The path to a life of contribution and meaning is often revealed through the things you never get tired of learning about.
Many successful people advise us to follow our passions. Could it be that there is a biological reason why we are thirsty for more knowledge in certain subject areas than others? Could this help us find our “purpose” and leave the world a better place?
“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions — in a way that serves the world and you.” — Richard Branson
Besides avoiding threats, our brains seek out opportunities to grow. Expanding our perspectives and creatively finding new ways to interact with our world helps us ensure our continued survival — as individuals and as a species. We have a built-in desire to learn and explore. Mother nature wants us to express our uniqueness by following the trail of our curiosities.
In nature, diversity serves to maintain strong ecosystems. Within the team of humanity, a diversity of interests helps us maintain strong communities that can collaborate more efficiently.
We all have a different spark to light our fire — some people could spend decades learning about the eating habits of the African black beetle while others find their bliss in solving differential equations.
Whatever your bliss is, there is a reason why pursuing it is good for you — and for humanity.
Curiosity is the fuel for exploration, learning, and seeking out new connections and relationships. Your brain loves to reward you for getting out of your comfort zone. That sweet rush of dopamine you feel when learning about something you’re interested in keeps you motivated to learn more. The more you expand your horizons, the better-equipped you are to take advantage of opportunities that life sprinkles onto your path.
Wired to Follow Our Bliss:
Here are 3 reasons why it’s important to follow the path of your curiosities as you think about ways to leave your mark on the world:
1. You are much more likely to remember what you learn
The release of dopamine you feel when you digest new information increases activity in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the major player in the brain when it comes to memory. Emotion is a turbo-charger that lets the brain know it is important to store certain information. When you learn about something you’re passionate about, you are much more likely to remember it than when you’re trying to absorb the information you may deem useless. Why would your brain want to use its precious energy on something that you don’t think is important to begin with?
2. You exponentially strengthen your learning muscle
Learning strengthens the neural network. The bridges that connect our neurons are called synapses — they are the space through which currents of information flow. Every time you actively focus on a new piece of delicious data, the current of information strengthens connections between your neurons. This improves the efficiency with which they communicate with each other, making it easier to integrate existing knowledge with new knowledge. Each new bite of information thus exponentially increases your overall tank of knowledge. The more you learn, the easier it becomes to learn in the future as you make new connections between the knowledge you already possess. When you focus your attention on learning more about a certain subject, new insights about that subject come as your brain connects all of the different pieces of information.
3. Practice makes an expert
How does certain knowledge become second-nature? How does an expert recall complex knowledge without even thinking about it? Through expanding his knowledge base and applying that information in real life, an expert hardens the neural networks associated with his field. These hardened neural networks could then be called “skills.” They are so deeply ingrained that the brain doesn’t have to put forth much effort to pull them off the shelf when you need them.
Before you learned your ABCs, the concept of letters was just an abstraction. After singing the ABCDEFG song dozens of times, your brain got more familiar and more comfortable with every letter. Eventually, the alphabet became a part of you. Through applying it in daily life, you hardened those neural connections to a point where it seems impossible to imagine ever NOT knowing the alphabet.
As you creatively apply new information about your field of curiosity towards improving life for yourself or others, you make that knowledge an intrinsic part of who you are. Over time, you can perfect your craft and become a “master” in this field.
Using your wisdom to help others
When you consistently pursue your curiosities, your well of wisdom in that area deepens. There can come a point where you can use your wisdom to provide value to many others that need it. As you provide value to those that need it, you become aware of how valuable you are. Sharing your knowledge gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.
Feeling valuable leads to you providing more value as well receiving value in return. When you receive, you then have more to give. This helps keep humanity evolving and expanding.
Through becoming masters at what captures our hearts, all human beings can find ways to help others.
As we help each other advance in our experience of humanity, our whole species evolves. The feedback loop is complete.
There is a reason that our inner flames are all sparked by something different. Nature has designed it perfectly so that we could keep helping one another in new ways.
Applying these insights to narrowing down your purpose:
Make a list of the things you are most curious about; think beyond what you’re currently curious about — is there something that has always captured your interest? Is there a common thread between all your curiosities?
Make a list of a few things you believe the world needs right now
Consider how your curiosities could solve one or more of those problems
Dedicate time each day to learning more about that subject
Over time as you gain knowledge in the subject, find creative ways to share it with others in a way that helps them live a life of less stress and more joy
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman