Thursday, January 2

Habits of mind: Becoming the change you want to be

I like this phrase "habits of mind." It reminds me of those who are engaged in the life of the mind: those who believe in the value of critical thinking and engagement, of thoughtful discourse, of clear and coherent writing.

I've seen the phrase "habits of mind" before but hadn't really thought much of its genesis. I've learned that "[h]abits of mind are the characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolutions of which are not immediately apparent." They are the work of Art Costa, Ed.D., professor emeritus of education at California State University, Sacramento, and co-director of the Institute for Intelligent Behavior. There are 16 habits of mind:
  • Persisting
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • Managing impulsivity
  • Gathering data through all senses
  • Listening with understanding and empathy
  • Creating, imagining, innovating
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Responding with wonderment and awe
  • Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
  • Taking responsible risks
  • Striving for accuracy
  • Finding humor
  • Questioning and posing problems
  • Thinking interdependently
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations
  • Remaining open to continuous learning
These are not steps mind you, but habits. Practices from which one draws when confronted with a problem. I found myself thinking about these habits in context of and contrast to Vicki Davis' post, Habits of Mind for the New Year. Her 10 steps to help you accomplish your resolutions are steps towards building a habit so that it is as reflexive, so it is a part of you.

Dr. Costa's habits of mind are precisely that. They are reflexive and part of an individual. They can be developed and honed, I've no doubt of that, but some people already recognize these are the kinds of things they do when confronted with a problem. And if one of your problems is keeping after your resolutions or developing strong personal management habits--and January 2 or any date hereafter is not too late to start--Vicki's post is likely to be of some help to you.

Years ago I had a friend who listed just three specific things she wanted to improve or do by the end of the year. They were often big things, but a few of them might have seemed minor. She wrote down why she wanted to accomplish those things and how she planned to accomplish them. Every week she would journal her progress, adaptations she might have had to make to how she might accomplish her goals, and her success and her failure because both helped marked her journey, and her growth. This work was a habit and soon the things she wanted to accomplish became habits as well. Perhaps not habits of mind, but habits of person.

There are thousands of self-help books, thousands of blog posts about New Year's resolutions and how to keep your resolutions, and more. I suppose, in the end, all that really matters is that you take a bit of time to examine who you are and where you are, think about if you're the kind of person you want to be and determine what you might do, whose help you might enlist, and how you might go about implementing small changes to become the kind of person you want to be.

In other words, become the change you wish to see in your world.

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