Curiosity is the jetpack for a master journalist like Diane Sawyer—she runs on questions and the pursuit of truth. But for the each of us, the passion to know, to understand, to see for ourselves, makes every day fresh and amazing. Welcome to the Master Class on curiosity—lessons, special features and opportunities to respond in your private notebook.
I consider myself to be a teacher at heart. In every show that I've ever done, that is what I'm striving for. That is my intention, regardless of what the subject is.
Oprah lives for the moment when she discovers something that opens us up and makes us look at our lives differently. How can asking yourself "What can I teach? What can I learn?" help you open up to new situations?
I'm absolutely filled with excitement to learn who we really are.
If you could meet any expert in any field, who would it be, and what would you ask? Does this tell you something about how you want to live your life, spend your time or what gives you energy?
The only way you can get up a lot of these mornings is if you can't wait to see what's around the bend.
The truth is, we never know for sure what's around the bend—every moment is new. If we remember that, we'd never be bored. Where can you insert curiosity into your own life? Can you replace your assumptions with questions?
I so believe in the fact that we are somehow born to love the truth.
Do you agree that we are born to love the truth? How does it play a role in your life? Does it influence how you choose your friends and partners? Does it make you appreciate certain writers, businesses and entertainers because their work is based in truth-telling?
When I was flying to Tucson not too long ago, my airplane stayed on a tarmac at a New York City airport for four and a half hours waiting to take off. Looking back now, I call those hours "the breakdown of civilization." It was getting hotter and hotter. Passengers started yelling, "Get me off this aircraft!" Then they yelled more.
I wasn't feeling all that chipper myself. I couldn't reach the friends planning on picking me up in Tucson. I kept thinking: "I'm paying rent on a sublet in New York City! I could be sitting there instead of in the midst of these angry strangers." The futility of my own anger struck me—it wasn't going to get that airplane in the air faster or get others to quiet down—but it kept rolling through me.
In the midst of my own escalating resentment, I remembered having read that curiosity could serve as an antidote to anger. That made sense to me: If we're angry at someone or at a situation, we want to push them or it away, get it out of our sight, deny it's there. If we're interested, we pay attention, look more deeply, go beyond our assumptions and discover the truth of the situation.
To nourish my capacity for curiosity, I have learned to ask myself questions like, What am I feeling right now?
I decided to give it a try. I consciously began looking around and taking an interest in my fellow passengers. I began thinking, "Why are you going to Tucson?" "I wonder why you are so upset." "Is there a way you can make this okay for yourself?" After just a little while, they no longer seemed like a mob of unruly, hostile strangers. Though I didn't know the particulars, I remembered that everyone has a story, with yearning, anxiety, uncertainty all mixed in. Not so different from me, although undeniably sometimes louder.
I also took a look at my own reactions of anger with some curiosity. This is something I've learned in meditation practice: Instead of feeling ashamed of my emotions and trying to deny them on the one hand, or getting consumed by them on the other, I try to look at them with curiosity. One of my meditation instructors counseled me to ask, "What is anger?" when I feel it start to bubble up. (This question comes after investigating whether there is something we can actually do to improve a situation.)
When I ask, "What is anger?" and take a direct look at what I'm feeling in the moment, I often see layers of sadness, fear, a sense of powerlessness, grief and a hard edge of conviction—believing I know what's right and what's wrong. Curiosity leads me to this array of feelings and allows me to open to my hidden vulnerability and strength. It brings me to a range of choices as to how to act, so that I'm not just coming from the most superficial level, which is the anger.
To nourish my capacity for curiosity, I have learned to gently ask myself questions like, "What am I feeling right now?" "What might this look like from their point of view?" and my favorite, "What do I actually not know right now, even though I'm acting like I do know it?" I especially like that last because it quickly highlights the rigid assumptions I'm making, the doleful predictions I am caught in ("Since this plane is late, I'm going to end up spending the night at the airport"). I ask these questions not because I expect to get a specific answer, but because stepping back from seeming certainty awakens the force of curiosity.
Curiosity brought to bear within and without broadens our world and opens our hearts. It is a way to shift out of being on automatic pilot, so that we can see a situation, a person, an emotion with fresh eyes. Curiosity is starting new, and we can start right now.
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