What are Habits of Mind?

This framework for thinking is as essential now as when it was first introduced over 30 years ago. When we commit to growing the habits both individually and as a community, we become more thoughtful, responsive, and innovative. Over the years during many social, political, scientific, and economic changes, the 16 Habits of Mind still stand and the application in practice has grown our thinking.

Download a copy of our contextualized framework below.

For Leaders

When leaders draw upon these dispositions when working with their colleagues, they both model and invite interdependence and innovation

For Students

When we draw upon intellectual resources, the results that are produced are more powerful, of higher quality, and of greater significance than if we fail to use those intellectual behaviors.

For Teachers

Students will need deliberate practice and focused attention to grow their capacity as efficacious thinkers to navigate and thrive in the face of unprecedented change.

For Parents

Children will need deliberate practice and focused attention to grow their capacity as efficacious thinkers to navigate and thrive in the face of unprecedented change. H

Preview Each Habit of Mind

Select A Perspective To Learn

Ever find yourself doubting whether you are creative? Many people assume that creativity is a rare commodity that someone is either born with or not and that it is reserved for the elite among us: artists, writers, and composers, or the likes of Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, or Frida Kahlo. Everyone has the capacity to generate novel, original, clever or ingenious products, solutions, and techniques—if that capacity is developed. Research shows us that we are all born with the capacity to push the boundaries of our thinking. One of the greatest joys of early childhood is to witness students as they discover the world. Everything is new and wondrous at this age. Kids have imaginary friends, create cities with their blocks, pretend they are superheroes. However, as students get older they become more concerned with being correct or being judged for their ideas. They often start to question their capacity to create, imagine and innovate.

When we are building the capacities for creating, imagining, and innovating we are skillfully learning how to push the boundaries of our thinking. Imagining is generating new ideas without concern for the possible. Creating is giving form to ideas with the goal of taking something  that is possible and making it come to life. Innovating is taking an existing system or idea and making improvements — perhaps focusing on simplicity, improved effectiveness, or beautifying its form.

These capacities can be developed in students in small moves as well as in more formal products or creations. Some of these strategies might help them build their skills:

  • Go ahead, take a risk! Encourage students to try something new. If  it doesn’t turn out the way they hoped, help them understand that it isn’t a failure. Even comments such as “this is excellent” or “your work is so good” shifts the focus of attention to someone else’s evaluation instead of a student’s involvement with their work. Rather, it is a rich opportunity to analyze what went wrong, to learn, and to generate alternative strategies. When they are less afraid to make mistakes, they start to open up the environment for play and experiment.
  • Brainstorm unexpected ideas. Albert Einstein once said, “If at first an idea doesn’t seem totally absurd there’s no hope for it.” Instead of feeling stuck, encourage students to think outside the box. When they are imagining, we move toward the fantastical or the “seemingly” irrelevant in order to create new insights rather than taking an “obvious” direction.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Humor has been found to liberate creativity and provoke such higher level thinking skills as anticipation, finding novel relationships, visual imagery, and making analogies. When you and your students are having fun with ideas, you begin to see possibilities. You begin to take on new and interesting ways of seeing.
  • The power of play. Pretend play gives children opportunities to work through situations in their real lives that may be causing anxiety or concern. Pretend play is the currency through which preschoolers interact with their environment but it continues to be an ideal training ground for the development of creativity in school age children as well.

Many people assume that creativity is a rare commodity that someone is either born with or not and that it is reserved for the elite among us: artists, writers, and composers, or the likes of Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, or Frida Kahlo. Everyone has the capacity to generate novel, original, clever or ingenious products, solutions, and techniques—if that capacity is developed. Research shows us that we are all born with the capacity to push the boundaries of our thinking. One of the greatest joys of parenting is to witness young children as they venture out to discover the world. Everything is new and wondrous at this age. Kids have imaginary friends,  create cities with their blocks, pretend they are superheroes. However, as your children get older they become more concerned with being correct or being judged for their ideas. They often start to question their capacity to create, imagine and innovate.

When we are building the capacities for creating, imagining, and innovating we are skillfully learning how to push the boundaries of our thinking. Imagining is generating new ideas without concern for the possible. Creating is giving form to ideas with the goal of taking something that is possible and making it come to life. Innovating is taking an existing system or idea and making improvements — perhaps focusing on simplicity, improved effectiveness, or beautifying its form.

These capacities can be developed in your child in small moves as well as in more formal products or creations.  Some of these strategies might help them build their skills:

  • Go ahead, take a risk! Encourage your child to try something new. If it doesn’t turn out the way they hoped, help them understand that it isn’t a failure. Even comments such as “this is excellent” or “your work is so good” shifts the focus of attention to someone else’s evaluation instead of a child’s involvement with their work. Rather, it is a rich opportunity to analyze what went wrong, to learn, and to generate alternative strategies. When they are less afraid to make mistakes, they start to open up the environment for play and experiment.
  • Brainstorm unexpected ideas. Albert Einstein once said, “If at first an idea doesn’t seem totally absurd there’s no hope for it.” Instead of feeling stuck, encourage your child to think outside the box. When they are imagining, we move toward the fantastical or the “seemingly” irrelevant in order to create new insights rather than taking an “obvious” direction.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Humor has been found to liberate creativity and provoke such higher-level thinking skills as anticipation, finding novel relationships, visual imagery, and making analogies. When you and your child are having fun with ideas, you begin to see possibilities. You begin to take on new and interesting ways of seeing.
  • The power of play. Pretend play gives children opportunities to work through situations in their real lives that may be causing anxiety or concern. Pretend play is the currency through which preschoolers interact with their environment but it continues to be an ideal training ground for the development of creativity in school-age children as well.

Many people assume that creativity is a rare commodity that someone is either born with or not and that it is reserved for the elite among us: artists, writers, and composers, or the likes of Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, or Frida Kahlo. Everyone has the capacity to generate novel, original, clever or ingenious products, solutions, and techniques—if that capacity is developed. Research shows us that we are all born with the capacity to push the boundaries of our thinking. When leaders build the capacities in their culture for creating, imagining, and innovating, they are skillfully learning how to push the boundaries of everyone’s thinking. Imagining is generating new ideas without concern for the possible. Creating is giving form to ideas with the goal of taking something that is possible and making it come to life. Innovating is taking an existing system or idea and making improvements — perhaps focusing on simplicity, improved effectiveness, or beautifying its form. Leaders also model that behavior as they take risks and push the boundaries of their perceived limits.

Efficacious leaders inspire themselves and others to:

  • Take risks. If they try something and it doesn’t turn out as they hoped, it isn’t a failure. Rather, it provides a rich opportunity to analyze what went wrong, to learn, and to generate alternative strategies. When leaders are less afraid to make mistakes, they open up the environment for more play and experimentation.
  • Think by using analogies. In what ways is a school like an airport? In what ways is soccer like a highway? In what ways is gravity like a feather? Comparing an idea or topic and a strange analogy can illuminate new and important attributes and deepen understanding.
  • Brainstorm absurd ideas. Albert Einstein once said, “If at first an idea doesn’t seem totally absurd there’s no hope for it.” Leaders move toward the absurd, the “seemingly” irrelevant, in order to create new insights rather than taking an “obvious” direction.
  • Use divergent and convergent thinking in harmony with each other. When creating or innovating, there is a balance between converging ideas by following rules, becoming precise and drawing on factual information, and other times when divergent thinking suggests that you need to break away and generate new ideas. Leaders are alert to situational cues which signal when to use which type of thinking.

Many people assume that creativity is a rare commodity that someone is born with or not and that it is reserved for the elite among us: artists, writers, and composers, or the likes of Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, or Frida Kahlo. Everyone has the capacity to generate novel, original, clever, or ingenious products, solutions, and techniques—if that capacity is developed. Research shows us that we are all born with the capacity to push the boundaries of our thinking.  Your brain is always looking for something that it didn’t know before, that’s not being taught to it, and to find a way to figure something out: that is creativity.

When you are building the capacities for creating, imagining, and innovating you are skillfully learning how to push the boundaries of your thinking. Imagining is generating new ideas without concern for the possible. Creating is giving form to ideas with the goal of taking something that is possible and making it come to life. Innovating is taking an existing system or idea and making improvements — perhaps focusing on simplicity, improved effectiveness, or beautifying its form.

These capacities can be developed in small moves as well as in more formal products or creations.  Some of these strategies might help you build your skills:

  • Go ahead, take a risk! When you try something and it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, it isn’t a failure. Rather, it provides a rich opportunity to analyze what went wrong, to learn, and to generate alternative strategies. When you are less afraid to make mistakes, you open up the environment for play and experiment.
  • Think by using analogies. In what ways is a school like an airport? In what ways is soccer like a highway? In what ways is gravity like a feather? As you answer these questions, you are developing your creative capacities. You are realizing that, by comparing the main idea or topic you are working on and using a strange analogy, you may discover new and important attributes.
  • Brainstorm unexpected ideas. Albert Einstein once said, “If at first, an idea doesn’t seem totally absurd there’s no hope for it.” Instead of feeling stuck, think outside the box. When you are imagining, move toward the fantastical or the “seemingly” irrelevant in order to create new insights rather than taking an “obvious” direction.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Humor has been found to liberate creativity and provoke such higher-level thinking skills as anticipation, finding novel relationships, visual imagery, and making analogies. When you are having fun with ideas, you begin to see possibilities. You begin to take on new and interesting ways of seeing.

Select A Perspective To Learn

The culture of the home, the school, the workplace changes dramatically when all members lend their mental activity to each other by taking the time to really listen to what the other is saying and provide emotional support through empathy. As parents, we often feel the need to be protective of our children and, as a result, we want to jump right in and offer advice or fix the problem before we really understand their perspectives.  As effective listeners, we need to hold back our own values, judgments, opinions, and prejudices and listen to and stay present with our child’s thoughts. Your intention is to empathize with their struggle rather than actively pulling them out of it.

To be a skillful, understanding, and empathic listener consider the following strategies:

  1. Closely observe both verbal responses and nonverbal behaviors. Pay attention to their verbal response (e.g., voice intonation, volume, pitch, rapidity of speech). Pay attention to their nonverbal behaviors through the face (e.g., tears, eyes cast down/enlarged, coloration—redness/whiteness, lips—smile, scowl, muscle tension) and the body (e.g., clenched fists, fingers pointing, flailing arms, hunched over shoulders). As you focus on your family member’s facial expressions and body language, you may pick up cues and interpret and reflect on similar emotional experiences that you have had.
  2. Label the emotion you are inferring from your family member and search for indicators of confirmation. We express empathy when we label another person’s emotions correctly at the proper level of intensity that the person is experiencing. For example, “You’re upset…” “You’re angry…” “You’re overjoyed…” “You were surprised…”
  3. Paraphrase the content, situation or reason that caused the emotion and search for indicators of confirmation. (“Yes,” “that’s right” smile, erect body, relaxed torso, etc.) If none, empathize again rephrasing the emotion. “…. because she disregarded your idea.” “Name-calling hurts…” “You really cooled it…” “Because you thought she’d call on someone else…”
  4. Offer a description of what the person seems to be seeking. Making a positive inference about the person’s goals, hopes and/or desires helps the person see the problem differently. For example:
  • You’re upset, …because your sister wouldn’t listen…She disregarded your idea.” “…and you want to be listened to.”
  • “You’re angry…because she called you a bad name. Name-calling hurts…” “…and you want to be treated with respect.”
  • “You’re overjoyed…because you got a high score on the test,” “you really cooled it…” “…and you want to earn a high grade in that course.”

