Undoubtedly, the folklore musing that just popped into your mind is one that has been endlessly uttered and re-uttered across the globe. Beyond the applicable parenting proverb for children, the saying’s usefulness is questionable.

Have you ever heard anyone explain why curiosity killed the cat?

Did the cat merely sacrifice an experience for a better one, therefore symbolically putting an end to one chapter in his life to make way for another? Is curiosity really that harmful?

Productive Risk

Curiosity itself does not equate foolishness, as the proverb would imply. Rather, a curious person is engaged, inquisitive, and confident enough in himself to take risks. It is the subject, purpose, and process by which we analyze and engage our curiosity that is the real question. We all have an innate sense of adventure and exploration within our psyche, and it’s curiosity that pushes us to embrace that side of human nature. When we allow curiosity to play a beneficial role in our life, we can find old life experiences replaced by new, more enriching ones, making us wiser and more in tune with what excites us.

It’s true that often stepping outside of our comfort zone, especially when we’re not practiced in doing so, can incur stress and anxiety. Existing only within the confines of our comfort zone can result in something much worse: A stunning realization that we have merely been a witness to life, without ever truly living it.

Realizing that our own risk-adverse pattern has caused an absence of potentially more fulfilling opportunities can lead us to regret. However, harnessing our curiosity into a proactive tool in our life can open doors and windows of positive growth experience, known as building blocks for a more fulfilled life.

Take the Risk

When was the last time you took a risk? It could be as minor as trying a new restaurant you’re not sure you’ll love or as significant as relocating somewhere unfamiliar for a new job. You may have been disappointed in that new restaurant or frightened in that big city, but the excitement of trying something new probably offered you valuable insight for doing it again. Think of risk as the “trial and error” of life: Sometimes our first guess is on the money, but most of the time, we’ve got to keep making new deposits in the bank to get a return on our investment for a happier life.

When it comes to curiosity, there’s always the chance you’ll fail. That’s the risk. But the payout of indulging your curiosity can often be bigger.
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Perhaps our curious cat gave up chasing mice to pursue a shiny new bouncing ball and found more happiness than he would have had just giving up completely. If we proactively take risks hoping to gain new beneficial life experience, we can make joy a stronger presence in our life. Does all this risk-taking add up to more personal happiness?

Take a risk and find out for yourself. In Nike’s great words, “Just Do It!”

Interactive Strategies

Goal: Become more comfortable with risk-taking in pursuit of personal growth experiences.

Exercise: Here are helpful tips to let your curious cat loose:

  • Make a list of the last five risks you’ve taken, writing your expectations for each in one column and the outcome of each risk in a second one.
  • Compare the expectation and outcome for each risk. Did the result of your risk-taking exceed your expectation more often than not?
  • Now make a fourth column, listing what knowledge you took away from each of these five situations or events.
  • Explore how the experience stacked up to your expectations. This exercise should illustrate that, even when your initial expectations aren’t met, indulging in curiosity will give you valuable knowledge. Thinking of a potential risk this way will eliminate the dichotomy of succeeding versus failing.

Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA, is the founder of Harvesting Happiness and executive director of Harvesting Happiness for Heroes™. In addition, she is a filmmaker, positive psychology coach, author, host of Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio, professor, and lecturer specializing in the field of sustainable happiness. Lisa is committed to teaching Happiness is an inside job™ and helping others end their needless suffering through intentionally cultivating greater joy.

*Image courtesy of khanb1.