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What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Updated: 3 days ago

How Reactivating your Curiosity Empowers Us to Build a Fulfilling Life

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” - Albert Einstein

Ever wonder why we lose that childlike curiosity as we grow older? Remember when you were a kid and the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" filled you with excitement and endless possibilities? I wanted to be a cowboy, an astronaut, a firefighter, and even the President of the United States—all at once! It wasn't about practicality but about the sheer joy of dreaming big.

In the first episode of "Humaning," we dive into this fascinating journey of curiosity and explore how we can rekindle that spark throughout our lives.

Our brains are wired for survival, with the amygdala acting as our fear center, often overshadowing our adventurous spirit. But did you know our prefrontal cortex, the part responsible for reasoning and decision-making, can help us dream and explore with fewer inhibitions?

We discuss how balancing these two parts of our brain can help us stay curious while making informed decisions. By nurturing a dialogue between caution and wonder, we can navigate life with a sense of adventure and purpose.

Curiosity isn't just for kids. It's the key to personal growth and fulfillment, helping us break free from societal expectations and discover what truly excites and motivates us. In this episode, we explore how to define personal success based on your unique values and aspirations, not just what society dictates.

I invite you to listen to the full episode to dive deeper into these concepts and start your journey of rediscovering curiosity.

Please make sure to drop your email through the button at the bottom of the page or here if you would like to receive our monthly episode and newsletter straight to your inbox.

Listen to this Month's Episode:

Explore this Episode Further

Or for a quick overview:

Ask Yourself:

Questions # 1 - Get Curious

What do I want to be when I grow up?

  • What gives you a sense of freedom?

  • What adventures ignite your passion?

  • What connections make you feel truly alive?

Take 5 or 10 minutes to write down some answers here and explore. There is no right, wrong, good or foolish. Anything and everything is okay and welcome.

Questions # 2 - Define Your Success

  • What makes you feel successful?

  • When you go to bed at night feeling like that was a top-notch day, what sort of things or feelings have filled that day?

    • What sort of days make you feel full, recharged, satisfied?

This isn't success as in terms of what society tells you. This is in terms of when you go to sleep at night and feel wow that was a good, full day - what gives you that feeling? That makes you feel like I smashed it today and if tomorrow is just as good I'll be winning life this week. If you were to have a lifetime of those feelings, what would your life look like?

The Neuroscience of Curiosity:

The Brain's Curiosity Engine

  • Amygdala: 

    • Almond-shaped clusters within the limbic system, processing emotions and fear. Its primary role is to protect us by signaling potential threats. When activated, it can trigger the "fight or flight" response, putting us in a reactive state to ensure our safety.

The Role of the Prefrontal Cortex

  • Location: Situated at the front of the brain.

  • Function: 

    • Responsible for higher-order functions like reasoning, planning, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. It helps us navigate complex situations, make strategic plans, and decide our course of action.

  • Childhood vs. Adulthood: 

    • As children, our prefrontal cortex is still developing, allowing us to dream and explore with fewer inhibitions. Our experiences have not yet made us overly cautious. As we grow older, both the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala mature through life experiences, making the amygdala more sensitive to potential dangers.

Amygdala Hijack: Limitation vs. Curiosity

When the amygdala detects a threat, it can suppress the prefrontal cortex, a phenomenon known as "amygdala hijack." This process helps explain why we might react impulsively or with intense emotion in stressful situations.

  • Living in Limitation:

    • Amygdala Dominance: 

    • When the amygdala hijacks the prefrontal cortex, our ability to reason, plan, and make well-considered decisions is suppressed. This can make us overly cautious and risk-averse.

    • Outcome: 

    • Curiosity = danger, so we might avoid new experiences and stick to familiar paths, limiting our growth and innovation.

  • Living Curiously:

    • Prefrontal Cortex Engagement: 

    • By consciously engaging the prefrontal cortex, we can balance the fear response from the amygdala with reasoned exploration.

    • Outcome:

    •  We can acknowledge potential risks but choose to explore and discover, leading to personal growth and innovation.

Practical Steps to Nurture Curiosity:

  1. Acknowledge Fear: Recognize that the amygdala's alerts are natural and meant to protect you. Balance this with the potential for discovery and growth.

  2. Stay Open to New Experiences: Regularly expose yourself to new ideas, cultures, and environments. This helps build new neural pathways, making curiosity a habit.

  3. Ask Questions: Cultivate a habit of asking questions to stimulate your brain and encourage deeper exploration. This keeps the prefrontal cortex actively engaged.

  4. Reflect and Connect: Take time to reflect on your experiences and how they connect to your interests and passions. This helps reinforce the neural pathways associated with curiosity.

Mantra for Soothing the Amygdala:

Next time you are feeling that fear or red flags from your amygdala trying to stop you from something you were excited about 5 minutes ago or know you would like to do: try telling yourself this a few times.

Thank you for pointing out this potential threat. I hear you. Thank you for working to keep me safe. I am going to keep exploring here, but I promise to do so with caution and keep your message in mind."

Further Reading on Curiosity:

Book of the Month:

Want to Learn More?

Drop your email through the button below and receive the special issue of Human-ing, Liza's personal discovery and growth email, on this topic straight to your inbox. It's filled with more information, additional resources for in-depth learning, and more neuroscience goodness. They may not have taught us how to actually be a human in school, but it's never too late to keep figuring it out.

Tune in for next month's episode on Synaptic Plasticity!

Listen to this Month's Episode:

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Lovely written and spoken out loud in INSIDEOUT

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