“Our brains are most productive when there is no demand that they be reactive.” A mentor of mine, psychologist Sherry Turkle, made that claim in her insightful book Reclaiming Conversation. And the more I study what it means to reclaim curiosity, the more I’ve come to see it as a mission critical truth. Buzzes. Pings. Notifications. That itch to check countless inboxes on email and social media. This is how our minds stay tethered to our silos, following other journeys instead of carving out our own.
I hit my breaking point on this over the summer, then did something I’d resisted for ages: I took my email and all my social media off my phone. Then I grabbed an old phone, put email and social media on that, leashed it to the outlet by my desk in my office, and actually kept it there. At first, this was torture. I’d be upstairs in the kitchen, or out in the world, wanting to check… anything. But after a couple weeks, I started to notice how much more I noticed. The moody way my son came down the stairs one day. (“Everything all right?”) The neighbor waiting in line at the bakery I hadn’t seen in months. (“How are you?”) And how much more deeply my mind would plunge into conversations with friends, family, everyone. The itch to check those inboxes, to react and stay tethered to others’ reactions, dimmed and died. Reducing such small demands to stay reactive in your own life may not sound like a powerful way to stay curious. But when you give yourself more space to wander and wonder — whatever that means to you — you’ll be surprised how grateful you’ll be to have it.