July 20, 2017

Contrast & Curiosity

The single biggest predictor of whether or not I’ll love your company is if you have a curious mind.

You’d think that would include all of us humans. After all, we’re each born with a super-super (yes, double super, exponential not linear) computer sitting on top of our heads. Whether or not we survive and thrive is dictated in large part by how curious we are. 

Super to super power

Still, I’ve found that plenty of folks I run into have somehow turned off the “curious” switch. 

Rather than go down the path of why, I’d selfishly like to introduce a concept that may re-trigger or invigorate your curiosity.  That way when we meet, it’s much more likely that we’ll have a great conversation and I’ll love your company.

Turn on the curiosity switch.

Let’s explore the idea of contrast. 

The standard goal for most people aiming for health and happiness is to feel good all of the time. Feeling good all of the time is the wrong goal if you want to be healthy and happy.

A far better goal for your overall mental and physical health is to seek out contrast. 

This can be physical contrast, such as the difference between working out and laying on the couch.  It can be the use of cold showers instead of hot showers.  Physical contrasts are everywhere, though most of us avoid them.

Contrast: Running hard vs sleeping hard

It can be mental contrast, which I’ve found most easily when I learn a new skill.  The difference between switching my brain into full learning mode and then having to switch back into absorption, contemplation and integration of new information is not only a useful thing, it is a tremendously reliable producer of joy.

It can be emotional contrast, which comes when you engage in any uncertain enterprise.  Whether this is building a business or building a relationship, the contrast between the highs of ecstatic joy and crippling despair are what allow us to enjoy the entire experience.

However you find it, contrast creates far more enjoyment and curiosity than feeling good.

Curiosity breeding contrast breeding enjoyment breeding further curiosity is a virtuous circle.

Curiosity to contrast to enjoyment, virtuous circle

This idea of seeking out contrast instead of always trying to feel good is antithetical to common opinion about what your goals “should” be.  If you look at most marketing and advertising for any product or service, they all focus on how you’ll feel good if you use them.

This pursuit of always feeling good creates an unbalanced life, one that sets you up for frustration and extraordinary effort rewarded with substandard results.

Think of it this way:  If the only way for you to get a good view is to go to the top of the mountain, sooner or later you’ll run out of mountain to climb. 

Lonely mountain top.

Whether this is an actual mountain, like Everest, or a biochemical source of joy, like dopamine, the way to enjoy it the most is not to wring it out until it’s exhausted, but to explore the ups and downs of the experience.

Instead of aiming to feel good, focus your awareness into wringing the most feeling out of your current experience and don’t shy away from the unpleasant. 

By fully immersing yourself in what is happening right now, you build a much larger bank of experiences to compare against each other. 

Curious brains

A hot shower feels far better after you’ve been shivering cold.

A comfortable couch is incredibly enjoyable after a hard run.

The wonderfully curious potential of your brain is best enjoyed when you put it to work learning something new and slightly scary.

All these enjoyable experiences are a result of seeking out contrast, not of feeling good.  As you begin to build the pattern of seeking contrast, you automatically become more curious.

The lovely thing about contrast and curiosity is that it’s not just me who will enjoy your company more; everyone around you will. 

Shaking hands makes good friends

Your curiosity in others and your stories of how you’re exploring contrast are guaranteed to trigger more of the same throughout all your interactions, making our world a far richer and better place.

Here’s to hoping we meet someday in a glorious spark of exploration into new worlds, and that our shared curiosity and experiences of contrast create a conversation we’ll both remember fondly for years.

To life, my friends!

Nik @ PT

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Nik Hawks


Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!

Too much reading...
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Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?

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