Recently, Jane Fonda, aged 85, spoke of one of the essential aspects of ageing gracefully. What could it be, I wondered – staying healthy? Keeping moving? Having younger people around you?
It was curiosity.
Think about it… When you are curious, you have an open mind, and judgement flies out the window. You are engaged and intrigued in what is before you. You will naturally be asking questions.
This one word, curiosity, makes you an interesting person, means you are interested in others and interested in finding the positive no matter the situation.
We might be forgiven for saying that Jane Fonda has had an incredible life so it’s easy for her to say this. But I have another example – my mum.
People often commented to her, even into her 80s (she died aged 84), how young she was.
How did she do this?
Her number one attribute was finding the positive in every situation. No matter what, we could count on Mum to find the blessing, to unearth the golden nugget, or to shine a light on what was working, as opposed to what wasn’t.
You can’t do this without being willing to have an attitude of curiosity. Mum called it ‘being interested in what other people are up to’. And it meant she continued to learn new things right up until a week or two before she died.
She learnt to use a tablet and found Facebook a wonderful means of keeping up with friends and family when she became housebound.
She loved her garden, nurturing every little seedling until it grew into a healthy plant – she even continued weeding from her rollator walker when she couldn’t stand easily.
She joined a book club for the first time, the oldest there by 25 years, and was introduced to books she would never have come across before, opening her mind once more.
An attitude of curiosity means you approach life with an active mind rather than a passive one. When you do this, it opens up new possibilities, and in this day of rapid change, being willing to embrace new worlds and ways of living is even more important than ever.
And when you see learning as fun, no matter what you are learning about, you will naturally want to dig deeper to understand what is going on. You will have put on your rose-tinted glasses and be willing to see what you are looking at in different ways.
It doesn’t mean not feeling sad, fed up or cross, or any of the other things we generally don’t want to feel. Rather, it means that if those emotions visit you, you embrace them with curiosity too.
What was it that made me cross/upset/bored? When was the last point of clarity before feeling like this? What happened immediately after that?
It means treating yourself with compassion and kindness, so instead of berating your body when it doesn’t work as it did 10 or 20 years ago, you find ways to support it in doing what it can do. This involves being curious too.
Finally, it means accepting where you are now. From this acceptance comes the ability to travel further, to take another step, to introduce wonder into your world. After all, you can’t make a journey from A to B without knowing you are at A in the first place.
So how can you bring curiosity into your life today? What different book could you read? Where can you let go of being ‘right’ about something, and ask a question instead?