“You were surprised…” “…because you were not expecting to be called on.” “You thought she’d call on someone else…” “and you’d prefer it if you knew that you were going to be called on.”

Do you struggle to devote mental energy to another person’s thoughts and ideas, putting your own values and judgments aside? Do you rehearse what you are going to say next when someone is talking? When you are listening fully, you are paying close attention to what is being said beneath the words — what others are saying as well as the essence of what is being said. You listen not only for what someone knows, but also for what they are trying to represent through their facial expressions, body language, voice intonation and eye movements.

This is a very complex skill requiring the ability to monitor one’s own thoughts while, at the same time, attending to the words of others. As you are listening to another person, these strategies may slow your mind down so that you can hear beneath the words to their meaning:

  • Use the 3 P’s listening sequence to better understand another person’s thinking.
    • Pause: Wait for a few moments. Has the other person really finished? Sometimes waiting is the most helpful thing to do. In that quiet space the other may clarify or reframe their point of view, solution, or idea.
    • Paraphrase: Summarize what you heard them say. A brief explanation that represents what was told to you. This is not the time to add your thinking, inferences, or new ideas.
    • Probe: Ask questions to promote clarity and precision of the other person’s point of view, solution, or idea. A few probing questions are:
      • Why do you think that is the case?
      • What’s another way you might…?
      • How might your assumptions about… influenced your thinking about…?

Leaders spend a significant amount of time and energy listening to others. However, the capacity to listen to another person is a complex, multi-layered skill. Efficacious leaders develop the ability to listen to another person, to empathize with, and to understand their point of view. They are adept at monitoring their own thoughts and simultaneously paying close attention to what is being said. They also observe what might be beneath the words so that they can form a picture of the other person’s emotions and intentions. They employ this as a valued leadership behavior in building relationships and growing innovative practices.

Efficacious leaders focus on listening with understanding and empathy by engaging in such strategies as:

  • Devoting mental energies to another person and investing in their ideas. Leaders provide space for others to share their thoughts without interruption, ask clarifying questions to better understand another’s perspective, and paraphrase what they have heard to show commitment to better understanding.
  • Allowing space for disagreement. A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. Leaders demonstrate understanding and empathy for the ideas or feelings of the other. In the end, they may disagree sharply, but because they disagree they seek to be aware of exactly what they are disagreeing with.
  • Looking for indicators of the feelings or emotional states of the other. By paying attention to their oral and body language they are able to detect cues. Leaders reflect back on what they are observing, for example:  “You are feeling sad.” “You are feeling angry.”
  • Building upon what was said. Leaders give possible examples and ask clarifying questions to show they value others’ contributions.
  • Holding one’s own values, judgments, opinions, and prejudices in abeyance. Leaders practice silencing the voices within themselves so that the other is more generative and they can hear the meaning of another.

Ever find yourself saying, “I hear you” when, in fact, you are not really listening? Ever wonder whether someone is really paying attention to what you are trying to say?

Good listening can be difficult because it requires keeping focused on what the other person is saying and not interrupting with your own thoughts.  Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. When you are listening, you are also learning how to become more comfortable with silence so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed. You listen not only for what someone knows, but also for what they are trying to represent through their facial expressions, body language, voice intonation, and eye movements.

A primary strategy you can use for becoming a better listener is the 3 Ps: pause, paraphrase, and probe.

PAUSE

  • WHY: Effective listeners need to learn how to “pause their brain” and set aside their own thoughts.
  • HOW: Wait time. Being silent to make sure the other person has finished their thought. It is often difficult to manage impulsivity and be silent. Many people use strategies such as counting to 20 or looking down at notes they are taking.

 PARAPHRASE

  • WHY: Letting others know that you are trying to understand them and that you value their ideas and thoughts.
  • HOW: Sentence stems such as: “You’re suggesting that……” “Your idea is……” “You’re upset because……”

 PROBE:

  • WHY: Showing others that their ideas are worthy of exploration and consideration AND demonstrating your desire to understand more fully before trying to respond with suggestions or advice.
  • HOW: Sentence stems or clarifying questions such as: When someone uses terminology or words that are vague, the listener clarifies to make certain they understand. This shows their interest in what the other is saying. “Say  more about your ideas on …. “What did you see in the text that led you to make that inference?” “ Explain what you mean by…”

Good listening often leads to even better ideas than the ones inside our heads.

Select A Perspective To Learn

How do we use questioning to demonstrate our interest in what our students are thinking? Asking questions and posing problems are signals of your genuine curiosity and commitment to wanting to understand what students may be experiencing. An attitude of curiosity acknowledges that there are usually many different contributing factors to a situation, and that we don’t yet know all of them.

Questioning and posing problems pushes everyone to think more deeply about the issue at hand. It requires having a questioning attitude, knowing what data are needed, and developing questioning strategies to produce those data. Continuing to push your thinking using questions (e.g., Why does this problem exist and need solving? What is the real problem here? Am I getting to the root cause? What questions do we need to ask?) often leads to deeper and better questions that become more worthy of attention.

If we approach others with curiosity instead of certainty,  it is important for us to use an invitational tone when questioning — one that invites thinking.  It is easy for a student to feel defensive and shut down rather than feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Here are some strategies that invite your student’s thinking:

Use tentative language that implies that you do not know the answer to what is being asked:

  • How might..
  • When could
  • Perhaps it might be…
  • What do you imagine an alternative might..

Use plurals to indicate that there might be more than one answer to the question or approaches to a solution:

  • What are some strategies
  • What are some of your goals you are considering…

Use invitational sentence stems before asking a question to offer a suggestion about the kind of thinking you think would be most helpful:

  • As you analyze this problem…?
  • As you consider…?
  • As you evaluate…?
  • As you compare…?

Asking questions and posing problems can be a signal of your genuine curiosity and commitment to wanting to understand what your family member may be experiencing. An attitude of curiosity acknowledges that there are usually many different contributing factors to the situation, and that we don’t yet know all of them. If we approach an encounter with our family member with curiosity instead of certainty,  it is important to use an invitational tone when questioning — one that invites thinking.  It is easy for a child to feel defensive and shut down rather than feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Here are some strategies that may be helpful to invite your child’s thinking.

Use tentative language that implies that you do not know the answer to what is being asked:

  • How might we…
  • When could…
  • Perhaps it might be…
  • What do you imagine an alternative might be…

Use plurals to indicate that there might be more than one answer to the question or approaches to a solution:

  • What are some strategies…
  • What are some of the goals you are considering…

Use invitational sentence stems before asking a question to offer a suggestion about the kind of thinking you think would be most helpful:

  • As you analyze this problem…?
  • As you consider…?
  • As you evaluate…?
  • As you compare…?

Questions act as a catalyst for our brains to change and move forward with new insights, thoughts, and wonderings. Efficacious leaders ask open-ended, insightful questions that can activate an individual or a group’s curiosity to discover new solutions. Curiosity is a powerful motivator. When individuals feel curious, they engage in persistent information-seeking behavior asking questions to fill in the gaps between what they know and what they don’t know.

Questions can vary in complexity, structure, and purpose. Efficacious leaders consider posing the following types of questions to engage deeper thinking:

  • Request data to support others’ conclusions and assumptions. For example:
    • “What evidence do you have?”
    • “How do you know that’s true?”
    • “How reliable is this data source?”
  • Seek alternative points of view. For example:
    • “From whose viewpoint are we seeing, reading or hearing this?”
    • “From what angle or perspective are we viewing this situation?”
  • Search for causal connections and relationships. For example:
    • “How are these people (events, situations, etc.) related to each other?”
    • “What produced this connection?”
  • Suggest hypothetical problems or “What if” questions. For example:
    • “What do you think would happen if…..?”
    • “IF that is true, then what might happen if….?”

 

Asking questions and posing problems can be a signal of your genuine curiosity and commitment to a topic. In addition, a question might lead to discovering a problem that has not yet been solved. Sometimes you may not know how to ask a question because you are not yet certain what sort of information you need. You may be asking simple questions without realizing that they are leading to more complex issues. You may be looking for a “right” answer when, in fact, you are exploring a topic.

When you ask questions,  you are filling in the gaps between what you know and what you don’t know. For example, consider the following categories and related questions to see how it might shape your inquiry:

  • Request data to support others’ conclusions and assumptions.
    • “What evidence do you have…..?”
    • “How do you know that’s true?”
    • “How reliable is this data source?”
  • Seek alternative points of view.
    • “From whose viewpoint are we seeing, reading of hearing?”
    • “From what angle, what perspective are we viewing this situation?”
  • Search for causal connections and relationships.
    • “How are these people (events) (situations) related to each other?”
    • “What produced this connection?”
  • Suggest hypothetical problems.
    • “What do you think would happen IF…..?”
    • “IF that is true, then what might happen if….?”
  • Search for interconnections among ideas.
    • “How might this idea connect to those other ideas?”
    • “What if we made a synthesis of these ideas?”
  • Search for puzzles or discrepancies.
    • “Why is this idea presented here?”
    • “Is there some greater idea that I am missing here?”
    • “How might this new piece of information change the way I am thinking?”
  • Inquiring about others’ emotions.
    • What caused you to feel that way?”
    • “How do you feel when……”

Select A Perspective To Learn

Where does curiosity come from? Remember when you were little and fascinated by small things such as weeds growing out of cracks in the sidewalk, worms burrowing their way through the dirt, or smells of the ocean? Learning about the ways that your brain gathers and stores information can help as you are learning. All external information gets into your brain through one of these sensory pathways to sharpen mental functioning:

  • gustatory: the tastes you gather through your mouth.
  • olfactory: the smells you inhale through your nose.
  • tactile: the sensations you feel through your skin.
  • kinesthetic: the positions you take through your movements and posture.
  • auditory: the sounds you hear through your ears.
  • visual: the sights you see through your eyes.

Those whose sensory pathways are more open, alert, and acute often absorb more information from the environment.  When you recall information from that experience, the brain reactivates or reconstructs the circuit in which it was stored.  The more sensory modalities that were activated, the more triggers the brain has for reactivating the circuit.  This suggests that concrete experiences you encounter that activate several of the senses can enhance your recall of the information at a later time.

