The Gallup organization recently reported the results of a survey conducted with more than 130,000 people from some 130 nations, a sample designed to represent 96 percent of the world’s population. The poll identified two factors that had the strongest influence on how much enjoyment a person experienced in a given day: “being able to count on someone for help” and “learned something yesterday.”
What this poll confirms is that developing good relationships with other people (see above) and growing as a person are foundational components of a “happy” life. Both factors are supported by curiosity.
In fact, in one of the largest undertakings in the field of psychology, two pioneers in the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, PhD, and Chris Peterson, PhD, devised a scientific classification of the basic human strengths. This system was the end result of reading the works of ancient philosophers, religious texts and contemporary literature, then identifying patterns, and finally subjecting these ideas to rigorous scientific tests. Their research eventually recognized 24 basic strengths. And, of those 24 strengths that human beings can possess, curiosity was one of the five most highly associated with overall life fulfillment and happiness.
There are other important relationships between curiosity and happiness. In his book Stumbling on Happiness (Knopf, 2006), Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, PhD, shows that, while we think we know what will make us happy in the future, we are actually less likely to find joy as a result of a planned pursuit than by simply stumbling upon it. It follows that by cultivating curiosity and remaining open to new experiences, we increase our likelihood of encountering those surprising and satisfying activities.