“It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education,” Einstein famously said. Why would Einstein make a comment like that? What was he thinking? Moreover, what does any of this have to do with coaching?
You’ll just have to wait to see.
Let’s first pause to consider Einstein’s comment.
When was the last time a formal education setting aroused your honest curiosity? What kind of questions might you ask if you were not graded, judged, or demoted for missing the “right” answer?
Questions like these are at the heart of the coaching.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious,” Einstein also said. “It is the source of all true art and science.” Mystery, or not knowing, prompts curiosity. Mystery shakes up the status quo, ruffles feathers, and ripples the water.
In coaching, the phrase “dancing in the moment” epitomizes the perfect blend of mystery and curiosity. Asking a powerful question is like sending the client in a direction filled with mystery and unknowing. In that moment, when the client begins to move, neither the coach nor the client really knows where they might end up. Authentic curiosity leads to the discovery of new and uncharted paths and possibilities.
As client and coach observe the possibilities, authentic curiosity invites play. “With curiosity, there is both playfulness and an unconditional sense that the answer that emerges is always the right answer because it is the client’s,” the authors of Co-Active Coaching explain.
Curiosity help defines what is possible. Coaches use authentic curiosity to invite the client to leave behind what has been tried and found lacking and to embrace new possibilities.
The gift of curiosity is a compliment to the client. The coach believes that co-creating a relationship through curiosity will enrich the client’s life and affirm that the client is creative, resourceful, and whole. The curious coach and client work together to discover answers to the questions the client is asking.
How Curious Are You?
Let me ask you, as a coach how curious are you? Have you noticed any of these attitudes creeping into your coaching presence? Is your client exhibiting any of these symptoms?
- Inflexibility, cynicism, or pessimism
- Resistant to change or learning
- Lower tolerance for difference, ambiguity, or uncertainty
- Disengaged, unmotivated, or lacking initiative
- Defensive, argumentative
- Poor creativity, overwhelmed or immobilized by problems
- Judgmental of self or others
Intrigued? Take this complete diagnostic assessment.
Many times, the existence of one or more of these attitudes greatly inhibits the creative process by limiting curiosity. Helping the client, or yourself, name the attitude sometimes helps. Ask, “What makes me (or my client) feel or act this way?” may open new doors to creativity in your coaching practice.
Einstein said, “I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism have brought me to my ideas.” His ideas have changed the world in which we live and, with it, the course of history. This humble assertion gives hope to us all.
We are what we have learned as coaches—we are creative, resourceful, and whole.