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HABITS OF MIND

Posted by Dress for Success Midwest Professional Women's Group on October 4, 2010

The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. — Wendell Berry
What good practices can we call upon when answers to problems are not readily apparent? The following 16 skills are efficient, effective, intelligent, and successful. Costa and Kallick* call them “Habits of Mind”:

1. PERSISTING
Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. — Marabel Morgan
Stick with the task until it is completed. Get comfortable with ambiguity. Sleep on it. Don’t be in a hurry.

2. MANAGING IMPULSIVITY
Emotional self-regulation is the ability to deny impulse in the service of a goal. — Daniel Goleman
Do not say or act on the first thing that comes to mind. Deliberate instead. Get a vision of a proper response or product before moving toward it. Develop the idea carefully.

3. LISTENING TO OTHERS WITH UNDERSTANDING AND EMPATHY
Listening is the beginning of understanding; wisdom is the reward of a lifetime of listening. The discerning get guidance. — Proverbs
Spend an inordinate amount of time understanding the other person’s point of view. Paraphrase them; observe cues to their emotional state. Observe apart from your own self-interests. Do not rehearse what you want to say while listening to another person talk. This is not to say you must agree with what the other is saying.

4. THINKING FLEXIBLY
If you never change your mind, why have one? — Edward deBono
Flexible thinkers have the most control over their mental processes. They have open minds, think laterally, see alternatives, and have a sense of humor. They can shift perspectives after considering short and long-term consequences. They think both subjectively and objectively. They get outside of themselves. They take risks. They can see the whole and the parts. They use their intuition. They enjoy confidence. They tolerate confusion and ambiguity. They draw upon the past, present, and future. Use metaphors and analogies.

5. THINKING ABOUT OUR THINKING (Meta-cognition)
When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself. — Plato
Evaluate our thought processes. Plan a strategy, identify the steps, give ourselves feedback so we can take alternate routes. Judge our thoughts. Question our perceptions. Reflect, reflect, reflect. Make mental maps. Rehearse. Accept change. Take time to reflect on our experiences. Question our learning strategies. Revise our decision-making processes. Pay attention to our inner awareness. Have recovery strategies.

6. STRIVING FOR ACCURACY AND PRECISION
A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake. — Confuscius
Take time to check over your work. Be a craftsman, an artisan, a professional; and trustworthy. Aim for the highest attainable standard. Be complete. Rework often. Do A+ work. Be conscientious and faithful. Keep your word.

7. QUESTIONING AND POSING PROBLEMS
Formulating the problem is often more essential than its solution. Use creative imagination to raise new questions. — Albert Einstein
Pose questions to fill the gaps between problems and solutions. Ask yourself: “What’s the evidence?  How do I know it is true? How reliable is the source data? Are their other points of view?  How are these related to each other? What would happen if…?

8. APPLYING PAST KNOWLEDGE TO NEW SITUATIONS
I’ve never made a mistake. I’ve only learned from experience. — Thomas Edison
To learn from experience is called wisdom. Abstract meaning from one experience and carry it forward to novel situations. Generalize your experiences.

9. THINKING AND COMMUNICATING WITH CLARITY AND PRECISION
After arriving at perfectly clear results, I find I can only translate my thoughts into an inaccurate language. — Francis Galton
A picture is worth a thousand words — at least. Profound and spontaneous insight is not our customary language. Critical thinking takes much work and refinement, especially if it is to communicate anything of value. Fuzzy language comes from fuzzy thinking. Imprecise language, either oral or written, is a form of laziness. Clear communication is specific and meaningful. However, there still are places for proverbs and riddles. Carefully choose your words, and use as few as possible.

10. GATHERING DATA THROUGH ALL SENSES
Observe perpetually. — Henry James
Tune into all of your senses for they provide you with a wealth of truth. Live in the present. Take control of your internal verbal dialogue if it is running without control. Develop your mental imaging. Massive amounts of information are assimilated as internal images and movies. We are creative beings. Be careful with your internal language of images. Viewing artwork and listening to classical music improves spatial reasoning. Role-play. Make models. Experiment with combinations. Pay attention to patterns, rhythms, and habits. Participate.

11. CREATING, IMAGINING, AND INNOVATING
We create the future and its pathways. Making them changes the maker and the destination. — John Schaar
Whether you believe we evolved from primordial soup or were created by the Divine, you have to admit we are very creative, ingenious, and prolific beings. Creative people must take risks to progress. Our motivations include challenges, necessities, and rewards. Be open to criticism. Be as a public speaker. Dance like no one is watching. Permit outside scrutiny, judgment, criticism. It is all good feedback. Strive for simplicity, harmony, beauty, craftsmanship, and perfection. Find your particular gift for your community. You are unique. You are you.

12. RESPOND WITH WONDERMENT AND AWE
There is the mysterious. — Job, Daniel, Matthew, Luke, Paul
Be passionate about what you do. Find what makes your tasks enjoyable. Never stop learning. Be charmed by the natural world. Let your mind and emotions wander. Drive into the country (nature). Dream; stimulate your vision(s). Pay attention to your “subconscious.” Ponder the inexplicable.

13. TAKING RESPONSIBLE RISKS
There is always the calculated risk. — Brooks Atkinson
Regularly, go beyond established limits. Go beyond comfort and competence. Go where the outcome is unknown. Be okay with the unknown, setbacks, and challenges. See risk as both venture and adventure. Be a doer and an observer. You can risk having failures. Living is not about money. Do not miss trying opportunities. It is okay to be wrong and to make mistakes. It is okay to change your mind. Do not avoid the ambiguous. Do not wait for certainties. All innovation is uncertain.

14. FINDING HUMOR
Where do bees wait? At the buzz stop. — Susie
Laughter is the best medicine (Reader’s Digest). Joy lowers pulse rate, secretes endorphins (feel-good chemicals), and increases oxygen in the blood. It reduces anxiety. It reduces a negative response to stress. It lifts our spirit and mood. It reduces depression. It helps relationships by de-emphasizing our own ego. It takes the sting out of events.
It normalizes us.

15. THINKING INTERDEPENDENTLY (Caring for one-another)
If you do not care for one-another, or share your strengths with one-another, you will not make it. — Willie Unsoeld (Mountain Climber)
We are social. We seek support and validation. If we want to hurt someone, we avoid them. Be cooperative. Be a team player. Care for the needs of your loved ones, friends, and associates. Develop your social skills. You are not alone. Be cooperative. Walk in agreement with others.

16. LEARNING CONTINUOUSLY
Insanity is doing the same things over and over but expecting different results. — Albert Einstein
Even if it works, there is probably a better way. Search for it. Stop feeling certain and defensive. Have humility. You probably don’t have all the answers. You really won’t know for sure until the end, and then you’ll discover that that is really the beginning.

___

Stephen L. Knubley, Principal
Knubley Counseling, LLC

_____________
Quoted/Excerpted from:
*Describing 16 Habits of Mind. Arthur L. Costa, Ed. D. & Bena Kallick, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2000-2009 Knubley Counseling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Rev 9-9-09

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