Sixteen Habits of Mind

June 1st. Here in New Zealand that means the last, colourful leaves of autumn drifting off from the trees. It means the feijoa and passionfruit crop is over for the year, and it’s time to prune the trees to replenish and make room for spring growth.

Time to buy that electric blanket to replace the one we had to chuck away a few months ago. Time to do what we’ve been promising to do for a few years, and actually cull all the junk collecting in our garage, so we can put all the stuff that’s in the spare room where it should be in the garage, and pretty up the spare room ready for our visitors coming in August.

If you think August! that’s miles away – plenty of time to get sorted by then, you haven’t seen the state of our garage. We’re renovating our house – slowly. It’s a bit like a slow-slip earthquake – the land constantly shifting beneath your feet, but so slow you don’t feel a thing – yet over years, the contours of the land changes.

Even just carrying a basket of laundry out to the tumble-dryer is to face an assault course of old doors, plumbing pipes, leftover ceramic tiles from the hall floor, half-finished stone-carving projects, a rusty, collapsed barbecue, and boxes of stuff. Boxes and boxes of stuff.

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I started sorting out the boxes yesterday. They contained my old lecture notes and assignments from my university degree and my teachers diploma. All my lesson plans, student assessments and teaching resources from my years teaching. The books I’d had students make, and the cards and pictures they had made for me.

While I was sorting through all this for what to keep and what to discard, I spent some time reading through my reflections on lessons and student progress. There are multiple references to Art Costa’s Habits of Mind and how I used them in the classroom.

What is Habits of Mind?

It is a philosophy of thinking that is about effective management of problematic situations, and challenges. Sixteen key behaviours were identified as fundamental:

Persisting
Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
Managing impulsivity
Gathering data through all the senses
Listening with understanding and empathy
Creating, imagining, innovating
Thinking flexibly
Responding with wonderment and awe
Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
Striving for accuracy
Finding humour
Questioning and posing problems
Thinking interdependently
Applying past knowledge to new situations
Remaining open to continuous learning

It may sound like a complex list of behaviours to teach five year old children, but it is a lot simpler than it sounds. If children are encouraged to try again when the picture they drew didn’t turn out the way they wanted, praised for giving the tricky maths equation another go when they got it wrong first time, they learn the habit of persistence.

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If, instead of being asked to solve 5 + 3, they are challenged to come up with as many ways as they can of making 8, they learn to think flexibly, and strive for accuracy.

It’s a few years since I’ve been in a classroom now, but apart from the delicious sense of nostalgia reading my teaching stuff gave me, it also gave me the idea for this post.

It struck me how useful these key behaviours are in managing life with chronic pain and illness. Life with chronic illness provides daily challenges and problems, and how we approach them is critical to how well we manage to live with our conditions.

How Habits of Mind can Help

Persisting
Persistence is all about keeping going.

If your doctor is fobbing you off with evasive or unsatisfactory answers to your questions, persist – even if that means getting a second opinion.

If you had high hopes of that new breathing technique you learned relieving your pain, and it hasn’t, persist – things don’t always work first time around, or even second.

Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
Clarity and precision are your new best friends when it comes to managing chronic health conditions. When you need to explain symptoms and/or side effects to medical people,  describing them as clearly and exactly as you can will enable faster, more effective diagnosis and treatment. My pain is so bad I want to die may be how you feel emotionally, but it’s less helpful to a doctor than My pain is lancinating, intermittent, and a 9 on this pain scale:painscales triptych

You may need to request accommodations at your workplace, or describe to friends and family what you are dealing with. The clearer you speak, the easier for them to understand.

Managing impulsivity
I know, that advert promises an instant cure-all with just one sip of this elixir and one drop of that tincture, and you are desparate for help after so many failures of conventional medicine, is enticing, but really, stop and think. Ask yourself how reputable is the source, how likely is the claim, how authentic are the glowing testimonials.

Gathering data through all the senses
To reach a diagnosis, your doctors need a useful and complete set of symptoms. With many chronic illnesses, that presents a problem because symptoms are often many and varied – and seem unconnected. Your five senses can help you. For example, trigeminal neuralgia pain flares are often triggered by touch – a blast of icy wind, a soft stroke of fingers. By sound – a screech of opera singers, the clatter of supermarkets. By sight – bright sunlight, dazzling car headlights.

Listening with Understanding and Empathy
You’ll want to be on the receiving end of this, when you tell people about your condition. But you’ll also need to exercise it. When you have extreme chronic pain, it sometimes becomes difficult to care about someone who has appendicitis, or a toothache, or any other pain that is extreme, but acute. You know they will get better. And when people complain about a stubbed toe or a heavy cold, you think, so what, that’s nothing.

Understanding and empathy will stand you in good stead to continue worthwhile, caring relationships with other people.

It will also allow you to be kinder to yourself in those moments when you feel like a failure, or a burden, or guilty because your illness has made your life less than you wanted.

Creating, imagining, innovating
Creative arts are great distractions from pain. Focussing your mind on an activity stops your brain noticing the pain signals. Imagination will help you with pain management techniques like visualisation – who wouldn’t like to be able to pretend to be lying on a beach in the tropical sun, the sound of the waves lulling you to sleep? Innovation will help you think of new ways to manage your life despite limitations.

Thinking flexibly
Flexible thinking allows you to take on board other opinions and suggestions, to assess each for its merit. It allows you to adapt to new situations.

