“Know thyself”…and thy Goals

No, this isn’t about climbing.

In the book “Maximum Climbing”, the author, Eric Hörst, talks about meta-cognition as the basis of every correct, informed decision. Without it, you can’t make good choices. Some may turn out okay, but that’s entirely due to chance.

Cognition (from Latin) is another word for learning (from German). Meta-cognition means learning about learning. Examining how we learn about ourselves and the world. If you understand how you do something, you’ll do it better, because you’ll know what to do, what to avoid, how to proceed.

It’s about process. Learning about learning. Knowing how to know. Plato (of ancient Greece) said it; Socrates quoted it often. It was carved on a tomb in ancient Egypt. Basically, it’s the oldest human advice, and still worth heeding. The more you know about yourself and how you process learning, the better things will turn out for you.

In NYC, after WWII, the city was filled with Displaced Persons (people who had fled the war). Languages abounded, everywhere! When I was two years old, I started using meta-cognition as I figured out the languages around me (at that age, of course, I didn’t know the term, I just did it instinctively). I honed my understanding of the process I was using to grasp one language, and then tested that process as I learned another. And another. Over the years, language learning became easy for me – because I understood what I was doing and how I was doing it.

You can apply this to any aspect of your life. Whatever you want to accomplish, you need to know how best to go about it. You need to know how you process things. You need to understand which process has been successful in the past for you, and which has not. Without that knowledge, you might wander around, trying this or that, never quite understanding why things aren’t going the way you’d like.

If you learn best, for example, by moving and doing, then anything you try to master by just sitting and reading directions is never going to be a satisfying experience.

If you’ve never been able to remember names, that won’t change unless you understand why, and find a process that gets around that.

When it comes to getting things done, I can multi-task with the best! I can juggle lots of jobs at a time, go from one to the other as I move from room to room, get multiple jobs done in the house all day long. But to write, one must be focused. So when I sit down to work on writing, I turn everything off but the soft, inspiring classical music. Everything – internet. E-mail. Phone. Even unnecessary lights. And the job gets done. Meta-cognition means not only knowing what to do, but also seeing that it gets done.

Whatever your goals, in life, sports, work, any endeavor, meta-cognition can help you achieve them more effectively. Meta-cognition, the ability to think about your thoughts – which improves your learning – puts you in charge of your brain.

Go tell it what to do!


8 thoughts on ““Know thyself”…and thy Goals

  1. I love the creative mind that you have been gifted with! What I love more is that you share ite with us!

  2. Terrific article D! I really enjoyed the ideas summed in these words: “It’s about process. Learning about learning. Knowing how to know.” These are lofty endeavors and take concerted time and effort to realize. I see meta-cognition as a means to an end, the sharpening of our mind towards achieving bigger and better things. Let’s hope we start the process sooner rather than wait. Life is too short!

  3. Enjoyed reading your post on metacognition. I especially enjoyed reading about your language acquisition skills. Thanks for the heads up re your new blog post. Keep me posted (so to speak). Pard

    • Will do! Did you sign up for post alerts (below)? It’s an easy way to keep ‘posted’ on new things here. It’s absolutely private — my guarantee on that.

  4. I agree 100%. Understanding HOW you learn is critical to developing a deep understanding of any particular subject or endeavor. In my experience, this process takes many, many years. If someone has a shortcut – please let me know so I can get smart fast 🙂

    • You could probably whittle down that process a bit… Maybe we should get together and talk about it? Or e-mail?

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