curiosity and happiness

Do you wonder why you were so happy when you were a child and at some point you just stopped being that happy? I do. It was right around middle of the high school where I tricked myself into the idea that I have figured out how the world works.[1]

Happiness comes in different forms. There are instant ones like a reaction to a specific event and sustained ones that make you feel happy continuously. Childhood happiness is a sustained one and this has to do with what they are constantly doing: exploration. While filling the gaps with concrete knowledge brings instant happiness, realizing you still have so much the explore is what brings constant happiness.

How do you keep it? On whatever you spend most of your day, it needs to be something you’re always curious and constantly exploring. One way to do this is to look for gaps in how you perform your job and explore ways to fill those gaps. Right when you find an answer, you’ll get an instant gratification but keeping looking for gaps will bring you constant happiness since you know that there are many more inefficiencies down the line. This is what makes people successful in their job; they are trying to be happy. It’s the curiosity that you’re constantly asking “how would that look like if I did it perfect?” and believe there is always some parts that are not perfect yet and need exploration.

But how do you or did you lose that curiosity, excitement? It’s about the feedback loop. When you see a gap and fill it, you’d like to see its effects. That’s why you did it, you’re curious about how it’d result if that gap was filled. However, it might take a very long time to see the impact or you might be forced to do a lot of unrelated things to make any change, especially in big institutions. For example, you’re curious about how users would react to a marketing campaign detail that you came up with. If it takes 6 months or years to see the results, you’re less likely to be excited about filling that gap. Because you can’t imagine the gratification you’ll get if it’s a year later, in which too many changes could happen and prevent you from convincing yourself that your change had an impact at all. Another example could be that you have to get sign-off from 6 different manager or you have to write hundreds of test cases to get a small feature of the product to the customers, you might just decide that it’s not worth the effort. Sure it’s not always possible but looking for ways to shorten that feedback loop and lowering the overhead to make a change will definitely make an impact.

Look for opportunities to make what you do a constant exploration effort and work on the processes to shorten the time that you get the results so that you experience those instant gratifications, too. It’s not that people wake up one day and choose to love their job. They have a genuine curiosity about the subject and their workflow supports them to have impact. That’s what makes people love what they do.


[1] Later in college, I majored in Computer Science but took many courses from different areas like Economics, Visual Arts, Management, Psychology and realized that there are still so many things to explore and get fascinated.

Thanks to Erkan Erol for reading the drafts.

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