Responding with wonderment and awe
This lets you find joy in small moments, even when pain and fatigue seem to dominate your life.16habitspin2

Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
Allows you to figure out how things
like the Habits of Mind can apply to your
health situation.

Striving for accuracy
Accuracy will help you find that clarity and precision.

Finding humour
Laughter is often said to be the best medicine. Even if it can’t fix your health condition, it goes a long, long way to making things seem better.

Questioning and posing problems/Thinking interdependently
Don’t just accept what doctors say, especially if they dismiss your pain as psychological, or say there is nothing more to be done, when you know there are options they haven’t explored.

Don’t stay quiet if you don’t understand something a medical professional says.

Ask questions, write down the answers, ask for clarification.

Remaining open to continuous learning
Do your own research. Medical knowledge is a constantly shifting field. What was true 20 years ago may have changed.

Applying past knowledge to new situations
Draw on your experience and knowledge to help make decisions that can help you adapt your life to your illness.

You know the sharp sun triggers your face pain, so wear sunglasses.

You know the wind triggers your face pain, so wear a scarf.

You know a whole evening out with friends costs you  several days-worth of energy, so cut it down to an hour.

You know clearing all the junk out of the garage in one day will exhaust you, so take it a bit at a time. Slow enough that you can read all the old papers and rediscover things you’d forgotten.

Habits of Mind aren’t limited to the classroom. They are a tool for life.


 

 

 

67 thoughts on “Sixteen Habits of Mind

  1. I like this idea of a mind for adopting new habits. And also about not just accepting what the doctors say because you know your own body.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a wonderful post! Very informative and useful in everyday life! Looking at the 16 habits of the mind helps use to see that there are other ways to do things, you know? Our minds aren’t a one trick pony, and can actually cope quite well if needs be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. I agree that persistence is important when you aren’t getting the answers that you need. It’s so important to vouch for yourself when you’re dealing with a chronic illness.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a very useful post, it allows me to think about how to think well since it also helps to improve our concentration skills. Our mind is really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Trish 🙂
    I know how you feel when you get things from your students. It’s really a wonderful thing 🙂 Thank you for writing these valuable positive posts. I really enjoy your perfect writing as a regular reader.I wanted to write to you before a few days. I’ve faced some difficulties, so couldn’t. Leave it 🙂 Here I am 🙂 Thanks for sharing things with us 🙂 I love to read you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sounds interesting! These 16 habits of mind can help people to handle hard situations and also for myself because we all know people nowadays they are lack of persistent that can cause pressure and anxieties lovely this topic today.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reading through these really made me think of how they apply on my own life. I also couldn’t help, but notice how many that I surround myself with lack many of these essentials. It’s kind of sad, but through growth I’m sure they’ll get there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Theres alot to learn here that would be useful in many situations besides the chronic illness. Great life tools. Thanks for the interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved learning about psychology, the mind, and the motivations of people when I was in school. I like that if you put in the effort, you can improve and implement all of these habits to create a fulfilling life.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Extremely interesting seeing how the mind works when you break it down into different segments. Really changes the way you think about things. Pun intended, but so true. When you know how something works, it’s easier to operate it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve recently read that the 16 habits of mind are being taught at a school in Sweden. Imagine incorporating the habits into the school curriculum.
    On a personal note, ‘remaining open to continuous learning’ resonates with me. Solonas (in Ancient Greece) points out that learning is an ongoing process: as we grow older, we keep learning. We aren’t the same and we have a lot to learn, first about ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, super cool info. Nicely put. I love growing my mind and learning new and exciting things every day. That is the key to my success

    Liked by 1 person

  13. These 16 habits of mind are a wonderful strategy to staying present in the moment while keeping things on the positive and growing from anything that happens. Thanks for sharing! Keep warm and joyful ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Adopting the 16 habits of mind can lead to a growth mindset. Once you have a growth mindset, you can do and learn anything!
    Your garage sounds like mine…It needs a complete overhaul. There are boxes I haven’t opened in ten years.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It’s s strange to me that Winter is coming for you (sorry Game OF Thrones Reference) and in the US we are eagerly awaiting Summer! For me, I try to prepare everything so I do nothing in summer but agree that Fall (whenever it falls in your hemisphere) is the best time to clean and organize. I love each and every one of these tips for the habits of the mind. Especially persistence!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I first moved to NZ from UK, it took me a couple of years to adjust to the opposite seasons. Seeing lambs in the fields at Christmas time was just wierd!

      Like

  16. Love this! So much great advice. I think so many young people lack persistence these days…once things don’t turn out as they hope, they just quit. Or they’re so use to their participation awards they don’t really want to work for what the want. These are vital skills that we should all be trying to teach our children.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You have the most interesting way of starting a blog and then taking it in a whole other direction, Trish! I haven’t figured out how you do it, but reading your posts are always an adventure because I never know where you are going, but I definitely enjoy that. It is so weird for me to read about fall in June. Summer hasn’t even started for me, and the weather is just starting to warm up as summer approaches. I am like you though in that I love cleaning in the fall. That is my time to really turn into a home body and stay inside. I do lots of sorting and reorganizing during the fall and winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Colder days are great to work towards better thinking and organizing. Take the blanket clean up the rooms. Time flies. For me it is the start of summer, it is time to enjoy and laugh but ti also time when I work less to become a better person. Persistence is the key to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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