I got an email from the Explorers Club last week, giving tribute to former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, who had died the day before, at the age of 95. It included an excerpt from the acceptance speech Senator Glenn gave in 2013, when the Explorers Club awarded him its Legendary Explorers Medal. In his remarks, Glenn extolled the virtues of curiosity:
“Exploring is another way of saying ‘curiosity in action,’ and if you think about it, there haven’t been any advances made in civilization without someone being curious about what’s out there - what’s around the next bend in the road, or over the next hill, or beyond that forest over there… and so on.
“This kind of curiosity is far more than just wanting to go and look at some new scenery someplace - it’s an attitude…
“Our whole history has been one of dragon pushing. Pushing dragons back off the edge and filling in those gaps on the maps.”
Glenn’s comments resonate with me, but for more reasons than just the ones he articulated. Yes, curiosity is what drives explorers of all kinds forward, expanding our body of knowledge–not only with regard to physical maps and territories, but in realms of science, medicine, and even human psychology. But the need to explore exists on a personal level, as well.
In my research on the development of authentic voice, one of the big themes that’s emerged is that an authentic “voice”–meaning the expression of our most authentic self, reflecting our core values, personality, dreams, passions, priorities, and individual thoughts and feelings–is not just something we “find” inside ourselves. It’s also something we develop and curate as we move through the world outside.
How do we know who we “truly” are? There are some traits we’re born with (researchers estimate that 50% of personality traits are “heritable,” or inherited/hard-wired). And even by the time we’re old enough to contemplate the question of who we are (and are not), we’ve developed another set of preferences, traits, and values. But who we become throughout the rest of our life; what our authentic voice evolves into, is more dependent on our own explorations. And if we don’t have a sense of curiosity about what might exist beyond the next corner, either within ourselves and our capabilities, or in the world at large, we’re not likely to do much of that exploration. [click to continue…]