Encourage students to experience the world through as many different avenues as possible. Try using one or more of the following strategies with your students:

  • Pay attention to the world around you. Ask yourself: What am I noticing in my environment? What details capture my attention?
  • Deliberately use your senses when you are trying to remember something. For example, draw (or find) a picture that captures the idea. Act out a historical event to capture the feeling or mood.
  • When engaging in a new topic or problem, ask yourself, What sources of data should I consider? How is what I am experiencing impacting my thinking?

 

Learning about the ways that your brain gathers and stores information can help as you are learning. All external information gets into your brain through sensory pathways to sharpen mental functioning.  So often what sticks in our memories is the smell of something cooking in the kitchen or the way the sand felt between our toes for the first time or the color and smell of the first bloom of spring.

Most learning comes from the environment by observing or taking it in through the senses.  Mathematicians form mental images in their minds to visualize a problem or scenario. Social scientists solve problems through scenarios and role-playing; scientists build models. Engineers use computer aided design (CAD) software; auto mechanics learn through hands-on repairs. Weavers try out combinations of colors and textures to create a design. Musicians produce combinations of instrumental and vocal music.  Chefs use ingredients and techniques to experiment with flavors and textures. We deepen our knowledge as we experience more in the world.

We gather data from internal sources as well. If you are in touch with your own emotions, you are also in touch with the physical sensations in your body. For example, you know that you are fearful because your heart rate begins to speed up, your stomach clenches, and your hair stands on end. You sense what other people are experiencing or feeling by sensations that arise in our own bodies. All of us are like walking antennae, receiving and registering the felt experience of those around us. Some of us are better at this than others. To accurately register this kind of information requires being in touch with our own emotional responses.

Suggestions to help your child gather data with all senses:

  • Noticing notebook. Invite your child to keep a noticing notebook in which they can enter sketches, drawings, photos or anything that captures their senses.
  • Zoom in/ zoom out. Look at something with a magnifying glass or take digital photographs to see different perspectives on the same object.
  • Unhurried time frames. Encourage them to slow down and be observant. Have your children close their eyes and listen to background sounds in an environment: the hum of a refrigerator, the chirping of crickets, the howling wind on a window pane.
  • Visualize what you read. Encourage your child to imagine what something feels like, for example, what does gravity feel like? This strategy can make the abstract more connected to the child’s experiences.
  • Prepare meals together. Engage with your child to smell the spices, listen to the steak fry, make and taste popcorn that can be heard, smelled, observed and tasted.

Remember the Latin proverb: “Nothing reaches the intellect before making its appearance in the senses” and learn to gather data through all of your senses to enrich your intellect!

The brain is the ultimate reductionist. All information gets into the brain through the sensory pathways: gustatory, olfactory, tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. Most linguistic, cultural, and physical learning is derived from the environment by observing or taking in through the senses. It reduces the world to its elementary parts — photons of light, molecules of smell, sound waves, vibrations of touch—which send electrochemical signals to individual brain cells that store information about lines, movements, colors, smells and other sensory inputs.

Multi-sensory storage provides better access to retrieve that information. This provides multiple brain pathways that can activate information to meet challenges. Leaders whose sensory pathways are more open, alert, and acute often absorb more information from the environment. They also can gather data from internal sources and like walking antennae, they receive and register the felt experience of those around them.

 

Efficacious leaders strategically draw on gathering data through all their senses by:

  • Engaging in a new topic or problem. They ask themselves, “What sources of data should I consider? How is what I am experiencing impacting my thinking?”
  • Paying attention to the world around them. “What am I noticing in my environment? What details capture my attention?”
  • Deliberately using one’s senses when trying to remember something. For example, draw (or find) a picture that captures the idea. Act out a historical event to capture the feeling or mood.
  • Using descriptive language. Leaders model using sensory images in their communications to model and inspire the writing of others in the organization.
  • Invite others to clarify their ideas. Leaders probe their thinking by asking what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, etc.

 

Learning about the ways that your brain gathers and stores information can help as you are learning. All external information gets into your brain through one of these sensory pathways to sharpen mental functioning:

  • gustatory: the tastes you gather through your mouth.
  • olfactory: the smells you inhale through your nose.
  • tactile: the sensations you feel through your skin.
  • kinesthetic: the positions you take through your movements and posture.
  • auditory: the sounds you hear through your ears.
  • visual: the sights you see through your eyes.

Most learning comes from the environment by observing or taking in through the senses.  Mathematicians form mental images in their minds to visualize a problem or scenario. Social scientists solve problems through scenarios and role-playing; scientists build models. Engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) software; auto mechanics learn through hands-on repairs. Weavers try out combinations of colors and textures to create a design. Musicians produce combinations of instrumental and vocal music.  Chefs use ingredients and techniques to experiment with flavors and textures. We deepen our knowledge as we experience more in the world.

We gather data from internal sources as well. If you are in touch with your own emotions, you are also in touch with the physical sensations in your body. For example, you know that you are fearful because your heart rate begins to speed up, your stomach clenches, and your hair stands on end. You sense what other people are experiencing or feeling by sensations that arise in our own bodies. All of us are like walking antennae, receiving and registering the felt experience of those around us. Some of us are better at this than others. To accurately register this kind of information requires being in touch with our own emotional responses.

  • Pay attention to the world around you. Ask yourself: What am I noticing in my environment? What details capture my attention?
  • Deliberately use your senses when you are trying to remember something. For example, draw (or find) a picture that captures the idea. Act out a historical event to capture the feeling or mood.
  • When engaging in a new topic or problem, ask yourself, What sources of data should I consider? How is what I am experiencing impacting my thinking?
  • Noticing notebook. Keep a noticing notebook where you can enter sketches, drawings, photos or anything that captures your senses.
  • Zoom in/ zoom out. Look at something with a magnifying glass or take digital photographs to see different perspectives on the same object.

Select A Perspective To Learn

Have you ever worked to make sense of something new by making an analogy or a connection to something in your past? When confronted with a new and perplexing challenge, making analogies (e.g.,  “when I see this, it is just like this” or “the way this operates is just like the way XX operates”) or connecting (e.g.,  “This reminds me of …” or “this is just like the time when I …”)  helps people  abstract meaning, carry that understanding forward, and apply it in new situations.

Students are often fascinated by learning how the brain works. When they know how the brain works to find associations, they may be more likely to seek connections to the topic at hand. These connections help them to understand and remember what they are learning so that they can call upon it in the future.

Some strategies students might use to draw forth applying past knowledge could be:

  • When beginning to learn something new, reflect on prior learning by asking themselves questions such as: What do I already know? How does what I know apply here? What are some experiences that I relate this to?
  • During the learning, actively make connections by asking themselves questions such as: What will be important ideas that I will take away? What can I do to remember the key ideas?
  • After the learning experience is over, extend thinking by asking themselves questions such as: How might I transfer what I have learned to another situation?

New learning can be challenging and too often we forget what we already know.  This happens for our children as much as it does for us. Sometimes we see our children approach a situation as if it is the first time rather than realizing that they may already have some prior experiences that might help them to meet this new challenge.  When we ask them to pay attention to what they already know about the topic content and/or strategies they used to solve a problem, they are tapping  into their memory bank of learnings.

When a child transfers learning to a new situation, they are building their intellectual muscles.  Learning is not just an accumulation of isolated facts or skills — it is finding the connections or patterns that paint a bigger picture that is more easily  stored in your memory for future use.

When your child talks with you about new learning topics, consider asking one or more of the following questions:

  • What does this situation or problem remind you of?
  • What do you already know about this?
  • What are some experiences that you can relate this to?
  • What parts of the situation or problem do I need more clarity on?
  • What words are you unclear about?
  • What about this is just like something else you know? Can you come up with an analogy such as “when I see this, it is just like this… or the way this operates is just like the way XX operates.”

When reflecting on the end of a particular task, reflect on questions with your child that will help them to transfer learning to new situations, such as:

  • What strategies were most helpful to you? When else in (school) (life) (work) might this strategy be useful?
  • What new ideas or insights did you have when working on this topic? What insights might influence you as you take on another challenge or project?
  • What do you really not want to happen again?
  • What would you like to happen again?
  • What do you want to be sure to remember?

New learning can be challenging and we often forget what we already know. This can happen for members of an organization as well as for leaders, especially when faced with volatile and complex issues. When confronted with such perplexing issues, efficacious leaders often draw forth experience from their past. They pay attention to what they already know about the topic and strategies they used to solve past problems as they effectively tap into their memory bank of learnings.

Efficacious leaders strategically use this habit by developing metacognitive strategies such as:

  • As they begin to learn something new, they reflect on prior learning by asking themselves questions such as, What do I already know? How does what I know apply here? What are some experiences that I relate this to?
  • As they are learning, they actively make connections by asking themselves questions such as, What will be the important ideas that I will take away? What can I do to remember the key ideas?
  • After the learning experience is over, they extend their thinking by asking questions such as, How might I transfer what I have learned to other situations?

 

New learning can be challenging and too often we forget what we already know.  Sometimes we approach a situation as if it is the first time seeing such a problem or task. Using what you already know about the content taps into your memory bank of learnings.  In the same way, paying attention to what you know about your process of learning can also be helpful.  For example, you may remember how you solved a problem or learned a new skill. Your transfer of that learning to a new situation builds your intellectual muscles.  Learning is not just an accumulation of isolated facts or skills — it is finding the connections or patterns that paint a bigger picture that is more easily  stored in your memory for future use.

We  learn from reflecting on and making sense of our past experiences.

As you begin any new learning, ask yourself such questions as:

  • What does this situation or problem remind me of?
  • What do I already know about this?
  • How is this just like the time when I …?
  • What are some experiences that I can relate this to?
  • What parts of the situation or problem do I need more clarity on?
  • What words am I unclear about?
  • What about this is just like something else I know? Can I come up with an analogy such as “when I see this, it is just like this… or the way this operates is just like the way XX operates.”

As you are finishing a particular task, reflect on questions that will help you transfer your learning to new situations, such as:

  • What strategies were most helpful to me? When else in (school) (life) (work) might this strategy be useful?
  • What new ideas or insights did I have when working on this topic? What insights might influence me as I take on another challenge or project?
  • What I really don’t want to happen again…
  • What I would like to happen again…
  • What I don’t want to forget…
  • How can I use this information elsewhere in the future?

Select A Perspective To Learn

Do you ever give up in despair when the answer to a problem is not immediately found? Do you or your peers ever say, “I can’t do this,” or “it’s too hard?” Do you sometimes write down any answer just to get a task over with as quickly as possible or find yourself easily distracted from a task rather than sticking with it? These are typical problems that we all experience from time to time. What we often don’t realize is that we can be in control of those behaviors—if we want to!

Persisting is persevering in a task through to completion and looking for ways to reach your goal when stuck. Students who persist apply strategies to help them stick with it, such as:

Breaking the problem apart into steps and accomplishing each step that leads to the final outcome
Reviewing the ground rules, directions, or criteria for success. Finding something missed along the way or assuming understanding and discovering the misunderstanding.
Seeking assistance and input from others. Sometimes others may have had experience with similar problems or can see a different array of solutions.
Using self-talk to hang in and stick with the task. Remember the Little Engine that Could: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Envision what it will look like and feel like to be successful.

