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The Surprising Benefits of Not Knowing

Episode #16

Curiosity is a powerful element of joy. There are two key constructs related to curiosity that we’ll dive into in this episode because they are particularly powerful. These are intellectual humility and uncertainty tolerance. You can practice skills to build these constructs in your life, both of which not only build a more resilient brain and body, but enhance your joy and a deeper sense of connection with others. We’ll talk about some obstacles that might stand in the way of these constructs along with five simple strategies to start building them in your daily life.


The Invisible Gorilla Study: Take just a few minutes for this study before you listen to the episode (or pause the episode when prompted). Everything you need to know is in the 1:21 video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo. Simply count how many times the players wearing white pass the basketball.


View this episode on YouTube.


Key Takeaways:

  • Intellectual humility describes the recognition that you might be wrong about the things you believe in. Building more intellectual humility is powerful. Individuals who score higher on intellectual humility also:
    • Report improvements in wellbeing.
    • Score higher on self-awareness assessments and are more tolerant of other perspectives.
    • Are less likely to get fooled by misinformation.
    • Are more likely to seek out opportunities to learn. In effect, intellectually humble folks actually tend to know more compared to folks who score lower on intellectual humility assessments.
  • Uncertainty tolerance is the ability to tolerate (or not tolerate) uncertainty. There’s a full spectrum within there. Two key pieces of uncertainty tolerance are places where we can skill-build:
    • Increasing the amount of uncertainty we can handle
    • How we react when we hit that limit and work to reduce the uncertainty
  • Uncertainty tolerance, followed by coming to a healthy resolution of that uncertainty, is really good for your brain (and your stress resiliency!).
  • Five simple strategies can be used to boost intellectual humility and uncertainty tolerance:
    1. Practice admitting you’re wrong, at least once per day. Even if it’s just to yourself (which can be a great place to start).
    2. Challenge your perceptions. Or, put another way, don’t believe everything you think.
    3. Don’t google every question. Sit with uncertainty and even try to explore answers to your question offline.
    4. Exercise. Exercise increases curiosity. Try heading outside for a walk for an even bigger boost.
    5. Act like a scientist. Try something new. Observe what happens. Apply what you learn.
    6. Bonus (but essential) strategy: Be gentle with yourself. We grow not through self-improvement, but from self-acceptance.


Links and sources mentioned: