The Child-Mind VS The Adult-Mind: Managing Perpetual Curiosity

Cute little child play with book and glasses while sitting at table, isolated over white

Dealing with conflicting (or too many) interests, iron-prescriptions and the importance of prioritisation

If you’re interested in all things, and have a perpetual curiosity about the universe, life and the world, it’s essential that you discriminate between your interests, and that you prioritise your time, and that you have discipline. You are a rare breed; you have the curiosity of a child, but also, probably, the responsibilities of an adult — a troublesome co-existence; a very complex marriage to manage.

They say that children think with their feet and their heads follow; this is what happens to those disciples of truth, students of knowledge and lovers of learning, those who have an interest in all things: their feet take them on a merry-go-round every day; they’re swayed constantly by their genuine curiosity and never-ending inquisitiveness — they want to do this and that, learn about this and fiddle with that, and they get bored and they question and they rebel. When you’re an adult — and have work, family and other adult-life responsibilities — behaving this way usually leads you into trouble, lots of trouble. Socially, you may be ridiculed, hated, envied or viewed as a ‘child who needs to grow up,’ but, although looks like the biggest problem, it’s not; the biggest kind of trouble you run into is personally — your individual pursuits, goals and affairs.

Children don’t have distractions — powerful desires, big ambitions, work and self-induced pressures, financial responsibilities, pressures learn, etc — that get in the way of their learning, or force them to stay on a particular path when it gets boring, meaning, if they are interested in action figures, for example, they’ll play and play until their interest dwindles, at which point they’ll put them down and move onto the next thing. As a child — a being with no distractions, little ambition, a keen inquisitive mind and bundles of energy — this is perfectly fine, but as an adult, rarely.

An example: you are interested in setting up your own business, you’re almost there, but first there is specific area of computer code you must get familiar with (let’s imagine you’re doing your own tech to keep expenses down — or because you are obsessive); you take an online course and dive deep into the learning process, but then you get stuck (bored or intellectually hit a sticking point); at this point, no longer are you interested in learning this code, heck, you’re starting to question whether this whole business thing was a bad idea. To push through this plateau and make your business a reality, you’re going to have to go against your interest, you need discipline. The question is, What do you do? You have two choices: you can either quit — and risk big regret, and abandon your dreams — or you can forge on; you can respond as a child, or as an adult.

Now, a child very rarely has ambitions to start their own business, but imagine one did — let’s say an unusually driven, highly ambitious 10-year-old. They would start in exactly the same way as the adult: they have an interest and desire in starting their own business, and they want to make it happen; they go about completing all the engaging, easy and necessary tasks; so far it’s all fun and games, there is just this one aspect they need to learn — then they hit the sticking point, the part where it’s no longer interesting or easy, but still necessary. Unless this child is extraordinarily driven, ambitious and intelligent, they’re very likely to give up here. They give up because they are no longer enjoying themselves. An adult on the other hand, not only has to fight their interest and motivation, they also have to juggle the responsibilities of adult life — the incentive to give up is twice as powerful as in the child. Furthermore, if you’re an adult who has, as I discussed earlier, an interest in almost everything — a perpetual curiosity, a yearning to know, a need to find things out — or you simply have more interests that you can attend to, then God help you: the incentive is thrice the power.

Clearly, the importance of prioritisation, discrimination and distraction-minimisation is unquestionable — for indeed everyone, but especially those who have many interests. Without taking these things seriously, one risks a life of hurry, frustration, depression, even delusion; never will potential be reached or surpassed — in life as a whole, or in specific endeavours; never will you have peace or mind; oh, and as for true skill, deep knowledge and actual wisdom, forget it.

About the length of this letter, I could go — for there are many rabbit-holes one can go down, many perspectives and many more opinions; about the content, I could, admittedly, have taken out chunks and substituted in practical advice, solutions that you can use; but, I’ve had the time not to write a shorter letter and nor do I think any more advice is needed than the following — for there is enough advice in the world, too much, what’s needed is hard application. So, take control of your life: Prioritise your affairs, Control your desires, Manage your interests, Use discipline wisely, Practice not rapidity but diligence, and listen to Lao Tzu–

Live in a good place.
Keep your mind deep.
Treat others well.
Stand by your word.
Do the right thing.
Work when it’s time.