Habits of mind are repetitive thinking patterns that intelligent people use to solve problems they encounter. These mental tools create heuristic shortcuts that allow smart people to act in a knowledgeable and insightful manner when they are confronted with difficult problems.
Authors Costa and Kallick discovered these habits and primarily studied them in educational environments but can be applied in many other areas of life as well.
1. Ask Questions
Asking questions is a powerful habit that allows people to open their minds to new possibilities. It can also help them to focus on their personal goals and identify areas they want to change in their lives.
Regardless of your profession or role, asking questions is an important skill that every person should have.
It can also improve interpersonal relationships at work, encourage team building and improve communication skills. It can even help mitigate business risk by generating new ideas and avoiding common mistakes.
2. Keep a Journal
Journaling is a powerful tool for self-growth and personal development. It can help you process your emotions, identify triggers, and learn how to cope with difficult situations.
It can also serve as a place to think about your future, track your progress toward your goals, and reflect on how things are going.
Writing your goals out helps them feel more real and motivates you to achieve them. Moreover, it can be a great way to overcome self-doubt and negative beliefs.
3. Make Lists
Lists are one of the best ways to organize your thinking and make things more manageable. They can also be helpful in reducing stress at work by freeing up your brain to focus on the tasks that really matter, not what it wants or needs to do next.
When working in the business world, you may be tasked with juggling many tasks. For example, if you’re in the hospitality industry, it might be necessary to remember to complete a staff roster, order napkins, and finalize the menu for a function.
4. Think About Your Thinking
One of the best ways to improve your thinking skills is to pay close attention to how you think. Observing how you think can help you recognize the best strategies to use when confronted with a challenging situation. For example, if you are trying to remember a complex set of chemistry formulas, you may decide to highlight tricky words or read out loud the main points of interest to improve your comprehension. The most important thing to remember is that this is an individual choice and not something you must impose on others.
If you want to get ahead in the real world, you have to be smart about your thoughts and words. The best way to do this is by identifying your strengths and weaknesses and then learning to use them for good.
5. Look for Alternatives
One of the smartest moves a teacher can make is to encourage students to look for and test out alternatives to their usual suspects. This will allow them to test out the best fit for their needs. A class activity with a well-defined purpose and clear objectives can go a long way toward encouraging this valuable life skill. There are several reputable online sources of free information that will help teachers do just that. The fabled internet nerd is one such source, as are libraries of print and digital material. The results will be a classroom of informed and curious learners ready to take on the next challenge.
6. Take Time to Reflect
Reflection is a practice that allows the brain to take a pause, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning.
It also helps leaders reframe their beliefs and actions. For example, if they’re thinking about something that made them angry, but later realized it was just an annoyance that wasn’t worth getting involved with, they can take a step back and try to find a way to see that situation from a different angle.
Habits of mind include keeping impulsivity in check, listening with understanding and empathy, thinking flexibly, and striving for accuracy. These behaviors are a natural part of intelligent people’s dispositions.