Metacognition – This is your ability to understand your thought process.
Your ability to understand why you acted the way you did in a given situation, why you get angry from an event, why you’ve chosen to be happy or sad, and why you keep repeating behaviors that you want to stop all comes down to your ability to figure out what’s going on in your head. This is your Inner-Awareness or ‘Metacognition’. As we grow up from birth we have others telling us what to do, how to do it, why to do things like that, and of course what to stop doing. This starts with parents and family, then to elementary teachers, into high school, and maybe some coaches from sports along the way. After high school and we move out from the nest, now things start to slow with how many people are correcting our actions; and we don’t really seem to want anyone to be correcting our actions anymore! College and University the Professors do more lecturing than teaching and when we find ourselves a job, we are only taught about that specific job. How do we continue to learn and grow in our life? Of course we sign up for some Yoga Class or take some part time courses, but the majority of our adult life we are left on our own to learn and develop. This is where your level of Metacognition comes in. Your ability to assess yourself and make corrections to your actions and behaviors is what allows you to progress and learn from actions and experiences. If you’re not progressing in your life, then you will be caught in a never ending repeat of what you have right now. How do we change this? How do we grow? Essentially you are coaching yourself. This can be a skill in its self. You can develop your level of Metacognition; and this allows you to develop yourself faster and have less chance of repeating circumstances that you don’t like.
Developing More Metacognition
First thing to start doing is assessing yourself. Yup, development is work, and it takes some work to be always assessing yourself, your actions, and especially your reactions. If you don’t break old habits by constantly trying to be aware and changing, you will have a harder time change those behaviors that you don’t want. If you don’t start a new skill or behavior by ingraining the best muscle memory or neuropathway to achieve the best results you will be learning bad habits for that skill or behavior. Example: You want to start being bringing more joy to your spouse’s life. The intent is to start a behavior of greeting her at the door every day when she comes home from work and telling her something exciting. So, you start doing this; and it’s going great. Then you miss some days, you don’t keep track, you don’t hold yourself accountable to do this habit EVERY DAY. Soon, you don’t do it at all. You have forgotten about this great plan of yours. If you were aware, assessed yourself, and kept track of what you needed to do, you would be able to make a decision if the endeavor is worth it; and consciously stop or continue to make this new habit. Eventually it would have become second nature; but you just let things slide. How do we stop from letting good habits slide into nothing? The First Step is to Assess yourself. Assessing before, during, and after.
Assessing Yourself After
I’ve started in reverse because developing Metacognition usually starts with assessing your actions after they’ve happened. Only after developing a certain level of this awareness will one start to be aware before going into a situation, in order to set their intentions; and after more practice will one be able to be aware of one’s thoughts during situations. Assessing yourself after will start to build the thought process and the habit of living with greater awareness. This will soon transfer to being able to be aware of one’s self before entering into any given situation. This is beneficial so you can assess your energy, emotional state, and stress levels before starting an emotional or difficult conversation, before playing that game of pickup, or before starting a project at work. All these factors will affect the outcome. All these factors can be within your control.
Three ways to start Assessing Yourself After:
Writing things out.
One of the best ways to focus on any given task is to write it out. By writing things out you are forcing yourself to focus more intently on the one thing at hand. If you are just thinking about it, your brain is allowed to jump around to other shiny thoughts and lose focus. Whenever you have identified a situation where you believe you should have acted differently (this could be anything from a conversation with your boss, to missing the final goal in the big game), sit down with a piece of paper and write out what was going through your head at the time. First write out your first thoughts on the event (my boss was an asshole today, he shouldn’t have been yelling at me, and it felt good to smack my computer after; or I shouldn’t have been thinking about the bad call the ref made when I was making that last big shot). Next write out your emotions (happy before, angry after), how much stress you were under (been stressed at work and home life), and your energy level (didn’t sleep well the night before) for before, during, and after the event. These are all factors to your ability to stay intentional during the event. The more detailed you are, the more you will benefit from the exercise. After that, you will write out how you perceive the situation from a third person point of view; and try to do this without emotion or ego (I did come into work late today and I did roll my eyes at him, and he does hate that; or I played a really hard game, I was pretty tired for that shot, I let my focus wonder). Lastly, write out how you would have liked to see your highest self in this situation (calmly informing my boss that I’ve been really stressing to do a good job on this project, that I forgot my keys and that being late wouldn’t happen again, and taking my frustration out by doing some breathing exercises; or not getting all fired up and wasting energy at the refs bad call, letting it go, and focusing on nothing but the game for that last shot). By writing out these things you will train your mind to want to act more like your Highest Self in all situations.
1. Sit down as soon as possible after the event and write out your first thoughts on the event.
2. Write out your emotions, stress, and energy levels before, during, and after the event.
3. Write out how you perceive the situation from a 3rd person view. This can also take into account other’s emotions and stress levels.
4. Write out how you would see your Highest Self in this situation.
Meditation and Visualization
Another way you can do all of this is to Meditate and use Visualization. Going through the same process, but visualizing everything while in a meditative relaxed state can even start to change current neuropathways in the brain that caused you to act the way you did. Start by relaxing and doing a bit of meditation. There are lots of meditation videos on YouTube if you are unsure how this works. Find the one that you like or use different types, it doesn’t really matter they are all a process of relaxing your mind. Next go through the same four stages that are for Writing Things Out; but really try to put yourself there and imagine all the senses that you felt, saw, heard, smelt, and tasted (if the last is relevant). 1 – Go over your first thoughts on the event. 2 – Really get in touch with the emotions, stress, an energy you felt before, during, and after. 3 – Now view the situation without your emotion and ego attached to it. 4 – Visualize how your Highest Self would have acted in the situation. Try to feel everything your Highest Self would feel in the moment. This will make it more ingrained for what you want the next time a similar situation comes up.
Think Through the Process
The third way I’ll talk about for developing Metacognition is to just Think Through the Process. That simple. This could be good to do before bed, as you may give yourself completion on something that has been bothering you throughout the day. You may not have even known it was bothering you that much until you start to think about it. You can also do this as soon as you identify an event that you wish to improve your actions on. Once again going through the same 4 steps, but this time don’t go as deep as with the Visualization. Think back on the day and find the most influential event of your day. If you do this just before bed, ensure to end on a positive note so you are not all fired up and cannot sleep. If you find this affects your sleep, then don’t do it at this time. The more you start assessing your actions throughout the day the more you will be creating a habit to do so. This will slowly lead to being aware before and during these events; and this ultimately allows you to be intentional and act with congruence with who you would like your Highest Self to be. This quick process of Thinking Through the Process allows you to quickly assess what has happened from all sides, identify if you would like to do things differently next time, and carry on with your busy day.
The more these exercises are done, the better you will get at it. You are creating a habit. This habit will cause you to be more attentive and aware of what’s going on with your body, mind, and emotions. This habit will allow you to better assess what state you want to be in for any given situation and put yourself in that state throughout the performance. I recommend doing one of these exercises at least once a day; but if you do more, you will see better improvements. Building your Metacognition will allow you to develop in all areas of your life that you focus on. In my next blog I will continue with ‘Assessing Yourself Before’ which will allow you to be more intentional with your actions in any given situation; and then ‘Assessing Yourself During’ which will allow you to really hone your intentions and not let outside events throw you off your game! Below you can subscribe you my blog and get an email when I post the next part.
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