Here's How Metacognition Can Make Your Life Better

by Nina Post

Metacognition is usually defined as "thinking about thinking," or "judgments about thinking." To be more specific, metacognitive competence includes planning, monitoring, evaluating, goal-setting, and strategy adjustment.

Metacogntive competency can lead to greater well-being, especially when combined with the pursuit of long-term goals.

How does metacognition work with your goal strategy? You can define your goal in the planning phase, adapt your strategies and identify weaknesses in the monitoring phase, and assess your progress toward the goal in the evaluation phase.

Accomplishing your goals makes you pretty happy - it brings positive affect to your life. Recent studies have found a significant positive relationship between goal-striving and metacognition. Metacognition can help with your selection of goals by identifying your problem or purpose, the kind of goal that can address it, and your plan to accomplish that goal.

Improving your metacognition facilitates a growth mindset and boosts self-efficacy, or your belief in your capabilities. Continuously challenging yourself to learn new things and develop new skills will train your metacognition and contribute to your happiness and satisfaction in life. You can read more about developing mental strategies in the excellent book Mastermind.

Being metacognitive means acting with more self-awareness, which according to another study may be the link to eudaimonic well-being. Self-awareness helps you create a strategy to respond to obstacles and plan how you think and respond. Awareness is a part of self-control, and self-control is invaluably important for well-being.

You can engage in deliberate practice to train your metacognition, and make adjustments as you observe and evaluate your own process of learning and deducing.

For instance, what time is better for certain tasks? Do you tend to retain more information if you take hand-written notes? Does explaining a newly-learned process to someone else help you internalize the process and enable you to recall the steps more readily in the future? If you're studying for a particularly challenging test, are you getting better at knowing what questions you won't realistically get right and should just skip to make more time for the ones you're more confident with?

To recap: training in metacognition can improve your intrinsic motivation and long-term goal strategy, help you control your thoughts, and make your life better.