Stay Curious and Open to Life


Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.
—The Cheerful Monk

I’ve just gotten back from a vacation…without even leaving home. As I mentioned in Rediscovering the Magic, I took an exercise break over the holidays. That meant buying/renting some DVDs to watch while I used my NordicTrack treadmill and jogging trampoline. It was a great success…I discovered Gilmore Girls and watched the whole series. I found it intelligent, witty and heart-warming. Watching it, plus the extra exercise, was a great way to end 2007 and to start the new year refreshed in body and spirit.

The experience reminded me that the easiest way to change our habits is to be curious and creative. I had a chance to try that this past week, when it was time to deal with an ongoing insurance issue. My usual reaction is to dread dealing with bureaucracies, to get frustrated by the “waste of time”. But I wasn’t about to give up that vacation feeling, so I got curious. Was there some other way to look at it? Did it really make sense to get upset about something that wasn’t earth-shaking… something I had no control over? I did have a choice… I could ignore the money at stake, figuring my time was more important. Or I could keep following through and change my attitude.

How could I get this done and enjoy the process? Ah, that was a question that resonated. It was just an exercise in creative problem solving, something I love to do. So as I explained in Are You Enjoying the Process?, yesterday’s post at Transforming Stress, I planned ahead and took a mini vacation during the long periods of being on hold. I also used the interactions with the agent as a chance to practice being friendly but firm.

Curious, creative and open to life. That’s my new mantra. I’m mentally rehearsing it by remembering incidents in the past that didn’t go as well and replaying them in my mind with more successful strategies. I want this attitude to be “down in my bones”, or, more accurately, in my process memory. I want it to be there for me when I need it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What about you? Do you have some habitual patterns you would like to change? If so, how are you going about doing it? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments section.

Picture by Daily Puppy. Used with permission.

Robert Hruzek at Middle Zone Musings is having a series on What I Learned From 2007. For my contribution for Cheerful Monk click here.

Thanks to Robert, Sterling, tNb, Adam, bikehikebabe, Life Reflection, Not Yet a Bodhisattva and Shamelle for commenting on last week’s post.

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22 Responses to Stay Curious and Open to Life

  1. May your year ahead hold more promise than you can imagine!

    Thanks for participating in the Blogapalooza, Jean!

  2. Jean says:

    🙂 Thanks!

  3. bikehikebabe says:

    Today I did two NEW things. I caught the bus and started my free mo. at Curves, worked out 2 1/2 hrs., came home on bus, collapsed on bed. Tonight we start (after 8 mo. lapse) Scottish dancing. (When I caught the bus, I thought I’d missed it. When it came I got choked up, & pinched myself so it wouldn’t show.)

  4. Dar says:

    I sit too much, checking email, wandering here and there, and not always feeling I’ve accomplished much at the end of the day. So, lately I’ve started asking myself, “What would I be doing if I wasn’t sitting here?” Results to be determined, lol. So far, I’ve gotten back in touch with a hobby that’s incredibly soothing.

    (Jean, I enjoy your writing style, learned of you through Robert Hruzek’s Blogapalooza.)

  5. I’ve broken quite a few pattern in my life recently. For one, I’m spending less time at home, and instead, I’m spending more time in social places like coffee shops…I’ve found that the coffee shop environment is one of my favorite locations for blogging. And to break that pattern even more, I’ve started walking to the coffee shop instead of driving. Saves gas, saves the environment, and the exercise feels good and gives me time to think slowly.

  6. I think the pattern that I would most like to change is the tendency to make progress, then slip into old habits, ruining any progress that I’ve made.

    A pattern that I would like to add is to be better at communicating. I’m good at speaking and writing… and I’m a great listener… but I just don’t apply it well or often enough to actually say that I’m communicating effectively.

    So, in the interest of communicating more effectively, I’d like to say “Hi, I’m Adam Alexander… not to be confused with the other Adam who seems to be a regular on your site. It’s nice to meet you. :)”

    To be complete, a pattern that I have broken is to hide who I am… at least intentionally. I can never reveal everything about myself, but I have made a conscious decision to stop hiding from people, including myself. (Albert has been a great help in this regard for me as well… just to give him a plug and proper credit.)

  7. Jean says:

    It’s fun to try new things, isn’t it? Let me know how it goes. I know you sometimes feel you don’t have enough time to do your regular chores. I do better when I allow plenty of time to play and experiment, but that doesn’t work for everyone.

    It sounds as if spending time on your hobby is a great thing to do. When my daughter was in third grade, we both started taking piano lessons, and I practiced for a half hour to an hour a day for several years. It wasn’t practical, but it satisfied a deep need. I loved being a mother, but I needed to have one area of my life where I could focus and see some progress being made.

    About sitting…my problem isn’t sitting too much, because I stand up while working on the computer. My legs and feet get tired if I work too long, so I take an exercise break on the equipment I have in my study. It’s an unusual setup, but it works for me.

    Adam Kamerer ,
    🙂 Your comment brought back warm memories. I used to walk to a coffee shop to write in my journal. It was nice to have people around.

    Adam Alexander,
    For a couple of years my goals were
    (1) Be comfortable in my skin,
    (2) Become more articulate, and
    (3) Have joy now.

    I didn’t spend much time coming up with them, but they resonated when they came to me. I was trying some new things that were a bit of a stretch, so (1) was to remind myself to enlarge my comfort zone. (2) was because the Cheerful Monk part of me was lonely…my friends weren’t interested in the ideas I like to play with. I’ve learned from experience that I never feel lonely when I write, so doing this blog was a natural once I got high speed internet and learned what blogging was all about. (3) was to remind myself to connect with the joy no matter how things turned out.

    Your comment about hiding resonated with me. I wasn’t exactly hiding, I was looking for an appropriate place to reveal the Cheerful Monk part of myself. I didn’t expect anyone else to read this blog, but I needed to put it out there anyway. It was a bit scary at first, of course.

    Thank you, everyone, for commenting.

  8. Jean says:

    Adam Alexander,
    PS You wrote, “I think the pattern that I would most like to change is the tendency to make progress, then slip into old habits, ruining any progress that I’ve made.” I’m not sure our progress is ruined when we slip back into old patterns. We’re complicated beings, and if the habit is deep-rooted we may have to try many times before the new pattern sticks. It took me a long time to stop thinking of food most of the time. And the only way I could do it was to keep trying until I found something I liked to do better than eating. It would have taken me a lot longer if I had labeled myself a failure when something didn’t work. Curious, creative and open to life works better for me.

  9. Hi Jean,

    thanks for an inspiring story once again! It’s so true that the way we respond to things, and our own mindset can make such a difference in how we experience things. Things like calling your insurance company can become an energy drain, and something to ruin (part of) your day, or something you look at as a challenge… The funny thing is, if you keep your positive outlook, most of the times the person on the other side of the phone will also respond much more cooperative!

    For myself, I think one of my main habits I would like to change is not ‘living in the present’. Always worrying about stuff that might happen, might go wrong, etc. Instead of that, learning that habit of mindfulness, enjoying the present for what it is..
    Must admit though, I’m not succeeding that well yet, but I’ll get there. I always cling to that model about changing behaviour, hope I translate it correctly:
    1) Being unaware of the ‘wrong’/unwanted behaviour
    2) Being aware of that behaviour
    3) Behaving ‘correctly’ (the way you wanted to), but still concious of that you have to/want to behave like that
    4) unaware and behaving the way you wanted to, i.e.the behaviour happens automatically ..

    I’d say I’m still in between 2 and 3 at the moment, but that will make it a nice challenge for the year to come!!

    Warm wishes to you Jean,


  10. Sean says:

    I have a habit of doubting myself, which hinders me from maximizing my potential. I want to do this by having a positive view on life. So I won’t hesitate when an opportunity presents itself. Visit my blog at

  11. Jean, you hit right on one of the problems I’ve been struggling to overcome.

    I’ve come to realize that we ‘fail’ only as much as we let ourselves. That is, when I forget to change out the litter box for my cats, I tend to see that as a failure. When I’m reminded, my default reaction is avoidance, because of that failure, rather than motivation.

    So really, when I slip into old habits, I’m also slipping into the mindset of that habit, which includes avoidance… I may have learned how to do something new when I was pushing myself, but while I’m avoiding the situation, I’m honestly no better off than if I had never tried in the first place.

    Of course, once I actually do pick myself up and carry on, I’m still better for it all… but while I’m stuck in avoidance, it really does seem to be a failure. I have let myself fail a lot in the past… but now, part of slipping out of bad habits includes slipping out of the mindsets of those habits as well.

    I don’t have dramatic results yet, as I’ve been working on this over the past week, but I am noticing some small, significant improvements. 😉

  12. Truthteller says:

    Jean you get some great discussion going on here!

    My mantra for the year is….can I have fun doing this?

    Sure I’m like everyone else and consider the pros and cons of decisions but before I make a final decision, I always come back to…can I have fun doing this?

    This would take more space than I deserve to take up here to explain but I just wrote an article that would bring some clarity to my thought process, if you are intereseted you can read it here…


  13. Oh Jean,

    I came over here to find out about you, after reading your comment on my blog. OHMY – now I have even more to thank “Using my powers for good” Jenny for (she’s my coach! lucky me!!).

    I’m so happy about finding your blog – I’m going to be checking in here frequently – I am SO loving the wisdom of your writing (and the way it feels like I’m sitting down to tea with you – very natural).

    Thanks so much!

  14. Craig Harper says:

    Hey Jean,
    Great Blog!
    Everyday you can choose the attitude you going to carry into that day. Some days situations occur that are out of your control and it’s your choice in how you deal with them. As long as nobody’s dying and it doesn’t affect the warming of the planet then it probably isn’t worth getting yourself upset about.
    Curious and open is a great strategy!

  15. bikehikebabe says:

    This is for Craig Harper who sent “As long as nobody’s dying and it doesn’t affect the warming of the planet then it probably isn’t worth getting yourself upset about.”
    I’d lost my best wool cap & was upset, I must admit. Craig’s statement helped. (I found the cap. That really helped.)

  16. Jean says:

    I agree with your four stages of change. The way I heard it was (1) unconscious incompetence, (2) conscious incompetence, (3) conscious competence, and (4) unconscious competence. “Competence” meaning are you doing the behavior you desire. It’s just what you’re saying.

    I, too, tend to be a worrier, but I’m getting much better with experience. I tend to generate all sorts of contingency plans, because I love creative problem solving. So I don’t ignore the future or necessarily paint a bright, trouble-free picture. I just get into a different part of my brain and play with ideas. I also remember my mother who said later in life, “My only regret is that I worried so much.” Bless her!

    I like your attitude that it’s a challenge you’re working on. And if you’re between a (2) and a (3), you’re more than halfway there. 🙂

    It looks like your blog is a great way for you to remind yourself to be positive. Good for you!

    Adam–Adam’s Peace,
    🙂 Small significant steps add up. Please let us know how it goes. We’re rooting for you.

    I tried following your link, but for some reason it didn’t work. I’ll try again some other time. I do like your mantra, “Can I have fun doing this?”

    Square-Peg Karen,
    I love the idea behind your site–being a square peg in a round hole and enjoying it. That’s me!

    I also like your comment: “it feels like I’m sitting down to tea with you – very natural”. That’s what this blog is about, just friends getting together for a chat about subjects that are near and dear to our hearts.

    I agree, it helps to put things in perspective and not waste our energy and attention on things that aren’t that important. For me that means being clear about what I do want to do with my energy.

    I agree, it also helps a lot when things turn out the way you want them to. I also think there’s a difference between being upset and mourning our losses.

    🙂 Again, thanks for joining in, everyone.

  17. Jean says:

    My comment about worrying was a bit simplistic. Worry to me is watching those scary thoughts go racing through my mind in an endless loop. So my best strategy for that is to give my overactive mind something more constructive to work on. But that doesn’t necessarily make the fear go away. The thing that works best for me there is to sit quietly, welcome the feelings and listen to them. They want to be acknowledged, and for me being curious and giving them loving attention is the best way of connecting with the deepest parts of myself. It’s what we talked about in Holy Curiosity. Thanks for bringing this up.

  18. bikehikebabe says:

    Ellen says “…welcome the feelings & listen to them.” You must have read The Power of Focusing by Ann W. Cornell.

  19. tracy ho says:

    Great post , good tips & advise,

    Thanks again ,

    Tracy Ho

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  21. Todd says:

    ummm, yea….I have totally shifted my approach when it comes to dealing with customer service representatives. I used to enter the conversations already angry…and the frustration would get worse and worse until I would explode!!

    Now I have fun with it….I prepare myself that it may take some time to resolve the situation, and get on the phone happy and light…and I actually try and relate to the other person.

    It has totally shifted my results….UNREAL! Thanks for the article…

  22. Jean says:

    Yes, well, I’m still practicing on this issue. I hadn’t heard from the insurance company since I talked to a representative last month. It sounded promising at the time, but when she resubmitted the claim she forgot to include the claim number. So nothing has happened in the past month. The fellow I talked to today said he would resubmit with the claim number but don’t expect anything to happen for at least 30-45 business days. He was clearly uninterested in the case and going through the motions. One good thing happened, though: I wasn’t put on hold for long. I just had to go through the menu up front, but no long wait. It’s so ridiculous it’s funny. I may phone again and try to get someone higher up. It’s only been 7 months now.

    🙂 Anyway, thanks for coming by and commenting.

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