love.
  50. Help someone cross an item off their Life List.
  51. Hold a monkey.
  52. Surprise someone.
  53. Create a website.
  54. Learning how to make digital posters, writing on photos.
  55. Write a love letter.
  56. Serve food at a soup kitchen.
  57. Get a degree.
  58. Learn a new software program.
  59. Create latte art.
  60. Leave a 100% tip for a server.
  61. Be a member of a TV show audience.
  62. See a Broadway play.
  63. Win something.
  64. Ride on a train in Europe.
  65. Attend a luau.
  66. Go on a spontaneous road trip.
  67. Pan for gold.
  68. Go to Idaho Peak.
  69. Visit Tikal.
  70. Do a solo journey.
  71. Walk on a glacier.
  72. Learn how to create a perfect smoky eye.
  73. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
  74. Travel to Bhutan.
  75. Take a photo a day for a year.
  76. Do 50 random acts of kindness.
  77. Spend a day in a spa.
  78. Go geo-caching.
  79. Eat chocolate in Switzerland.
  80. Stand on the equator.
  81. Take a cooking class.
  82. Get a cartoon sketch of me.
  83. Milk a cow.
  84. Teach someone how to read.
  85. Lay down in 4 states at once - Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah - 4 Corners.
  86. Walk on the Great Wall of China.
  87. Hang out in Times Square.
  88. Touch an iceberg.
  89. Create an inspirational poster.
  90. Create my own personal recipe book.
  91. Operate heavy equipment in Las Vegas.
  92. Identify 10 constellations.
  93. Get a hug from a chimpanzee.
  94. Make a list of 100 foods to eat before I die - and eat them.
  95. Experience 50 modes of transportation.
  96. Travel Icefield Parkway.
  97. Study archaeology.
  98. See Judy Chicago's Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum.
  99. Contact someone with my name.
  100. Fly first class.
  101. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge.
  102. Dance under the stars.

Write them down and they will happen.  Two of my accomplishments from last year - doing a solo journey and riding a train in Europe.  Here is my view of the Mediterranean Sea from a train going 200 km an hour:

What is on your list?

Three Things I Know Are True - Following Your Dreams

Here are my three things I know are true about dreams.

1.  Dreams are imperative. 

Dreams fuel you.  Dreams make a difference between a life that feels engaged and one that feels stuck and motionless.  Dreams connect with what is alive in all of us.  Remember how just hearing about a friend’s dream made you feel so enlivened and energized?

My son and I share a love of fountain pens.  One of our quests in San Francisco was to find ink.  At an art supply store, on a busy street, next to a glass counter, in a small section of the store, we met a woman who knew a lot about fountain pens. We talked about nibs, which ink to use on planes and the features of different pen makers.  She carries 3 pens.  She loves fountain pens; her collection is about 300.  She knows how to choose them, clean them and fix them.  We asked her a lot of questions.  And she answered them all.  Her enthusiasm was catchy.  Because when you are around someone who loves what they do, you can’t help but take on some of that excitement.

What else you will notice when people are doing what they love is that they look alive.  You can see it on their face, in their expressions and through their words. 

Dreams also connect you with others.  And when you do what you love, you become more interesting, inspiring to others.  You also attract like-minded people and inspire each other.

You are motivated, engaged and purposeful when you follow your dreams.

What to do when you aren’t feeling connected to your dream:

When you aren’t feeling connected to your dreams or wonder if you have any, there are lots of clues in your daily life to what ignites you.  The challenge is to pay attention. What excites you?  One way of doing this is to write the question with your dominant hand and make a list with your non-dominant one.   I would recommend making a list of about 30 to 50 items that excite you.  The more time you spend on it, the more you will get to some of your core desires.

 2.  Dreams don’t just happen.

Often dreams begin small and grow bigger than you would have imagined.  I am thinking of Johanna Basford, the young Scottish woman who became famous for her illustrations that she has turned into colouring books.  What Johanna Basford has demonstrated is how hard work and following your passion takes you down roads you never could have imagined.

Dreams take effort.  Determination.  Focus.  They don’t just happen.

The good news is that you don’t have to figure it out all at once.  Find out what you love, learn about it, develop it, and see what happens.  Sometimes you will find that what intrigues you now may not be your dream.  Or you may have more than one.

A long time ago, I became quite fascinated with jewellery making.  I signed up for a continuing education class with a fine jewellery maker.  Though I was quite curious about all of what is involved, I found that I didn’t really like making jewellery. 

Trials like these are your stepping stones. 

How to make your dreams a reality

Take yourself and your dreams seriously.  Be curious.   Talk to others, especially people who share your dream.  And follow what excites you.

 3.  The closer you get to your big dream, that’s when the action happens.

The action is usually in the form of self sabotage, with a heaping of fear. 

One day on the street, I met a man who I had worked with previously.  He said to me, “Do you know why I didn’t succeed?”   I shook my head.  He added, “Because you believed in me more than I believed in myself.”

 Fundamentally, I believe what is at the bottom of all of those abandoned dreams is the answer to this question:  What do we believe about ourselves? 

Interpretations made a long time ago, usually during childhood, raise their heads when we come closer to your dream.  And they are powerful.  In dream-killing ways. 

What to do when you are sabotaging yourself:

 Read The Big Leap:  Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks.  Understand that this is an old part of you that you developed to make life safe.  Dig deeper inside to find what you believe about yourself.  With awareness, you are much more able to develop the strategies you need to make your dreams come true.  Brené Brown also offers great ideas for working with the “experience of believing that we are flawed.”  

Writing about three things that I know are true is an idea from Chris Guillebeau.    Chris talks about finding his “true north,” what he has found to be true for him.  He encourages his readers to use this model for their writing.  Chris is a man who follows dreams, dares to dream big and makes it happen.  Besides visiting every country in the world, writing 3 books and a lot of other stuff, he is the founder of WDS, an annual event that asks the question, “How do you lead a remarkable life in a conventional world?”  Find out more about him here.   

What I know is true about following your dreams is also true about finding your dream job.  

Often I am asked how do you find the work that you love.  Sometimes people are annoyed that they haven’t figured it out already.  What I have found is that there are two elements that make the process easier.  Time and space.  And allowing.

 Allow the time to consider work you love. 

This means knowing that it takes a focused effort to do the exploration, to make the time and to know that, frequently, percolating is a part of the process.  The answers that come often happen in quiet moments and certainly at times you may not be expecting.  I think of spending the time to figure out what you love to do as one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself.   Once you take the time, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

 Allow yourself the space to do the exploration. 

Throughout my years as an employment counsellor, I have observed people not taking their careers seriously.  “It’s called work for a reason,” I hear, as if work was all about knuckling down, doing what must be done, or that the idea of doing work you love is for a privileged few.  Many people do not even allow themselves to consider what it would be like to do their dream job.  But what about that idea?

I like to think about a world where everyone loved what they did – now that’s a revolution!