Do you ever give up when the solution to a problem is not immediately apparent? Do you ever say to yourself, “I can’t do this,” “It’s too hard?” Do you sometimes get done with a task in a hurry rather than taking the time to focus on it more thoughtfully?  When we have difficulty persisting, it is often because we are dealing with a host of uncomfortable and emotional experiences.  We all face this from time to time.  It is much the same for our children.

What we often don’t realize is that we can be in control of those behaviors—if we want to! And we can encourage this disposition in our families as well. When you recognize that you or a family member is  stuck, think about some possible strategies, such as:

When you or a family member are working through a problem…

  1. Stop and analyze what the problem was asking in the first place.
  2. Break the problem apart into steps and identify on the calendar when the task is due.
  3. Think of another strategy and try it.
  4. Seek help or feedback from someone.

When you or a family member need inspiration…

  1. Celebrate progress you are making along the way and anticipate your next steps.
  2. Imagine what it will look and feel like when you are successful. Use that for motivation to lift you up during the frustrating parts.
  3. Find motivating quotes from your heroes who persisted. All of the greats struggled as part of their ultimate accomplishments and contributions to the world.
  4. Think about a time when you persisted and it was difficult but it really paid off. Share that story with your family member identifying what helped you to persist.
  5. Share stories with your children about how their ancestors persisted. For example, perhaps they migrated to a new country where they had to overcome hardships such as learning a new language and adapting to a new culture.

When you or a family member need a break…

  1. Focus on slowing down your, For example, inhale for the count of five, exhale for the count of five and repeat for a minute.
  2. Get up and move.  A change of scenery can help jump-start fresh thinking

Do you ever give up when the solution to a problem is not immediately apparent? Do you ever say to yourself, “I can’t do this,” “It’s too hard?” Do you sometimes get done with a task in a hurry rather than taking the time to focus on it more thoughtfully?  When we have difficulty persisting, it is often because we are dealing with a host of uncomfortable and emotional experiences.  We all face this from time to time.  It is much the same for our children.

What we often don’t realize is that we can be in control of those behaviors—if we want to! And we can encourage this disposition in our families as well. When you recognize that you or a family member is  stuck, think about some possible strategies, such as:

When you or a family member are working through a problem…

  1. Stop and analyze what the problem was asking in the first place.
  2. Break the problem apart into steps and identify on the calendar when the task is due.
  3. Think of another strategy and try it.
  4. Seek help or feedback from someone.

When you or a family member need inspiration…

  1. Celebrate progress you are making along the way and anticipate your next steps.
  2. Imagine what it will look and feel like when you are successful. Use that for motivation to lift you up during the frustrating parts.
  3. Find motivating quotes from your heroes who persisted. All of the greats struggled as part of their ultimate accomplishments and contributions to the world.
  4. Think about a time when you persisted and it was difficult but it really paid off. Share that story with your family member identifying what helped you to persist.
  5. Share stories with your children about how their ancestors persisted. For example, perhaps they migrated to a new country where they had to overcome hardships such as learning a new language and adapting to a new culture.

When you or a family member need a break…

  1. Focus on slowing down your, For example, inhale for the count of five, exhale for the count of five and repeat for a minute.
  2. Get up and move.  A change of scenery can help jump-start fresh thinking 

Do you ever give up when the answer to a problem is not immediately found? Do you ever say to yourself, “I can’t do this,” “It’s too hard?” Do you sometimes write down any answer just to get the task over with as quickly as possible?  We all have faced this from time to time.

What we often don’t realize is that we can be in control of those behaviors—if we want to! When you recognize that you are stuck, think about some possible strategies, such as:

When you are working through a problem…

  1. Stop and analyze what the problem was asking in the first place.
  2. Break the problem apart into steps and identify on the calendar when the task is due.
  3. Think of another strategy and try it.
  4. Seek help or feedback from someone.

When you need inspiration…

  1.  Celebrate the progress you are making along the way and anticipate your next steps.
  2. Imagine what it will look and feel like when you are successful. Use that for motivation to lift you up during the frustrating parts.
  3. Find motivating quotes from your heroes who persisted. All of the greats struggled as part of their ultimate accomplishments and contributions to the world.

When you need a break…

  1. Focus on slowing down your breathing. For example, inhale for the count of five, exhale for the count of five and repeat for a minute.
  2. Take a break. Sometimes walking away from a problem and doing something else opens up new ideas.

You no doubt have many strategies that you’ve used when you were committed to achieving an important goal. It may be helpful to keep your own list of ideas and share with others.  Keep telling yourself to hang in there and stick to it.

Select A Perspective To Learn

Do you ever find yourself fixed in your way of looking at a problem? Perhaps you, or someone you are working with, stops thinking and just says, “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with more facts.” Have you ever known someone who has difficulty in considering alternative points of view? Thinking flexibly is part attitude (openness to a new idea) and part action (knowing how and when to expand horizons and consider using new ideas and information).

Flexible thinkers’ minds are open to additional information or reasoning, even if it challenges existing beliefs. They know what they know and see the need to open themselves to other options and alternatives to consider.  They are able to work with people from different cultures and who represent diverse perspectives because they recognize the distinctness of other people’s ways of experiencing and making meaning. They can draw upon a repertoire of problem-solving strategies and practice style flexibility, knowing when it is appropriate to think broadly and globally and when a situation requires detailed precision.

Work with your students to think more flexibly by asking themselves:

  • In what other ways might I think about this? What is another perspective?
  • What else might I try when I get stuck? How does stepping back and looking at the big picture (the whole) open my eyes to new ideas?
  • When and why should I change my thinking and my actions?

We are living through a rapidly changing environment and it is likely to continue to be the case for our children.  As parents, we recognize the need for our children to learn how to think flexibly, adapt to new situations, and build their capacity to change their minds when they receive new or additional data.  Thinking flexibly is part attitude — our openness to new ideas — and part action — knowing how and when to expand our horizons and use new ideas and information. We want them to know when to think broadly and when to focus on details.  When our children are confronted with problems or challenges, we encourage their creative and novel thinking.  As they make difficult choices, we want them to consider possible intended and unintended consequences.

How are you helping your child to develop their capacity to think flexibly? For example:

  • When your child is “catastrophizing” a minor setback and is saying they want to give up, offer to sit down and analyze what happened and brainstorm ways to make it turn out better next time. It may be helpful to share a story from your own experience and describe how badly you felt at the time and how you eventually were able to see the situation differently.
  • When your child is focused only on their perspective, try to have them step back and consider how other people could be affected. How might their words, actions, and ideas make other people feel? This helps them empathize with others feelings, predict how others are thinking, and anticipate potential misunderstandings. They are able to work with people from different cultures and who represent different perspectives recognizing  other people’s ways of experiencing and making meaning.
  • When your child is stuck on a problem, talk with them about what questions or ideas come to mind when zooming out to see the big picture and what comes to mind when zooming in to see a more detailed view. This “Google Earth” approach encourages more flexible thinking because it takes us beyond our normal range of vision.
  • When your child is feeling stuck because of the limitations of rules, criteria and regulations help them generate fresh ideas rather than feeling stuck. Often limitations lead to creativity.  It is always helpful to stay positive and consider possibilities rather than focusing on what you do not have. Encourage your child to start with what they have, what they know, and what they are interested in learning more about.

 When your child feels confused or uncertain, help them tolerate the ambiguity of the situation. Encourage them to  trust their instincts and continue working creatively and productively.  Give them the support to take a chance and try something new or different.

We are living through a rapidly changing environment and it is likely to continue to be the case for our organizations. Thinking flexibly is part attitude — our openness to new ideas — and part action — knowing how and when to expand our horizons and use new ideas and information. As leaders, we recognize the importance of adapting to new situations and building the capacity to change our minds when we receive new or additional data.  Leaders determine when to think more broadly and when to focus on details. When confronted with problems or challenges, they encourage creative and novel thinking.

Efficacious leaders think flexibly by asking metacognitive questions as:

  • In what other ways might I think about this? What is another perspective?
  • What else might I try when I get stuck?
  • How does stepping back and looking at the big picture (the whole) open my eyes to new ideas?
  • When and why should I change my thinking and my actions?

Do you ever find yourself fixed in your way of looking at a problem or understanding others’ perspectives? You may need to think more flexibly.  Flexible thinkers stay focused on the challenge at hand, draw upon a range of strategies, and know when to think more broadly or when to zero into a more detailed view. Flexible thinkers have the capacity to change their minds as they receive additional data. They create and seek novel approaches and consider possible intended and unintended consequences.

How are you developing your capacity to think flexibly? Can you:

  • Shift and see multiple points of view? This helps to empathize with other’s feelings, predict how others are thinking, and anticipate potential misunderstandings. They are able to work with people from different cultures and who represent different perspectives recognizing other people’s ways of experiencing and making meaning.

Try asking:  If I were _______ (this person), how would I feel? What can I learn from someone with whom I disagree?

  • Zoom out to see the big picture and zoom in to see a detailed view of the same problem, issue, or challenge?

Try asking: As I consider this plan, what are my long-range goals and what immediate steps must I take to achieve them?

  • Work within rules, criteria, and regulations to generate fresh ideas rather than feeling stuck.?

 Try asking: What are the rules that I need to be mindful of as I design a solution? How would someone else look at this plan?

 Tolerate confusion and ambiguity because you believe that they can figure it out? They are willing to let go of a problem trusting their subconscious to continue working creatively and productively.

Try asking: What are some alternative solutions to this problem?

Select A Perspective To Learn

Do you ever find yourself talking to yourself? How do you take note of what is going on inside your head? Thinking about your thinking is something that we all do, even if we are not aware of it happening. When we become more metacognitive, we grow our inner awareness by becoming more self-observing. It is our ability to plan a strategy for producing what information is needed, to be conscious of our own steps and strategies during the act of problem-solving, and to reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of our own thinking. Planning a strategy before embarking on a course of action assists us as we keep track of the steps in the sequence of planned behavior at the conscious awareness level for the duration of the activity. It facilitates making temporal and comparative judgments, assessing the readiness for more or different activities, and monitoring our interpretations, perceptions, decisions, and behaviors.

  • How am I thinking about this?
  • What kind of thinking will be called for in this situation? For example, Analyzing? Comparing? Creating?
  • How effective is the strategy that I am using? What changes might be needed?
  • Did my efforts succeed? What could I have done differently?

 

Thinking about your thinking is something that we all do, even if we are not aware of it happening.  It’s when we talk to ourselves as we are thinking through a challenge.  As parents, we sometimes observe that our children are unaware of their own thinking while they are thinking. They seldom plan for, reflect on, or evaluate the quality of their own thinking.  When asked, “How did you solve that problem?” they may reply, “I don’t know, I just did it.” They are unable to describe the steps and sequences they are using before, during, and after the act of problem solving.  They cannot transform into words the visual images held in their mind.

