Habits of Mind

Updated: Jul 2, 2018



Let's talk briefly about a few habits of mind. Exercising these habits on a daily basis can redirect an individual toward successful outcomes within an academic, professional, civic (community) or even personal arena.


1. Curiosity. Have you ever heard a young child ask their parent(s) "why" something is the way it is? For some, this is quite an exhausting experience, as young minds are particularly inquisitive. This sense of curiosity drives a child's learning process. However, as individuals age, that organic sense of curiosity often dampens. For some, the mere thought of asking 'why' risks embarrassment in front of loved ones, colleagues, or teachers/faculty. This stifles the learning process and can hold individuals back from reaching their full potential. I am here to encourage everyone who reads this post to embrace curiosity. Ask questions and seek to understand the world around you. Do not be afraid of the unknown, or owning up to a knowledge gap.


2. Openness. This habit of mind compliments the aforementioned habit (curiosity). Once you accept that learning extends across our lifespan, and that knowledge gaps are normal (and not a sign of weakness), you can ask questions of those around you. This may involve interpersonal conversations, silent viewing of TV documentaries, reading books or articles, listening to podcasts, or sitting in lecture halls listening to professors teach content. Simply listen with an open mind, ask clarifying questions as needed, and reflect upon those perspectives. Reflection allows you to, as I call it, "meander your mind," and shift from a focused to diffuse mode of metacognitive thinking, which helps you connect new knowledge with prior and ultimately promote retention of that new knowledge (or the formation of retrievable memories). This enhances one's knowledge base and capacity for creative problem-solving. (And it just so happens that creative-problem solvers are in demand in today's workforce!).


3. Engagement. This is a deliberate act and one that encourages the development of goal setting, time-management, and focused-thinking. Those who are curious and open to knowledge acquisition might just stumble upon a fascinating topic (which for students may inspire the pursuit of a specific degree)! I typically suggest that individuals begin by chunking time spent on any particular task into 25 minute intervals. Set a timer for 25 minutes and commit to focused (engaged) work (i.e.: reading, studying, writing, painting, exercising, or other technical work). Once the timer buzzes, reward yourself! You have earned it. Over time, you will start to realize that engagement equal productivity, which can become a lucrative habit of the mind!


4. Creativity. This habit of mind involves tapping into your own creative genius in order to develop a new way to solve an old problem. Once you have mastered habits #1, 2, and 3, you will probably find that creative thinking is a pretty fun habit of mind!


5. Responsibility. Have you ever heard of the English proverb, "to err is human?" Simply stated, humans are flawed and therefore, while we do boast successes throughout our lives, we also make mistakes. If you succeed, take credit for it (but remember, humility is always a desirable characteristic). If you are unsuccessful, own up to it. Acknowledge the error, seek to understand where the mistake occurred and develop a plan to do better next time.


6. Flexibility. Let's review another helpful quote: "complacency kills." This is true across many walks of life and professions. When you (or a colleague) realize that doing something is not necessarily effective, embrace creative-problem solving. This requires curiosity, openness, creativity, engagement and of course, accountability (responsibility).

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