Let’s Get Metacognitive!

Let’s Get Metacognitive!

Not only can your mind think, it can think about what it’s thinking.

If “Really?” is the first thought that entered your mind when reading the above sentence this article might be especially for you. No offense intended, you’re hardly alone.

Many people have not fully developed their thinking skills as much as possible or underestimate its value.

People who are impulsive or lack concentration will particularly benefit from learning how to bring their thought processes to a higher level.

Actually, improving in this area is fundamental to the treatment of many psychological issues including anxiety, depression, OCD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD.

Technically, reflective ‘thinking about thinking’ is called metacognition.

We don’t understand exactly how the mind is able to perform metacognitive processes. But it sure can!

Metacognition is a very important skill to master. For one thing, many of the thoughts that just automatically ‘pop’ into our minds are not necessarily the brightest. At least mine aren’t.

First level thinking is a relatively passive process, whereas higher-order, metacognitive thinking is an active one.

Anyone who has ever had a really bad idea that they ‘thought twice about’ (or more) knows exactly what I mean.

In my own life as a husband, metacognition has often saved the day when I felt like giving my wife an unnecessary and doomed-to-backfire piece of my mind. I have come to think of my first thoughts sort of like a ‘rough draft’ and my metacognitive process as ‘needed editing.’

Metacognition is best utilized in respect to one’s highest values. For example, a person might think, “I don’t want to call my Mom today.” Metacognitively, they can think, “But I really should check in and see how her cold is.” Even better, let’s call it meta-meta cognitively for fun, he or she can note, “Calling my Mom is consistent with my core value of showing care to someone I love.”

Just like any other skill, metacognition can be practiced and improved. Even those who are relatively proficient at it already can always get better.

You can start improving your metacognitive skills right away by simply taking a little time each day to have a focused, back-and-forth conversation with yourself regarding the pros and cons of anything you are thinking about doing, or maybe not doing.

Putting down how you think in writing will heighten your self-awareness and is another excellent way to work on evolving your metacognitive skills. Why not start a ‘metacognitive journal?’

Can you be ‘too metacognitive?’ Yes, you can. There is a point at which metacognition loses its value and turns into pointless rumination. Moreover, even great metacognition is ultimately purposeless if it doesn’t translate into real-life positive actions.

Finally, if while reading this article you’ve already been considering how working on your meta-cognitive skills might enhance the quality of your life, congratulations, you’ve already started.

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