You can coach your children to become more aware of their own thinking and describe what goes on in their heads when they think.

  • Examine the role metacognition has played in your thinking. For example, perhaps you talked to yourself to get ready for a difficult conversation with a co-worker or a client. Or you thought about planning for a big purchase and thinking about small goals you might set for yourself. Talk with your child about what you have uncovered.
  • Help your child by using “thinking words” such as “compare”, “analyze”, “predict”,” classify,” and “conclude”. Invite them to describe the thinking skills and strategies they plan to use before performing a task.
  • As they are solving a problem, ask them “Where are you now in your strategy?” “What do you still need to do?”  “What information are you seeking?”  When the task is completed, ask them to reflect on their thought processes:  “What worked for you?”   “What would you do differently next time?”
  • When you are doing an activity with family members (e.g., cooking, planning a vacation) talk aloud about how you are thinking about what you are intending to do and a possible plan of action

Metacognition is the uniquely human capacity to monitor and control our cognitive processes and mental habits. It is our ability to know what we know and what we don’t know, to plan a strategy for producing what information is needed, to be conscious of our own steps and strategies during the act of problem-solving, and to reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of our own thinking. Efficacious leaders are increasingly attentive to their own behaviors and actions and the effects of those actions on others and the organization’s culture. Thoughtful leaders plan for and evaluate the quality of their own thinking skills and strategies.

Efficacious leaders use metacognitive practices, such as:

  • Noticing, attending to, becoming aware of the talk going on inside their heads. Mentally rehearsing, inner-coaching, self-questioning, and reflecting on what they do as they critique themselves.
  • Consciously checking the assumptions they are making about others. Leaders consistently examine how and why others behave the way they do, what biases they may have in how they perceive others’ thinking, and how others’ connections might uncover new thinking for them.
  • Mentally working through a plan. Leaders identify a strategy, monitor and make appropriate adjustments to the plan over time, continue to evaluate results, and reflect on learning from the experience.

 

Thinking about your thinking is something that we all do  — a way for us to become more aware of our thinking and, as a result, take charge of it.  When we talk to ourselves as we think through a challenge, we are using metacognition. For example:

  • Athletes often talk to themselves about the strategies they want to use before the game.
  • Musicians are aware of their performance as they are on the stage as they work to line up with the overall sound.
  • Engineers review how a prototype worked to see how they can make it work better.

In each of these instances, the individual is aware of their thinking in relation to their performance — either before the performance when planning, during the performance when they are monitoring, or after the performance when they are modifying for the next time.  In other words, they are thinking about their thinking.

You can use your brainpower to create a cycle to improve your thinking.  As you become more aware of it, you are more able to take charge of your thinking. This metacognitive capacity distinguishes us from all other living things — to plan and execute a strategy, to monitor your own steps, and reflect and evaluate how it went. Try it next time you are faced with a challenge and you are not sure what to do.  Think strategically by asking:

  • What are my specific goals before I begin?
  • What might be a strategy to start with?
  • What have I learned from other problems like this one?
  • Is there a different strategy when the one I am using is not working?
  • Have I considered many of the options when solving this problem?
  • What do I really need to do to get the best results?
  • Ask yourself periodically, “How am I doing in achieving my goals?”
  • How can I use what I’ve learned from this problem when solving future problems?

Anyone can become a stronger thinker by using metacognition to handle more complex, creative, and interesting challenges in school and in your life.

Select A Perspective To Learn

What did the green grape say to the purple grape? … Breathe!

In what ways does having a good laugh affect you? Finding humor has been found to liberate creativity and provoke such higher-level thinking skills such as anticipation, finding novel relationships, visual imagery, and making analogies. People who engage in humor can see situations from a new vantage point or come up with the unexpected. Having a whimsical frame of mind, they thrive on finding incongruity and discontinuities; perceiving absurdities, ironies, and satire; and are able to laugh at situations and at themselves.

While they poke fun of themselves and others, they do so with a sensitivity to others’ feelings.  They develop a heightened sensitivity to when humor will serve a purpose and when it is a distraction.

Take a look at some of these strategies to help your students in developing their capacity to find humor:

  • Lighten the mood by using humor when telling a story.
  • Go hunting for humor together for example in joke books, cartoons, or on social media. Ask your child, “What was it that made you laugh?”

Appreciate the element of surprise. Whether you are finding humor or creating humor, every good joke disrupts expectations by changing the momentum of the story.

What did the green grape say to the purple grape? … Breathe!

Finding humor has been found to liberate creativity and provoke such higher level thinking skills such as anticipation, finding novel relationships, visual imagery, and making analogies. It often helps to engage in humor with our children, helping them to see situations from a new vantage point or come up with the unexpected.  And showing your child that it is ok to laugh at themselves when a situation might seem embarrassing. When children are poking fun of themselves or others, we need to remind them to do so with a sensitivity to others’ feelings. Being playful with our children lets them know that life need not be so serious at times.

Take a look at some of these strategies to develop your child’s capacity to find and generate humor:

  • Go hunting for humor together for example in joke books or on social media. Ask your child, “What was it that made you laugh?”
  • Introduce age-appropriate humor such as riddles, knock-knock jokes, video clips, and cartoons. Talk about what makes these examples funny.
  • Enjoy a family comedy night where the venue and focus is laughing in response to a good movie, book, show, video clips, or telling jokes.
  • Talk about how to use humor appropriately so that your children know the difference between good-hearted and a mean use of humor.

A sense of humor is a desirable trait in leaders particularly in stressful situations to relieve tensions and open up the possibilities for fresh thinking. Humor has been shown to increase our ability to make decisions and solve complex problems—all of which can make for more productive and innovative organizations. Finding humor can liberate creativity and provoke such higher-level thinking skills as anticipation, finding novel relationships, visual imagery, and making analogies.

Having a whimsical frame of mind, leaders thrive on finding incongruity and perceiving absurdities, ironies and satire; they find discontinuities and are able to laugh at situations and themselves. When people are laughing with one another, they experience the pleasure of acceptance, an in-group feeling, and bond with one another.

Efficacious leaders can develop their own sense of humor through strategies such as:

  • Being honest and authentic. It’s not whether or not you’re funny, it’s what kind of funny you are. If you can’t be “ha-ha” funny, at least be “aha!” funny. Cleverness may be good enough.
  • Not being afraid to laugh at oneself. It conveys that everything is okay.
  • Poking fun at the issues. Because laughter is disarming, it takes some of the stress away from what everyone is worried about.
  • Keep practicing. Over time your humor skills will improve. Read joke books and watch improv.
  • Appreciating the element of surprise. Whether you are finding humor or creating humor, every good joke disrupts expectations by changing the momentum of the story.

Keeping your brain active by finding the humor in situations, especially when things are not going well, provides some relief from stress or frustration. Your appreciation and use of humor can help you bounce back from adversity and feel more resilient. Sometimes you laugh at yourself to relieve your own embarrassment.

Understanding humor requires thinking flexibly—finding novel relationships, observing oddities in images, and making analogies. When you engage in humor you can see situations from a new vantage point or come up with the unexpected. For example, notice the twist in this one:

What is the astronauts’ favorite place on the computer?

The space bar!

 Having a whimsical frame of mind, you can find and appreciate absurdities, ironies, and satire which helps find needed lightness in situations. However, you can be quick-witted yet sensitive to knowing the difference between clowning around and using humor to raise people’s spirits. Our attempt to find humor in a situation needs to be attentive to the context.

  • Is this a good time to say something funny?
  • Am I paying attention to how others are feeling?
  • Might what I think is funny actually be hurtful to someone else?
  • What can I do if my humor is interpreted as hurtful to someone?
  • When could my use of humor be distracting?

Select A Perspective To Learn

Have you ever worried that what you were attempting to communicate would not be understood or appreciated? Or that your effort to add detail might distract the reader, viewer or listener from the main idea? Language and thinking are closely entwined: enriching the complexity and specificity of language simultaneously produces effective thinking. When people strive to communicate, they work to be accurate in both written and oral form by taking care to use precise language, defining terms, using correct names and universally understood labels, and analogies.

The following strategies may be helpful for your students to keep in mind when paying attention to thinking and communicating with clarity and precision:

  • Do a mental rehearsal. Inside your head, practice what you are going to say before you say it. Engage your own internal dialogue by asking questions and developing answers to help clarify and direct your skills as a speaker and listener.
  • Avoid overgeneralizations, deletions, and distortions. Everybody has one. Teachers don’t understand me. I like it more. Instead, support statements with explanations, comparisons, quantifications, and evidence.
  • Slow down when you are emotional. When you get angry or exasperated, your rational brain closes down and your emotional brain takes over. Take a deep breath and give yourself a chance to think before you say something.
  • Become a spectator of others’ language as well as your own. Listen to the words chosen, choices made to elicit feeling/mood, and details provided to support explanation or claim.
  • Seek feedback from others to continue to improve communication as well as craftsmanship. Checking for understanding and adjusting language, evidence, and tone demonstrates respect for the audience as well as keeping your purpose in mind.

The need for communicating with clarity and precision is more important than ever in our current social climate. We want to give our children access to words they need to express their ideas and feelings.  As a society, too often our children are exposed to vague and general terms that interfere with clear and precise communication. They also may hear labels that are hateful or stereotypical. We often use shortcuts such as abbreviations or emojis that don’t push us to describe our thinking.

Language and thinking are closely entwined. Like either side of a coin, they are inseparable. Your words represent your mind. When you use fuzzy language, it is a reflection of fuzzy thinking. As you strive to communicate more precisely and accurately, you become a better messenger of your ideas. Instead of using overgeneralizations such as “everybody does it,” you support statements with explanations, comparisons, quantification, data, and evidence.

So how can you work with your child to become more skillful in thinking and communicating with clarity and precision?

A few strategies include:

  • Keep explanations brief and to the point.  Learn how to speak directly to the point.  Too many words and over-explaining can distract rather than help your child stay focused.
  • Be a role model.  Refrain from using jargon and inappropriate language.  Use words that describe, appreciate, and extend your child’s vocabulary to express feelings.
  • Avoid words that fail to convey the specifics that a particular situation calls for. For example:
    • Universals such as “always,” “never,” or “everybody.”
    • Vague action verbs such as “behave,” “settle down,” or “be nice.”
    • Comparators such as “better,” “more,” or “newer.”
    • Unreferenced pronouns such as “they,” “them,” or “we.”
    • Unspecified groups such as “teenagers,” “parents,” or “teachers.” This may lead to sweeping generalizations.
    • Assumed roles or traditions such as “ought,” “should, or “must.”

Language and thinking are closely entwined. Like either side of a coin, they are inseparable. Fuzzy, vague language is a reflection of fuzzy, vague thinking. Efficacious leaders strive to communicate accurately in both written and oral form, taking care to use precise language, define terms, use correct names and universal labels and analogies. They strive to avoid over-generalizations, deletions and distortions. Instead, they support their statements with explanations, comparisons, quantification, facts and evidence. When leaders plan ahead, they are mentally rehearsing their messages. They think about what the main points are that they wish to convey and how they want to structure their presentation. This is equally true for both oral as well as written communications.

