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Metacognition: What it is and Why it Matters

Metacognition is an “awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes”. We make thousands of decisions per day without thinking about why we do such things. The more we think about how we think the more clear and concise our actions will become. Below are three simple steps you can take to clearly understand what makes you tick.

Plan.

Planning has everything to do with metacognition. Without planning, we will make decisions without regard to why the decision is made. Thus, it is essential to not only plan, but to also allot time to understand how your plans came to fruition based on your thought patterns. Not only will this force you to explore motives for making certain decisions, it will also allow you to bring negative biases to light that could cause calamity down the line. With planning comes resource allocation. Through an understanding of your processes, you are better able to think clearly and allocate resources more effectively.

Monitor.

Monitoring your thoughts and tendencies are critical skills to obtaining great results. For example, how do you know if you are operating at your cognitive best? You must monitor your thoughts  and become aware of distracting stimuli in both the external (co-workers, Facebook, email, etc..) and internal (negative self-talk, low blood sugar, etc…) environments. Metacognition requires a constant awareness of your thoughts and an ability to connect the dots to performance.

 Evaluate.

Evaluation is  essential for awareness of how you think. Planning and monitoring are great, but how you will improve moving forward is through thorough analysis of how your thought processes generated success or failure. The evaluation piece will allow you to expound on successful processes and squash failing thought processes thus creating a continual improvement cycle. An evaluation of a project or major decision can be as simple as looking back at your planning processes and monitoring your thought mechanisms and discovering your oversights, assumptions, and misconceptions. Lastly, score your final product as an “A,B,C,D, or F”. The lower the score means there are greater opportunities for improvement in your thought processes.

Summary.

Through the examination of your own thought processes comes greater awareness of what works and what does not work. Not only will you be able to shape your thinking processes at the micro level, but your thinking will also change an organization’s metacognition on the macro level. A greater awareness of your thinking will cause those around you to think how they think and change the entity as a whole. Thoughts are contagious, why not shape yours to do the most good?
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