Leading Like a Monk: Tapping Into Monastic Curiosity

Leading Like a Monk: Tapping Into Monastic Curiosity September 28, 2017


Tapping Into Monastic Curiosity

Many of the things I do are motivated by curiosity. I get interested in something and set off to find out more about it.

The leaders who inspire me are curious. They want to find out how far or fast we can go and what is going to happen next. There is something about curiosity which gets me to do things I might not think I want to do.

Why is curiosity inspiring? What is the power which makes us wonder and then try to figure out how something works?

We begin to see the dim, foggy outlines of an idea or a goal and start to wonder. Curiosity draws us to investigate. What is it which motivates us to want to understand?

It is particularly demotivating for me to do the same thing every day in the same way. Routine tends not to hold my interest very well. In fact, routine often sparks my curiosity. Can we find a more effective, more efficient, better way to do this? What if we tried this or that?

The leaders who inspire my curiosity ask more questions than they give answers.

It does not take my imagination long to start asking its own questions. What if we tried doing it this way? Why did they ever think that was a good way to do it? How can we make this less confusing?

What about the bigger, deeper questions?

Curiosity teaches us it is what we learn after we know all the answers which is important. The more we learn, the more we discover there is to learn and explore.

Leaders are curious and share their curiosity with us, bringing out the best in us.

Our curiosity grows from our sense of wonder. It prompts us to ask questions and listen to responses.

Monastic Curiosity

Monks are some of the most curious people I know. They wonder and ask questions and listen.

Monks are curious about many of the things which make the rest of us wonder. Their curiosity draws them into a way of life spent questioning and reflecting.

Some people view monks as having found the answers. They believe monastic life is about being certain and sharing that certainty with other people. People often take their questions to monks and expect them to supply the answers.

The monks I know are explorers. Their monastic curiosity about some of the basic questions of life inspires them to keep looking. Monks are rarely satisfied with accepted answers or conventional wisdom. Monastic curiosity draws them forward to discover truth for themselves.

The monks who inspire me do not find easy answers particularly comforting. They tend to find simple solutions to be places to start asking, not accepting them as end results.

Monks spend time each day questioning and reflecting. Their prayers and contemplation are not ways to calm their fears, but to spark their wonder.

Curious monks have contributed to significant scientific and technological developments. They take time to pay attention and reflect on what makes them curious.

It may seem ironic that monastic life opens people up to deeper curiosity. We may think curiosity draws us out into the world to try new things. How can the set daily and weekly schedules of monastic life encourage curiosity?

The most inspiringly curious monks I know do not allow the limits of time or space to get in their way.

Inspiring Curiosity 

Curiosity takes us places we would not otherwise be able to visit. The power of curiosity can turn ordinary and routine tasks into adventures. How can we inspire the spark of monastic curiosity in other people?

My curiosity grows when I pay attention. I notice something which makes me wonder and I become curious. The leaders who inspire curiosity in me give me opportunities to pursue my sense of wonder.

It may be something out of the ordinary, or something I see every day. There is a connection between what I notice and my sense of wonder. I may be curious about how or why or when.

Leaders bring out the best in the people around them, and that includes curiosity. They recognize what we are doing is more than working toward a specified result. Our shared experience shapes the way we approach the future.

Curiosity carries us into what we will do next just as we carry it. Some of our curiosity is focused on specific tasks and some is more about general exploration.

We inspire curiosity in other people by sharing our own with them. Curiosity is contagious, spreading and growing from person to person.

Where Will Curiosity Take Us Next?

Satisfying our curiosity is a challenge. We always seem to have something more to discover and explore. The spark of curiosity lights our path forward.

There does not appear to be a limit on the power of curiosity.

When we get curious we go beyond the limits we thought we had. There always seems to be another step to take and how far we will go becomes difficult to predict.

Our curiosity will lead us past boundaries we thought were impenetrable. We will bend or even break rules we believed would keep us safe and secure. There is something about curiosity which melts through our expectations and assumptions.

What are we curious about today? How will we find time to explore what has made us curious as long as we can remember?

We wonder and ask questions and listen. The leaders who inspire us with their curiosity give us opportunities to discover and explore. We are curious about the world and people around us, and about ourselves.

Curiosity may inspire us to move further out into the world. It draws us toward exploring our true selves. We may pursue what makes us curious in a classroom or an office or a monastery.

I wonder where curiosity might take us next.

Who is inspiring your curiosity today?

What brings out the monastic curiosity in you?


Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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