Mindset, Mindfulness, and Metacognition

Last week we discussed grit and mindset in my EDUC 1300 Learning Frameworks classes.  I started the discussion like I normally do by asking the students what mindset is.  Many responded that it was having your mind fixed on one idea or belief and not being willing to change it (fixed mindset) and that a growth mindset was being open to new ideas and beliefs.  While this is correct at the most basic level, we in academia often become fixated on only two types of mindset – that of fixed vs. growth – in how students approach learning.  In reality, mindset is “attitude, disposition, mood” or an “intention or inclination” (Dictionary.com); therefore, there are many types of mindsets.  For example, I recently heard someone refer to success vs. failure mindset, so I wasn’t too critical of my students who saw it as an open vs. closed mentality.  I did, however, enlighten them to the various other types as the discussion continued.

As I pondered mindset, I began to wonder how it connects to mindfulness which is a term I’ve encountered a great deal lately, especially in terms of mental health.  Mindfulness, according to Dictionary.com, is a technique for focusing on present thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.  Since we’ve also discussed metacognition (thinking about thinking) in class, I then wondered how mindfulness is different from, or related to, metacognition.  Again, Dictionary.com defines metacognition as a higher order thinking skill that enables someone to understand, analyze, and control his/her cognitive processes and is mostly referred to when one is learning.

So, to summarize, mindset is what someone thinks and believes and mindfulness and metacognition are both intended to help one become more aware of his/her thoughts/feelings (mindfulness) and learning/thinking (metacognition).

That, of course, is based on definition alone and in the most simplistic forms.  I can see a great deal of overlap in the three terms and wonder why we don’t explore these more ourselves and teach our students to do so as well.  These are topics we often take for granted; we expect students to have them and use them, but we rarely teach them how to do so or the benefits of doing so.  I, for one, have never really focused on mindfulness even though I know it’s importance and know that emotional intelligence is a key marketable school in college and the workplace.

As I browsed journaling techniques on YouTube a few months ago for a personal project, I discovered this mindset journal idea that I would like to share with you.  Ana Mascara encourages viewers to create a mindset journal to set “your mind to think in a certain way” and to “promote positive changes you want.”  She uses a small notebook, often called field note size, that is cute, lined, convenient, and small.  (I think the convenient and small are essential, but I will disagree about the cute and lined criteria.)  Ideally, one would write items he/she would like to improve (mini-goals, achievements, habit changes/formations, etc.) in the notebook – one on each page.  Mascara shares a few of hers.  Then, each day, either in the morning or before bed, one would read through these affirmations, goals, and desires.  This is supposed to help focus the mind on achieving/completing these items.  This increases mindfulness and helps develop the desired mindset.

I haven’t tried this personally yet, but I’m seriously considering it.  If you have done something similar, I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

To encourage you to develop your mindfulness in this way, I have six mini notebooks to give away to the first six requests from Victoria College.  First come equals first choice!  Contact me via email, the comments below, or stop by my JH 100 office to choose your journal.

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