Efficacious leaders can employ some of the following strategies to develop clarity and precision:

  • Mentally rehearse what they are going to say before saying it. Leaders engage in an internal dialogue, asking oneself questions and developing answers to help clarify and direct skills as a speaker and listener.
  • Avoid over-generalizations, deletions, and distortions. Leaders avoid using terms such as “everyone” or “no one” when that isn’t really the case, or by simply stating that you don’t “like” something. Instead, they support statements with explanations, comparisons, quantifications, and evidence.
  • Slow down when emotional. When angry or exasperated, the rational brain closes down and the emotional brain takes over. Leaders take a deep breath and give themselves a chance to think before they say something.
  • Become spectators of others’ language as well as their own. Leaders notice the words that are expressed, the details provided to support an explanation or claim, and the emotions that are surfacing.
  • Seek feedback from others. Leaders check understanding to continue to improve their communication as well as craftsmanship.

Do you ever hear your friends, siblings or adults in your life using vague and imprecise language? They describe objects or events with words like “weird,” “nice,” or “OK” rather than telling you more clearly what they were thinking. You might want to know what was “weird” about the movie or why the party was “nice.” They may call specific objects using such non-descriptive words as “stuff,” “junk” and “things.” The problem is that you do not know exactly what the person is referring to—what is the “stuff?”

Language and thinking are closely entwined. Like either side of a coin, they are inseparable. Your words represent your mind. When you use fuzzy language, it is a reflection of fuzzy thinking. As you strive to communicate more precisely and accurately, you become a better messenger of your ideas. Instead of using overgeneralizations such as “everybody does it,” you support statements with explanations, comparisons, quantification, data, and evidence.

So how can you become more skillful in thinking and communicating with clarity and precision?

A few strategies include:

  • Examine writing or illustrations that need to focus on precision. For example, when developing a graph have you included appropriate terminology, labels, and units of measure? When writing a newspaper article, did you use correct names and verifiable details?
  • Mental rehearsal. Inside your head, practice what you are going to say before you say it. For example, you can rehearse in front of a mirror or record yourself and play it back.
  • Pay attention to the words that are chosen in writing or speaking. Observe other people’s language as well as your own. When you observe the use of:
    • Vague nouns and pronouns such as in “they” or “students.” Press for specificity by asking, who specifically?
    • Vague verbs, such as “understand” or “” Ask what these terms mean.
    • Comparators, such as “better” or “larger.” The issue is, better than what or larger than what. Ask to get clarity.

Generalizations, such as “Everybody?” or “All the time?” Check to see if it really is everybody– even your neighbor?  or all the time—each and every time?

Select A Perspective To Learn

Have you ever had an idea but didn’t follow through because you were more worried about being wrong or feeling foolish? Do you sometimes hold back in situations because you are afraid of losing? Have you ever taken a risk and it was a total disaster? Risk-taking situations require a leap into the unknown. They are typically complex and nuanced, requiring tolerance for ambiguity.

People who are willing to take responsible risks accept confusion, uncertainty and higher risks of failure as part of the normal process and they learn to view setbacks as interesting, challenging, and growth producing. However, they are not just behaving impulsively. Their risks draw on past knowledge, are thoughtful about consequences, and have a  well-trained sense of what is appropriate. It is only through repeated experiences that risk taking becomes educated. They know that all risks are not worth taking.

Encourage your students to take a responsible risk by applying one or more of these strategies:

  • Develop the capacity to live with some uncertainty. Be challenged by the process of finding an answer rather than by avoiding what you don’t know.
  • Be patient with yourself. Think about necessary resources you might need (e.g., time, feedback, conducive space) to sustain a process of problem solving, investigation, or
  • Live on the edge of your competence. If you want to grow your brain, work on problems and ideas that are hard. It may feel miserable, but when you struggle and make mistakes it may be the best time for your brain to grow. Ideally this work is done in an environment where mistakes are openly analyzed to promote flexible thinking and perseverance.

In almost every culture it seems the stories we love best are those of ultimate triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds: the tale of the ordinary person who dares to try; of the unlikely hero who finds himself in a tough situation and takes on the challenge anyway — not because they are certain to win but because it is the right thing to do. Taking responsible risks calls on us to “venture out,” to attempt more than we thought we could do, and to get out of our comfort zone. However, all risks are not worth taking.  When we say “responsible” we mean that it is more of an “educated” risk–through your own experience and intuition, you are making a guess that you can take a chance on this.

When our children hold back from taking risks, they may miss many opportunities.  For example, they may hold back in games because they are afraid of losing. Their mental voice might say, ‘if I don’t try it, I won’t be wrong’ or ‘if I try it and you are wrong, I will look stupid.’  Their inner voice is trapped in fear and mistrust.

Instead, we help our children develop their capacity to live with some uncertainty— to be challenged by the process of finding an answer rather than by avoiding what they don’t know. If they learn how to take a chance, they are likely to find their creative, innovative spirit, and that will help them solve the problems of our complex, rapidly-changing world.

Some strategies that might be helpful:

  • Do a cost-benefit analysis. Taking responsible risks means we bring our feelings and our knowledge to the possible actions we might take. One of the ways to do this is to ask your child, “What would be the best possible outcomes from this venture?” What would be the worst possible outcomes?” “How serious would failure be?” “How satisfying would success feel?”
  •  Preview new experiences. Do a little research with your child about what opportunities exist and what challenges they might face with something they are considering.
  • Evaluate a situation afterward. Oftentimes, experiences that push outside of a child’s comfort zone can be really uncomfortable. Perhaps a fear of feeling stupid or not getting it quickly can make you want to quit. But venturing out requires courage in new territories. A little debriefing afterwards may help to process how your child dealt with challenges and see small accomplishments.
  • Develop an encouraging    Encourage how your child can use positive self-talk to help them take the risk.   Have them try saying to themselves, “If I don’t try it, I will never know if I can do it.” “What’s the worst that can happen if I do this?”

Risk taking is an increasingly critical element of leadership and essential for an organization’s capacity to innovate. Efficacious leaders inspire others to confront fears and challenges based on what they say and what they model in their own behavior. As responsible risk-takers, they do not behave impulsively. Their risks are educated.They draw on past knowledge, are mindful of options, thoughtful about consequences and have a well-trained sense of what is appropriate.

 

When encouraging colleagues to take responsible risks, efficacious leaders consider:

 

  • Developing the capacity to live with some uncertainty. Challenge the process of finding an answer rather than avoiding what is not known.
  • Being patient. Sustain a process of problem solving, investigation, or creation over time.
  • Live on the edge of their competence. Take a chance on working on problems and ideas that are challenging and/or outside of their area of expertise.

In almost every culture it seems the stories we love best are those of ultimate triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds: the tale of the ordinary person who dares to try; of the unlikely hero who finds himself in a tough situation and takes on the challenge anyway — not because they are certain to win but because it is the right thing to do. Taking responsible risks calls on us to “venture out,” to attempt more than we thought we could do, and to get out of our comfort zone. However, all risks are not worth taking.  When we say “responsible” we mean that it is more of an “educated” risk–through your own experience and intuition, you are making a guess that you can take a chance on this.

When someone holds back from taking risks, they may miss many opportunities.  For example, you may hold back in games because you are afraid of losing. Your mental voice might say, ‘if I don’t try it, I won’t be wrong’ or ‘if I try it and I am wrong, I will look stupid.’  Your inner voice is trapped in fear and mistrust.

Instead, you can develop the capacity to live with some uncertainty— to be challenged by the process of finding an answer rather than by avoiding what you don’t know. If you learn how to take a chance, you are likely to find your creative, innovative spirit, and that will help you to solve the problems of our complex, rapidly-changing world.

Some strategies that might be helpful:

  • Do a cost-benefit analysis. Taking responsible risks means we bring our feelings and our knowledge to the possible actions we might take. One of the ways to do this is to ask yourself, “What would be the best possible outcomes from this venture?” What would be the worst possible outcomes?” “How serious would failure be?” “How satisfying would success feel?”
  • Preview new experiences. Do a little research about what opportunities exist and what challenges you might face with something you are considering.
  • Give yourself a chance. Oftentimes, experiences that push you outside of your comfort zone can be really uncomfortable. Perhaps a fear of feeling stupid or not getting it quickly can make you want to quit. But venturing out requires courage in new territories.
  • Develop an encouraging inner voice.   Encouraging, positive self-talk can help you take risk. Try saying to yourself, “If I don’t try it, I will never know if I can do it.”  Ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen if I do this?”

Select A Perspective To Learn

Are we striving for excellence? Where have we set the bar for ourselves? Are we each putting our best foot forward to push ourselves to make progress toward our goals? The work we produce is a reflection of our character. Striving suggests that we are committed to producing the best that we can at this time in our learning. It means that we are open to feedback because we recognize that striving does not mean error-free or “A” work. People who are constantly striving for accuracy focus on growing their craft through each product: working to attain the highest possible standards and pursue ongoing learning in order to bring a laser-like focus of energies to task accomplishment. They take the time to check over and refine their products, reviewing the rules or constraints they have to follow, and applying criteria to guide their path to quality work.

When striving for accuracy, here are some strategies that may be helpful:

  • Check your work with someone else. Seeing or hearing your work from the lens of another helps to see what changes are needed for clarity of meaning.
  • Study criteria and related descriptors that explain what quality looks like. If you are unclear on the explanation or need further clarification, seek additional guidance so that you can recalibrate or rework as needed.
  • Give yourself time to step back. Fast-approaching deadlines or wanting to get a task off your plate may limit your striving for accuracy and precision. Consider how to plan out your time so that you can revisit the work with fresh eyes to look for exactness, correctness, precision, accuracy, and fidelity.

Too often we think of accuracy and precision as the end game — we get the “right” answer or complete the task and move on.  However, striving is a word that implies continuous effort and caring about your work.  No matter how good you are in your performance, craftsmanship requires continuous reworking to grow your expertise.

Here are some strategies to consider to motivate you or family members to set goals to continue toward even greater work:

  • Remind your child that when we care about getting better at something, striving is something we work on, not something that we race to finish.
  • Ask your family member about how you can be supportive as they work on something that they care about.
  • For example, sometimes it is helpful to receive feedback. Other times it is helpful to provide quiet space so they can focus.
  • Search for experts in the fields of interest your children might be interested in. Find people or other resources they can be exposed to so that they can learn more about the necessary craftsmanship in their work.
  • Showcase the progress of work over time. For example, show drawings your child has done over a period of time and talk about how you see their growth and mastery over the art.
  • Encourage your children to see when they are getting better at something and celebrate their stamina for continuing to grow their capacities.
  • Talk with your children about how striving for accuracy and precision is part of your work. For example, a baker needs to be exact with their measurements and technique or an accountant needs to be precise in how they document revenues and losses.
  • Work together with your child on a project that requires striving for accuracy and precision such as building a model airplane, assembling a piece of furniture, or putting together puzzles. Share some of the strategies you use to check for accuracy and precision.

