Intellectual curiosity is fundamental to learning. Also known as epistemic curiosity, it is defined as the intense propensity to learn new things and is a function of temporal lobe. The desire among children to learn new things through asking searching questions with open mind is an example of intellectual curiosity among kids. Craving to know the unknown and charter voyage in direction hitherto untravelled often results in unravelling new things and widens the horizon of knowledge. As we grow from childhood to a school student and then college life, intellectual curiosity goes on increasing and so does on entry to working life.
However, as life becomes routine and pressure of doing repetitive things increases, the first casualty is intellectual curiosity. We concentrate on doing often forgetting the process of thinking. For a human being to progress, all the three facets thinking, doing and being are equally important. Combination of thinking and doing results in cognition abilities, both lower as well as higher (Intelligent Quotient: IQ), while the aptitude of being develops the self-awareness and enhances Emotional and Spiritual Quotient (EQ & SQ).
As we go old, mind usually slows down and we often lose propensity to learn new things. This slowing down of thinking as well as propensity to learn new things is aggravated by loss of neurons. The net result is loss of mental alertness / agility, lessening of concentration and decreased ability to learn and do anything new. The burden of routine life, if continued for a long time, results into idleness and boredom.
This possibly is the beginning of end of an active mind.
Creating Intellectual Curiosity is Key:
Purpose of life is not to live long but to live meaningfully with a purpose!! If this is the axiom, elders need to go back to the status of early childhood and develop childlike curiosity to go into learning mode. They need to think through what they like to do and what they would like to do for remaining period of active elder life. They should start asking questions at whatever new they see. This questioning mind will propel to instil intellectual curiosity and revitalize their learning abilities.
Some of the key steps in this regard include:
1. Health, mind and social relationship are the three key parameters of fulfilment of a complete human system. Though creating intellectual curiosity is more of a mental game, the other two parameters are required to be dealt with properly. This means that an elderly person has to have a good health and sound relationship to keep the mind agile and active. All the necessities of good health like diet, exercise, yoga / mediation, etc need to be engaged in for keeping good health. Similarly, the elderly should have adequate social relationship through communication / interaction (physical or otherwise) with friends / relatives / colleagues, among others. These two prerequisites namely, maintenance of good health and sound social relationship create a conducive climate for the mind to remain active.
2. The elderly individual should try to develop an attitude of observation with focus. This is key as the source of any new thought or idea comes from observation of a phenomenon. Mere passive observation may not be of much use. What is needed is active observation with focus that leads to searching questions. Many scientific discoveries have their root in observation. For example, the observation of fall of apples in a garden by Isaac Newton led to Universal Laws of Gravity.
3. Childlike curiosity is key to revelation and adoption of all knowledge. An elderly should develop this type of attitude to all things happening around him / her and start asking questions. The 5 Ws and 1 H are the key: WHAT, WHY, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, HOW? Answer to these 5 Ws & 1 H of any observed phenomenon might generate the interest to go into it further. For example, when we are observing any new technological phenomenon say, Podcasting, questions should be asked: what is this, who invented it, when it got started, where was it first launched, why cannot I learn it and how do I proceed to learn it. These questions might drive you to be proficient in Podcasting as an audio broadcasting tool.
4. Every small event or phenomenon must excite us. As we grow old, we think we know enough of everything and hence the basic propensity to learn new things goes down substantially. The antidote to the same lies in getting excited at every small new thing, unlearn whatever has been learnt and embrace new things / news / happening with an open mind. This open mind attitude of adopting novel ideas often leads to spirit of learning new things.
Life is a journey. And like in a journey we get new stations and new friends, we should always expect new thoughts and ideas in our life. The journey of life becomes exciting if we go on learning, unlearning and relearning like a child till we live. This newness and learning attitude will make our life meaningful and not a boredom. Let us all enjoy the journey of life with a childlike curiosity!
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