Curiosity is a fundamental part of the human experience. As children, we view the world with wide eyes, inquisitive about everything around us. But somewhere along the way, many of us lose that childlike curiosity. We become set in our ways, focused only on going through the motions without stopping to question why. However, curiosity remains a key not just for professional success, but for finding purpose and meaning in our work. By cultivating curiosity, we can unlock significance in even the most mundane tasks.
Today we will explore how to leverage curiosity to discover purpose at work.
The Role of Curiosity in Professional Success and Fulfillment
Curiosity is the drive to ask questions and seek information. Research shows that curious people tend to be more creative, better learners, and more tolerant of uncertainty. In a professional context, curiosity leads to critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovation. Curious employees ask ‘why’ and imagine better ways, rather than blindly following instructions. This sparks progress and positions curious professionals for leadership roles.
Additionally, curiosity expands perspective. By inquiring about themselves, their company, and their colleagues, employees gain insight. This self-awareness and understanding of the bigger picture brings meaning to work. Tasks become more than just the next item on the to-do list – they are part of a greater mission. With this mindset, curiosity provides a pathway to engagement and passion.
Four Ways to Unlock Purpose Through Curiosity
When made an intention, curiosity allows us to discover significance in any job. Here are four key practices for leveraging curiosity to find meaning at work:
Craft Your Work
The most fundamental way to infuse curiosity into your workday is by crafting your work. Treat each task as an opportunity to learn and improve. Ask questions like:
How could I do this job better?
What skills does this task require?
Where are my strengths and weaknesses?
How is this task connected to other roles?
Approaching your duties as skill development and a chance to master your craft, rather than mindless bureaucracy, brings meaning to even mundane aspects of work.
Make Work a Craft
Zoom out from specific tasks to view your job as a whole. Make your work a craft by getting curious about how all the pieces fit together. Ask questions like:
How does my role fit into the bigger picture?
What’s the purpose behind my duties?
Who benefits from my work?
How does this job utilize my talents?
Seeing your work as a craft gives you a sense of intentionality. It transforms your job from just a paycheck to an expression of your skills and values.
Connect Work to Service
Curiosity allows you to understand your work as part of something bigger than yourself. Get curious about how your company’s mission connects to helping people. Ask questions like:
How does this company serve customers and society?
Why did leadership choose this mission?
How does my department contribute to that mission?
What community needs does our work address?
By linking your work to service, you attach deeper purpose to daily tasks. Even basic administrative work supports an organization that makes a difference.
Invest in Relationships
Finally, satisfy your curiosity about the people around you. Ask colleagues questions like:
What are you passionate about?
What are your career goals?
What do you like most about your work?
Build rapport through curiosity. Understanding teammates’ dreams and motivations fosters empathy and collaboration. A strong team alignment around shared mission enhances both camaraderie and performance.
Adopting an Intention of Curiosity
While curiosity comes naturally to children, adults must be more intentional about embracing it. By making curiosity a mindset rather than just a transient state, you can unlock meaning every day. Come into each workday with curiosity as your intention. Ask questions. Explore ideas. Seek hidden connections. Approach every task and interaction with care and presence.
Curiosity provides a pathway to fulfillment at work. But you must choose to walk that path, one mindful step at a time. Maintaining childlike wonder takes discipline in our fast-paced, task-driven world. Yet it allows you to view your job not as a chore, but an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover purpose. The magic of curiosity transforms the mundane into the meaningful.
Curiosity is the key to engagement and passion. By adopting a curious mindset, we can unlock purpose in our work. Being curious about ourselves, our company, and our colleagues provides insight and understanding. Simple practices like crafting your work, connecting tasks to mission, and investing in relationships can uncover significance in any job. When made an intention, curiosity allows us to approach work mindfully and discover fulfillment. Childlike wonder sustains us through life’s challenges. Thus curiosity not only drives professional success, but enables us to find joy and meaning amid the routine. Through curiosity, we transform the workday from ordinary to extraordinary.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.