When you’re writing an essay, how many of you are thinking just get through it?  How many of you are counting 1,500 words to go, 1,000, 500, 200, 199, 198 …?  How many are frantically typing, just write anything, due in an hour, “direct quote,” “direct quote,” “direct quote”?

Essays, tests, exams, tutorials—they’re just seen as a means to an end.  A painful step to the magic piece of paper at the end of the tunnel.

Like the cat

As in be curious—you don’t really have to like cats (dog person, myself).  If you’ve read the purpose post, you know that why is what drives our motivation to get out of bed in the morning.  If you ever find your motivation a bit lacking—if you’re overwhelmed by your workload, or you’ve forgotten why you wanted to do psychology or commerce or music, or if you’re distracted by Netflix—remember to be curious.

No matter our specific whys, curiosity is a surefire way to give ourselves an energy boost.  It’s the drive to learn, to discover something new, to grow our experience.

When we’re struggling with an assignment and wondering why on earth we wanted to study theoretical approaches to political science, we stop—don’t stop the assignment, just the struggling part.  We take a step back.  We remove the specifics and say hey—be curious.  Be open to learning something that you didn’t know before.

Use your fear

Curiosity can be freaking scary, right?  Curiosity is about discovering something new, and if it’s new that means you don’t know it yet, and if you don’t know it yet that means it’s unknown, and the unknown is—scary!  In Big Magic, Liz Gilbert talks about the idea of using our fear—say what?  The thing is that curiosity (and creativity) don’t exist without fear and fear doesn’t exist without—actually, fear always exists.  It’s a survival thing.

Liz says when we fight fear, fear fights back.  So, instead, we make space for it.  We make peace with it.  We let it be, we don’t have to be it.  Instead of letting fear control us, paralyse us, we use fear of the unknown to give us the motivation to seek out knowledge.  Fear motivates curiosity.

Are you scared at uni?  That means you’re doing it right.  Fear of the unknown gives us the curiosity to learn.

Break it down

There’s such a societal focus on finding your passion—and, before you even arrive at uni, you’re supposed to know exactly what yours is.  It puts a lot of pressure on us to succeed, to know what we’re doing, to always be positive and engaged and active.  But, it’s an unrealistic notion.  Not all of us have just one passion—not all of us have even one passion.

And, sometimes, everything can get a bit much—the pressure to succeed when assignments are building up and we don’t understand the content and we feel out of our depth, we question our ability, we lose our spark and wonder what the hell we’re meant to be doing.  It happens to us all.  All of us!  When it does, it’s really helpful to simplify.

Again, Liz Gilbert says to ignore passion—throw it away because otherwise it will take, take, take.  Passion takes energy, takes your courage, it takes away your ability to comfortably make mistakes and learn and grow in any direction, other than the direction of that passion.  And, when you don’t have a passion to begin with, it takes your normalcy—leaves you feeling defective.  But, curiosity?

Curiosity only does one thing, and that is to give.  And what it gives you are clues on the incredible scavenger hunt of your life

~ Liz Gilbert, Big Magic

So, when things start to feel overwhelming—stop.  Take a breath.  Focus on one thing at a time, one moment at a time, and follow your nose.