Efficacious leaders value accuracy, precision, and craftsmanship. They take time to check over their products and the work of others by reviewing the rules, models, and visions they are to follow. They also review the criteria to assess where the work currently stands in relation to success criteria. Striving for accuracy does not mean that we must always be perfect. Rather, it means that we value the aspiration to always commit to our highest level of performance in a given situation.

When striving for accuracy, efficacious leaders can apply some of these strategies:

  • Check work with someone else. When leaders see or hear their work from the lens of another, it helps to identify what changes are needed for clarity of meaning.
  • Study criteria and related descriptors that explain what quality looks like. When something is unclear or the explanation needs further clarification, leaders can provide guidance so that the work can be recalibrated.
  • Take time to step back. Fast-approaching deadlines or wanting to get a task done may limit the leader’s willingness to strive for accuracy and precision. Consider how to plan time so that the work can be revisited with fresh eyes looking for exactness, correctness, precision, accuracy, and fidelity.
  • Seek information on how to be more supportive for colleagues. For example, sometimes it is helpful to receive feedback. Other times it is helpful to provide quiet space so they can focus.
  • Encourage colleagues to recognize progress. Leaders celebrate evidence of development of others’ growth and stamina.
  • Probe thinking. Ask questions of others such as: “How do you know that to be true?” “What evidence do you have?” “What are the facts here?”

What do a ballerina, a baker, a game designer, and a plumber have in common? They all focus on craftsmanship and take the time to refine their products. Too often we think of accuracy and precision as the end game — we get the “right” answer or complete the task and move on.  However, striving is a word that implies continuous effort.  No matter how good you are at something, craftsmanship requires continuous reworking to grow your expertise.

Here are some strategies to consider to motivate you to set goals to continue toward even greater work:

  • Organize yourself so that you have the time to put careful attention to your work.
  • Ask others to give you specific feedback on questions you have about your work.
  • Remember that you are in control of your work and you can decide to make it better. Sometimes too much emotional attachment does not help you to constructively improve.
  • Study the work of experts in the field in which you are interested. Perhaps you can arrange to interview someone to learn more about their craftsmanship.
  • Use scoring/technical criteria to assess your work in progress and identify possible next steps.
  • Recognize when you are getting better at what you are working on to give you the encouragement, inspiration, and stamina to become even better at it.
  • Verify claims with credible facts and evidence. Be alert to misinformation, false advertising, and trustworthiness of media sources.

Select A Perspective To Learn

What is the answer to the question,“are we done yet?” Life is a continuous journey of learning. No matter how much we know, there is always something new to learn. It is helpful to show your students that there is humility in saying “I don’t know,” and that we can open ourselves up to the challenge of moving into a new territory. However, this does not necessarily stop with just acquiring more knowledge about a topic. It might also result in helping them expand their networks of expertise. We also might reflect with them on their process of learning — to what extent are they investigating and constructing with an open mind?

Remaining open to continuous learning develops an intrinsic joy in learning something new or following an arc of inquiry. It can motivate your students and often provides them with intellectual and emotional satisfaction. Here are some strategies that could guide a quest for learning:

  • Have humility and pride when admitting you don’t know. Reframe this as a launch for exploration, curiosity, and mystery rather than a limitation.
  • Ask questions and seek connections. Deep learning is fueled by an inquisitive mind, developing capabilities for effective and thoughtful action.
  • Continue to help your child discover who they are and how they see the world. Ask questions, such as: What motivates you to keep learning? What do you still wonder about? How will you remain open to new ideas? Or new learning?
  • Seek feedback to grow your student’s thinking. Consider who your students might consult with to grow their ideas. Perhaps it is someone you trust who can take the time to understand and help you critique your thinking.
  • Ask an expert. Brainstorm with your students some possible experts in the field who could provide guidance. In preparation, it would be helpful to review or help develop questions with your child to frame the conversation.
  • Be a model for your students. Your child is always watching you.  Share some of the new things that you are learning. Let them know that you, too, struggle at times. Invite them to join you in pursuing something that you are becoming interested in.
  • Continue to discover who you are and how you see the world. Ask questions, such as: What motivates me to keep learning? What do I still wonder about? How will I remain open to new ideas? Or new learning?

Life is a continuous journey of learning. No matter how much we know, there is always something new to learn. It is helpful to show your child that there is humility in saying “I don’t know,” and that we can open ourselves up to the challenge of moving into a new territory. However, this does not necessarily stop with just acquiring more knowledge about a topic. It might also result in helping them expand their networks of expertise. We also might reflect with them on their process of  learning — to what extent are they investigating and constructing with an open mind?

Remaining open to continuous learning develops an intrinsic joy in learning something new or following an arc of inquiry. It can motivate your child and often provides them with intellectual and emotional satisfaction. Here are some strategies that could guide your child’s quest for learning:

  • Have humility and pride when admitting you don’t know. Reframe this as a launch for exploration, curiosity, and mystery rather than a limitation.
  • Ask questions and seek connections. Deep learning is fueled by an inquisitive mind, developing capabilities for effective and thoughtful action.
  • Continue to help your child discover who they are and how they see the world. Ask questions, such as: What motivates you to keep learning? What do you still wonder about? How will you remain open to new ideas? Or new learning?
  • Seek feedback to grow your child’s thinking. Consider who your child might consult with to grow their ideas. Perhaps it is someone you trust who can take the time to understand and help you critique your thinking.
  • Ask an expert. Brainstorm with your child some possible experts in the field who could provide guidance. In preparation, it would be helpful to review or help develop questions with your child to frame the conversation.
  • Be a model for your child. Your child is always watching you.  Share some of the new things that yo

From an early age, many of us have been taught to value certainty rather than doubt, to give answers rather than to inquire, and to know which choice is correct rather than to explore alternatives.  Efficacious leaders overcome that need for certainty and inspire others to be in a continuous learning mode. Their confidence, in combination with their inquisitiveness, allows them to constantly search for new and better ways. They are always striving for improvement, always growing, always learning, always modifying and improving themselves. They seize problems, situations, tensions, conflicts and circumstances as valuable opportunities to learn.

Efficacious leaders can develop this disposition through strategies such as:

  • Having humility and pride when admitting they don’t know. They reframe this as a launch for exploration, curiosity, and mystery rather than a limitation.
  • Asking questions and seeking connections. Deep learning is fueled by an inquisitive mind, developing capabilities for effective and thoughtful action.
  • Continue to discover who they are and how they see the world. Making their thinking transparent is an inspiration to others.
  • Reflecting on myself as a learner. They ask themselves questions, such as:
    • What motivates me to keep learning?
    • What do I still wonder about?
    • How will I remain open to new ideas or new learning?

Life is a continuous journey of learning. No matter how much we know, there is always something new to learn. There is humility in saying “I don’t know,” and open ourselves up to the challenge to move into new territory. However, this does not necessarily stop with just acquiring more knowledge about a topic. It might also result in expanding our networks of expertise. We also might reflect on the process of how I am learning: investigating and constructing with an open mind.

Here are some strategies that could guide your lifelong quest for learning:

  • Have humility and pride when admitting you don’t know. Reframe this as a launch for exploration, curiosity, and mystery rather than a limitation.
  • Ask questions and seek connections. Deep learning is fueled by an inquisitive mind, developing capabilities for effective and thoughtful action.
  • Continue to discover who you are and how you see the world. Ask questions, such as: What motivates me to keep learning? What do I still wonder about? How will I remain open to new ideas? Or new learning?
  • Seek feedback to grow your thinking. Consider who might engage with you about your ideas. Perhaps it is someone you trust who can take the time to understand and help you critique your thinking.
  • Ask an expert. Seek guidance from someone that you don’t know very well but is an expert in the field. It would be helpful to construct questions in advance to frame the conversation.

Select A Perspective To Learn

Have you ever witnessed a young child react to a magician’s sleight of hand, or exclaim in delight over the appearance of a rainbow in the sky? Are you still thrilled at the sights and sounds of a fireworks display? When the world around us sparks our interest and ignites our sense of wonder, we are inspired to learn, to explore, to imagine possibilities.

Because every thought and action is accompanied by emotions, they have their origins in the brain. The center for emotions in the brain is the amygdala. Those feel-good neurotransmitters (serotonin, endorphin, dopamine) are released whenever we experience such good feelings as rapture, intrigue, amazement or fascination. But many of us never learn to tap into the source of our passions because we fail to discover what inspires us.

Strategies to help provide experiences that trigger that sense of amazement and wonder:

Use a visible thinking routine such as See, Think, Wonder to help students understand the power of shared thinking, collaboration, and reflection and how it can spark interest and excitement in others.
Explore new places. Take a walk outside, go to a museum, listen to music, watch a TED talk. Whether these are virtual or physical experiences, be open to observe, explore, and give yourself time to settle into the surroundings.
Keep a notebook or journal. Make a list, draw, photograph, or describe experiences or ideas that you have found to be delightful, magical, or wonderous.

The habit of Responding with Wonderment and Awe keeps us intrigued and interested in our surroundings and makes us curious to see and learn more. Moments of magic and wonder can occur when we observe with our children the changing formations of a cloud; feeling charmed by the opening of a bud; being awestruck by the logical simplicity of a mathematical order; finding beauty in a sunset; feeling intrigued by a spider web; or being exhilarated at the iridescence of a hummingbird’s wings. The capacity for wonderment and awe represents the best of humanity, the heights of what we can accomplish through ingenuity, persistence, and cooperation.

Strategies to help illuminate experiences with your child that can develop a sense of amazement and wonder:

  • Use the See, Think, Wonder, thinking routine. Pay attention to something that you or your child may be awestruck by– ask your child —  “What is it that you see here? What does it make you think about?  What do you wonder?
  • Explore new places together. Take a walk outside, visit a museum, listen to music, watch a TED talk. Whether these are virtual or physical experiences, give your child the time to really pay attention to what amazes them.
  • Keep a notebook or journal with your child. Encourage your child to make a list, draw, photograph, or describe experiences or ideas that they have found to be delightful, magical, or wonderous.

“Without awe life becomes routine…try to be surprised by something every day.” — Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi  

Awe is the feeling we have when we recognize that something is amazing. Wonderment fills us with a sense of fascination about mysteries yet unsolved or questions yet unanswered. It leaves us with renewed appreciation of the ordinary objects and events before us. Efficacious leaders find moments of magic and create a sense of open-endedness and revelation in others. They recognize and celebrate the beauty and wonder of the world we live in and let their minds be intrigued by the mystery of the things they cannot yet understand. Responding with wonderment and awe is the habit that makes us ask big questions and inspires fresh thinking.

