METACOGNITION

by Joel J

There are different definitions of metacognition but for the purposes of this article I like the Dictionary.com definition: “awareness and understanding one’s thinking and cognitive processes; thinking about thinking”. Throughout much of history, at least as early as the writings in Proverbs of the Bible’s Old Testament, the philosophy that “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he” has been oft repeated in various ways. James Allen, a Twentieth Century English author, expressed the philosophy in his book “As A Man Thinketh”. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American Poet and Philosopher, expressed the philosophy, as “a man is what he thinks about all day long”. If we believe that philosophy then doesn’t it make sense to “think about what we’re thinking about”? We can’t change self-defeating thoughts if we don’t even know we’re thinking them?

Ever heard the phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know”? That phrase very aptly explains how we often don’t know what caused us to behave a certain way. For example, you just saw a reminder that you have a company report due soon and although you know you should start on it you don’t. Later when the report is overdue you’re stressed and angry with yourself for procrastinating but you likely don’t know the exact reason you procrastinated. Wouldn’t it be better to find out what caused you to procrastinate so you can change that behavior? Metacognition may help you to identify the thoughts that were in your mind when you procrastinated—were you angry that you accepted the assignment even though you knew you were already overloaded? Maybe the procrastination was a form of rebellion against your boss who made you feel you had to take the assignment. Or, maybe you had the thought that the project had to be perfect so you needed to wait until you had more information or in the right mood—when in reality it would have been better to start the project and make corrections before the project was completed. There are at least half a dozen underlying causes of procrastination so if we want to eliminate the self-defeating procrastination habit we need to “think about what we’re thinking about”.

Once you’ve used Metacognition to identify negative thoughts, which lead to negative habits, you can use positive affirmations to create positive self-talk to change your thoughts and habits to positive ones.

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