In this post, we’re going to take a look at the executive function of metacognition and the character strength of curiosity. I think they make a nice pair, especially with the holiday season upon us!
Metacognition is a word that is unfamiliar to many people. Peg Guare and Richard Dawson define it as,
“The ability to stand back and take a birds-eye view of oneself in a situation. It is an ability to observe how you problem solve. It also includes self-monitoring and self-evaluative skills (e.g., asking yourself, ‘How am I doing?’ or ‘How did I do?’ or ‘How did what I did affect other people?’).”
In order to answer those questions (or others like them), we must step back from the busy-ness of our lives and notice how things are going. Once we have the “birds-eye view” perspective, it’s easier to see what we can celebrate as successes in our lives or, on the other hand, what might need a little tweaking! Metacognition and self-awareness are keys to making changes that we’d like to see in our lives or strengthening what is already going well.
Let’s look at our end-of-the-year holiday season with a birds-eye view of ourselves. Step back and ask, “What have I noticed about how I respond to holiday stresses and situations?” “What do I need to take care of myself in the midst of what seem like overwhelming demands at work and at home and in my community?”
Here is where the character strength of curiosity comes in! When we are curious, we ask a lot of questions. Often we ask questions about other people, but asking curious, nonjudgmental questions about ourselves is a form of metacognition. If we ask questions with a growth mindset, an intention to learn and grow from the answers, we will find ourselves open to change and growth.
Have you used your metacognition and curiosity to ask how you are usually affected by the holiday season or how what you usually do affects other people?”
As an example, let’s look at the social interactions that can be numerous at this time of year. How do they affect you? Be curious. Ask without judging yourself.
Do you enjoy gatherings of people with lots of conversation and interacting? This might mean you are more of an extravert and these experiences energize you.
Or do you quickly tire in large groups of people? This might mean you are predominantly an introvert and therefore interaction with people can be draining for you, leaving you wanting to find a remote corner where you can find some peace and quiet.
Or you might be an ambivert — someone whose responses to social situations fall somewhere in the middle, perhaps depending on the specifics of the situation.
How might you respond to the situations you’ll find yourself in this month if, as a result of using curiosity and metacognition, you discover that you really need to protect some quiet time to recharge your “batteries?” What if you come to see that you enjoy partying so much that you might overindulge in food or drink or spend too much time partying and need to set some limits?
With greater self-awareness we can all put in place boundaries that we need to better care for ourselves in potentially stressful situations and to be sure our actions contribute positively to the holiday experiences of those around us!