Leadership strategies that trigger that sense of amazement and wonder by:

  • Reading widely about amazing leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Howard Schultz, Sir Ken Robinson, Angela Merkel, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and Rosalind Brewer.
  • Exploring new places. Invite others to take a noticing walk with you. Visit museums, listen to music, watch a TED talk. Remain open to observe, explore, ponder, and commune.
  • Keeping a sketchbook or journal. Make a list, draw, photograph, or describe experiences or ideas that you have found to be delightful, magical, mysterious and/or wondrous.

We all share the capacity for wonderment, awe, inquisitiveness, intrigue, curiosity and mystery. For example, you may have reflected on the changing formations of a cloud; felt charmed by the opening of a bud; were awestruck by the logical simplicity of a mathematical order; found beauty in a sunset; felt intrigued by a spider web; and exhilarated at the iridescence of a hummingbird’s wings. The capacity for wonderment and awe represents the best of humanity, the heights of what we can accomplish through ingenuity, persistence, and cooperation.

When the world around us sparks our interest and ignites our sense of wonder, we are inspired to learn, to explore, to imagine possibilities. Strategies to help provide experiences that trigger that sense of amazement and wonder:

  • Use the See, Think, Wonder, thinking routine. Pay attention to something that you may be awestruck by– ask yourself–what is it that I see here? What does it make me think about?  What do I wonder?
  • Explore new places. Take a walk outside, visit a museum, listen to music, watch a TED talk. Whether these are virtual or physical experiences, give yourself time to really pay attention to what amazes you.
  • Keep a Notebook or Journal. Make a list, draw, photograph, or describe experiences or ideas that you have found to be delightful, magical, or wonderous.

“Without awe life becomes routine…try to be surprised by something every day.” — Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi  

Select A Perspective To Learn

Do you ever find yourself just blurting out what comes to mind? After you say it, do you regret it? Do you find yourself thinking, “I really shouldn’t have said that.  It isn’t what I really meant.” Perhaps you find yourself jumping in to do some work before you read the directions. Then you realize that, had you read the directions, you would have known that you did not have to do one thing but you did have to do another.

Managing impulsivity means thinking before acting: you work to remain calm, thoughtful, and deliberate when working through a problem or developing an idea. Helpful strategies that can help your students become more intentional:

  • Focusing on your breathing to settle down. Find other strategies to help keep your emotions under control.
  • Rewinding the situation to examine it with a more deliberate eye. Reflect on what, where and why this is happening that is causing the feelings that you are having.
  • Considering your options. Think about what actions you could take and what possible advantages or disadvantages might happen as a result.
  • Reframing possibilities. Believe that you can change the way you react when others push your buttons, seeing it as an opportunity to learn about yourself, finding new ways to stay in control of your emotions.

Have you ever jumped right into working on a problem without reading all of the directions?  Did you find that you missed something important and you have to start all over again? Do you ever blurt out ideas without thinking about how what you say might impact people you are interacting with?  Have you ever found yourself interrupting someone else’s thinking without considering what the other person meant? These behaviors all point to the need to manage your impulsivity — slowing yourself down to think more about what you are about to do before you do it. The ability to wait, delay gratification, is an important aspect of success in life.  How might we help our children to remain calm, thoughtful, and deliberate when working through a problem or developing an idea.

Here are some strategies for you or a family member to pay attention to managing  impulsivity:

  • Practice waiting (count to 10) before sharing your thoughts. The goal is not to interrupt the other person’s thinking. Wait time sets the stage to encourage thought and reflection before responding. Sometimes the family member can come up with an idea, strategy, or solution to their own problem when given an opportunity to think aloud.
  • Look at the routines with your family members during the day to see where focusing on managing impulsivity may help to relieve the stress. For example, your morning routine may be frustrating for both you and your family members. Consider, for example, asking your family to share ideas about how to make the routine run more smoothly so that you are not making snap judgments or saying something out of anger.
  • Remember that you are all working on this together. We are all plagued by the need for instant gratification.  Talk about how you managed your impulsivity in a situation.  Perhaps you opened the door to the oven too soon and your cake collapsed.  It would be a good time to reflect and think about what you might have done instead.
  • Use the language of managing impulsivity. For example, saying something like,” just wait and make sure you read the instructions first.  Manage your impulsivity!”

Leaders juggle many demands and feel the urgency to get the work done. This may lead to the impulsive behavior of taking the first suggestion given or operating on the most obvious and simple idea that comes to mind. Instead of responding from that emotional state, efficacious leaders have a sense of deliberativeness. They put the pressure of “getting it done” on hold while they consider alternative points of view and potential impact before taking action. They consider more complex alternatives and consequences of several possible directions.

As efficacious leaders work to manage their impulsivity, some strategies that may be helpful are:

  • Testing out a strategy for approaching a problem.
  • Withholding immediate value judgments before fully understanding an idea.
  • Seeking assistance and input from others. Sometimes others may have had experience with similar problems or can see a different array of solutions.
  • Slowing down and attending to their emotions: “I’m feeling angry right now,” “I’m frustrated,” “I’m confused,” or “I’m tired.”
  • Investigating what is behind the emotions: “What is it about this situation that is producing these feelings?” What are my options for dealing with this situation and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each of those options?” “Which of these possible solutions are the best?”
  • Making thinking visible so that the group recognizes the effort leaders take to manage their impulsivity.

Have you ever jumped right into working on a problem without reading all of the directions?  Did you find that you missed something important and you have to start all over again? Do you ever blurt out ideas without thinking about how what you say might impact people you are interacting with? Have you ever found yourself interrupting someone else’s thinking without considering what the other person meant?

These behaviors all point to the need to manage your impulsivity — slowing yourself down to think more about what you are about to do before you do it. Managing impulsivity means thinking before acting. You work to remain calm, thoughtful, and deliberate when working through a problem or developing an idea.

So, what does it look like when you are managing impulsivity? Here are some tips:

  • Consider the situation you are in. How does it make you feel? How might you manage those feelings so that you can take appropriate action?
  • When you are working in a group, establish group rules to make certain that everyone has a voice in the discussion.
  • Count to 3 (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi) before adding your ideas to the conversation. That way if the person wants to finish a thought they have space to do so.
  • Remind yourself that how you are feeling does not need to be acted on. Name the emotion. For example: “I’m angry.” “I’m upset.” or “I’m tired. Then wait instead of getting carried away into a response or a reaction.
  • Be aware of the impact of your impulse to act and yourself slow down before responding.  Stop and think before you act.

Select A Perspective To Learn

How does our interaction with others influence what we are thinking? Human beings are social beings — we congregate in groups, find it therapeutic to be listened to, draw energy from one another, and seek reciprocity. Thinking interdependently means knowing that we will benefit from participating in and contributing to ideas, inventions, and problem-solving.

As students collaborate and remain open to others’ perspectives, their thinking can be enhanced by the interchanges with others. Listening, consensus-seeking, giving up an idea to work with someone else, empathy, compassion, group leadership, knowing how to support group efforts, altruism … all are behaviors indicative of those who profit from thinking interdependently. Interdependent people envision the expanding capacities of the group and its members, and they value and draw on the resources of others to enhance their own personal competencies.

Here are several questions to openly reflect on and clarify with students as they are learning how to present and justify the ideas, and test the feasibility of possible solutions and strategies as you work toward a common goal.

  • How can we work best together?
  • How can I best contribute to this group?
  • How am I affecting the group? How is the group affecting me?
  • How can we avoid “group think”?

 

Thinking Interdependently is collaborating with a sense of purpose and mission. It is the ability to speak up, contribute to the discussion, and to advocate for a particular position or plan. It is also knowing when it is time to take your own plan off the table if it doesn’t seem to fit where the group is going. As we collaborate and cooperate — not just finding a solution but discovering many different ways to approach problems — the power of our thinking is increased exponentially by the dynamic interchanges between ourselves and others in the group. They contribute to a common goal, seek collegiality, and draw on the resources of others. We become more than the sum of our individual contributions and talents.

As a family, we adjust to moving from I to we. Working together with your family is more than cooperation. It requires your ability to express your ideas and allow yourself to be open to the ideas of others. Here are some tips to develop thinking interdependently with your family members.

  • Clarify the values, goals, hopes, and dreams you have for yourselves individually and as a family.
  • Create conditions where everyone in the family is encouraged to have a voice when thinking interdependently about a topic that matters to all. Protect a child from interruptions by an older sibling or distracted by phone notifications or multi-tasking.
  • Listen attentively to each family member and ask clarifying questions to better understand perspectives and seek consensus, as appropriate.
  • Find opportunities to plan for family events collaboratively focusing on organizing, problem-solving, and preparing for the event.
  • Be okay with disagreements. Conflict about ideas, plans, and points of view can be healthy and productive. They can be opportunities to learn, modify thinking, and generate new ideas.
  • earn how to give up on your idea when it is not working and engage with the ideas of others.

Today, our most pressing problems are complex and multifaceted. They require a breadth of knowledge, insight, and creativity that can only be accessed when people come together and  solve problems interdependently.  When leaders think interdependently, they collaborate with a sense of purpose and mission. They encourage others to speak up, contribute to the discussion, and advocate for a particular position or plan. They also know when it is time to take their own plan off the table or to make accommodations for others’ or the group’s ideas, goals, or plans.  The power of collaborative thinking is increased exponentially by the dynamic interchanges in the group. They contribute to a common goal, seek collegiality, and draw on the resources of others.

Efficacious leaders ask themselves metacognitive questions such as:

  • How can working together on this problem lead to a more innovative solution?
  • How can we work best together?
  • How can I best contribute to this group?
  • How am I affecting the group? How is the group affecting me?
  • How can we avoid “group think”?
  • How can I withhold my own agenda and work on behalf of the task of the group?

Did you know that you have a social brain? In prehistoric times, successful hunters and gatherers discovered they had a better chance of survival if they worked together with others. Eventually, the human brain evolved into a social brain where people were thinking interdependently. Interdependent thinkers have a sense of community: “we-ness” as much as “me-ness.” They contribute to a common goal, seek collegiality, and draw on the resources of others.

So how do our social brains work in the times we live in now? The world is faced with such diverse needs and problems to solve.  We need to seek out and study as many points of view as we can in order to make critical decisions that impact our local, national, and global communities.

Working in groups is more than cooperation. It requires your ability to justify your ideas and to allow yourself to be open to the ideas of others. Here are some tips to develop thinking interdependently in any group.

  • Establish roles in the group to keep meetings purposeful. For example: facilitator, time keeper, recorder.
  • Test the feasibility of solutions you pose by hearing what others think. You need to be willing and open to feedback from a critical friend. Through this interaction, the group and the individual continue to grow.
  • Listen closely to others and seek consensus when appropriate.
  • Agree on group norms and call time out when the group is not working productively.
  • Be okay with disagreements. Conflict about ideas, plans, and points of view can be healthy and productive. They can be opportunities to learn, modify thinking, and generate new ideas.
  • Learn how to give up on your idea when it is not working and engage with the ideas of others.