Editor’s Note: As Dr. Joel F. Wade notes in today’s article, bringing more curiosity to our investing can energize our engagement in the details of the markets.
While we may not be certain how long this bear market will continue, we can be certain that it will… eventually… hit bottom.
Chief Investment Strategist Alexander Green discovered that one proven signal will indicate the moment stocks are likely to hit bottom.
– Nicole Labra, Senior Managing Editor
An essential ingredient for success at anything – beyond the most mundane of rote tasks – is curiosity. This includes what we do with our money and investments.
Curiosity is about exploration and discovery; it creates energy, possibilities and movement. It also allows us to create relationships and to grow more deeply and delightfully connected with one another.
It allows us to play – and excellence in work can be like play for adults.
In my work as a marriage and family therapist, life coach, and business consultant, I would be utterly useless without curiosity as a central deliberate practice.
I need to get to know, before I do anything else, who this other person is – or who these people are if it’s a couple or a work team.
I need to be keenly interested in knowing and understanding them, their circumstances, and what their goals, challenges and strengths are. That’s all about curiosity.
If we’re curious about the other person, that’s the portal through which our empathy and care for other people enter.
Think of your own work, family and friendships.
With those with whom you enjoy a good relationship, I would bet that you also are curious about who they are as people.
On the other hand, if there are people from whom you feel more distant or critical, you might find that becoming curious about their internal worlds can bring fresh energy and interest – and perhaps greater compassion as well.
In our work – including how we manage our money and investments – our success and prospects grow with curiosity. The antithesis of curiosity is a sense of or desire for certainty.
Curiosity is a quality that allows us to expand our awareness.
In contrast, when we look for certainty we’re looking to end the search and bring the exploration to a close.
The need for certainty can reinforce the need for more certainty.
We become more defensive in the pursuit of being right.
We replay events as we interpreted them… rather than wondering what we may have missed.
We look for and hold on to stereotypes, avoiding too much empathy or self-reflection in favor of what we think we know.
Needing certainty locks us down into familiar dogma. It closes off a whole world of information that doesn’t already fit our model of the world.
That makes us rigid, saps our energy and leads us to make bad decisions.
This is why in my profession – and in many other professions – the longer one spends practicing does not often lead to greater skill. Unless we continue to explore and learn and practice new skills deliberately.
That all requires curiosity.
As Harry Truman said…
An expert is someone who doesn’t want to learn anything new, because then he wouldn’t be an expert.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting certainty.
There are times when curiosity is not called for.
Pure, well-practiced, rote competence and focus can make the difference between life and death when we’re driving in a dangerous situation.
It can make the difference between success and failure in an objective test or in putting together a precise piece of machinery.
So there are times when exploration and curiosity are not what we need. But when we’re habitually looking for certainty, eager to end the search, we’re severely limiting the possibilities for living a rich and fulfilling life.
We may also be limiting our health and how long we live…
Health and Wellness for the Long Term
When curiosity and mortality were studied over the course of five years – in 2,000 older adults between the ages of 60 and 86 – the single most important quality that determined whether any of them were still living at the end of the five-year study was (you guessed it) curiosity.
Their age, whether they smoked, any other medical conditions such as cancer or cardiovascular disease… none of this affected their mortality as much as curiosity.
Growing our sense of curiosity is also something that we can do fairly easily, and it can be a lot of fun, once we get the hang of it.
Of all the major personality traits, curiosity and openness are the most malleable. Curiosity is something we can grow on purpose, and we can do this at any time of life.
So how do we do this?
We start by not expecting ourselves to fundamentally transform overnight. We begin to grow in curiosity by practicing it, by opening our self-concept to think of ourselves as a curious explorer and by deciding to deliberately bring more curiosity to little things we do each day.
This can be absolutely anything.
It can help to use the words “I wonder.”
We can try a different kind of food (I wonder what that would taste like) or see what it’s like to drink our morning coffee outside instead of inside (I wonder what I’ll experience).
We can go for a “listening walk” around our neighborhood, deliberately noticing the different sounds we hear (I wonder what I’ll discover).
We can ask different questions, drive a different route to work (I wonder what that would be like).
It may help to think of a role model, somebody you know who is particularly curious. What are some things they might explore that you could imagine happily trying yourself?
Asking the Right Questions
We can grow our curiosity with others in the same way by deciding to deliberately bring a little more curiosity to each interaction.
This may mean thinking of some good questions in advance.
But more than anything it means that when we ask those questions, our focus is on listening to the answers, getting to know the unique internal world of this strange creature (I wonder what they have experienced that brought them to that idea or decision).
Curiosity in relationships has a lot more to do with what we hear and understand from others than what we say.
More specifically, if you’re just going through the motions in the way you manage your money and investments, see what happens when you bring more curiosity into this part of your life.
What is money, anyway? What brings people greater wealth? What makes it grow? What does money mean to me? How do these different opportunities for investing my money really work?
Bringing more curiosity to our investments can energize our engagement in the details of the markets, the reasons for our decisions and the effectiveness we bring toward reaching our goals.
It can also bring us a richer understanding of what wealth means to us and how building our own wealth relates to our overall quality of life.