A Hat Trick For Supporting Curiosity and Growth

I have a little trick, it’s kind of silly, but it helps me when I’m in trouble. I do it whenever my attitude isn’t great or I feel resistant about something I have to do.

I call it the “hat trick.”

While I consider myself to be an open person, excited to learn new things, and willing to try new things and experiment, I also notice in myself plenty of times when I start to move in the other direction.

There are times when there are upcoming committee meetings, looming conflicts, or difficult conversations I need to have that I really just don’t want to do. When I think about these things my stomach starts to turn and it starts to feel like drudgery. Or I just have a bad attitude about the whole thing.

A number of years ago, I had this feeling about a committee I sat on that had to do with finances. If you know me, you know I’m not much of a numbers person. In the committee, when the conversation turned toward numbers my attitude turned sour. I often joke that I became a theologian because I wasn’t good at math. When I see a spreadsheet my brain shuts-down. My head starts swimming. My eyes cross. Then there’s the feeling that I have nothing to add, nothing to contribute, and the meeting begins to feel like a total waste of time. This is a disempowering experience to say the least.

Have you ever felt something like this?
Do you have something in your life where something like this happens?

I started paying attention to this what was happening and I wanted to change it. I wanted to not feel like I was wasting my time or others’. and I didn’t want to feel like I was afraid of the content of a meeting, which, in this case was important to keeping our community going.

I don’t know how it happened at first but I thought to myself, “I have so much to learn about this subject and I love learning, so why not go into this meeting as a student. Enter it as a new learner.”

I realized pretty quickly, I could approach it as a researcher looking for what I still have to learn. And with that, I created visualization practice; I imagine myself putting on a “learning hat,” it looks a little like the dopey hats we wear with our regalia in the academy. And with that I entered the meeting with a different framing, a different purpose, a different attitude. A funny looking, imaginary, hat.

The Hat Trick has changed things for me.

It has become a mindfulness practice that reframes experiences and helps me be present in a new way. Sine then, there have been plenty of times it came in handy. Like when there was a conflict I had to address and I really would have rather not had to deal with it. But then I applied the same method, “Why don’t I approach this conflict as a researcher trying to learn more about how conflict works, what the process is for working through conflict, what are the most effective ways of addressing the conflict?” Then, I’d imagine myself putting on my thinking hat, and I entered the conflict with curiosity, a desire to learn (rather than be right!), and I was able not just get through the situation but grow from it as well.

So this is my little silly hat trick. It has helped me become more curious and present, as I enter difficult situations with a more open heart and willingness to learn.

I’d love to hear from you: Do you have any tricks that help you like this?

4 responses to “A Hat Trick For Supporting Curiosity and Growth”

  1. Oh, I love this. Hats are always a good image.

    So, I’ve spent a lot of my life on a bike, and learned two tricks that I have applied more broadly, off the bike.

    1. Whenever I was in pain or exhausted, or demoralized by one more hill to climb, I would search for everything that *didn’t* hurt. Inner monologue: Yep, legs are done, feet numb, but boy howdy, my eyebrows feel just fine! In fact, my earlobes have never felt better!”

    2. When I was really soggy, the rain coming down forever, and the puddles coming at me from beneath, I’d contemplate that dryness and moisture are simply a continuum. There is nothing to gain by freaking out about one more drop of water, or to be hoped for by avoiding that next puddle. Giving up attachment to the idea of a condition called “wet” and a condition called “dry” totally decreased my suffering.

    I guess my new imaginary hat is a bike helmet 🙂

    • Ha! I love it. Especially grateful for eyebrows! Haha..

      Your trick about the water will be helpful when I’m on my motorcycle – I really don’t like getting rained on when I’m riding but I’ll be thinking of the continuum from now on.

      This reminds me a little of my thinking around being too hot here in the south. When I’m so hot and sweaty in the summer, which I really don’t like, I realize everyone else is also really hot and sweaty. So it’s not weird that I’m feeling or looking the way I do. We’re all in the same boat. And then I remind myself, I can always move a little slower.

  2. Thank you both for these images..the floppy hat and the bike helmet. I am a perinnial student. When ignorant of the subject at hand I am often silent listening intently. Then the opinions come forth. It is easier to be student when uninformed or when you like it but when you intensely dislike it and know something…well that is another story. To remember to remain the student researcher when there are negative feelings or outright conflict…that is more difficult but worthy of attention. To remain the eager student researcher to understand under these more difficult circumstances..well that may be pure joy. I think I will substitute my actual transition glasses to remind me to see and seek understanding even under adverse circumstances. Thank you again.