Defining Habits of Mind – A close look
It’s worth taking a close look at the definition of the Habits of Mind and teasing apart some of the key ideas. The Habits of Mind are defined as:
Those dispositions that are skillfully and mindfully employed, by characteristically successful people, when confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent.
Let’s pull that apart a little bit:
Dispositions: The Habits of Mind are tools or strategies, they are dispositions. They are a tendency to act in certain ways. They give rise to actions.
Further, the Habits of Mind are not values. Although we might find the Habits of Mind valuable in helping us achieve our goals, they do not set them. It is our Values that help give direction and purpose to our lives, they set the direction of our goals. For example the Habits of Mind will help us achieve the goal of creating a peaceful or warlike society. Only our values will determine which of these goals we set for ourselves.
Skillfully and Mindfully employed: This is a key part of the definition of the Habits of Mind. Everyone employes the Habits of Mind. However some of us do so in skillful, even masterful ways. Some people when they engage in the Habits of Mind do so in clumbsy, ineffective ways. For example, everyone is able to persist but for some this persistence lacks strategy and therefor it is ineffective. In this simple statement – skillfully and mindfully – lies a key to the Habits of Mind: that we must all seek to develop, not simply use, our Habits of Mind in order to be most effective. (more on development here)
Chararacteristically Successful People: it is a common characteristic of successful people that they have well developed Habits of Mind. Although it may be possible to have well developed Habits of Mind and not be successful, it doesn’t seem to be possible to be successful and not have well developed Habits of Mind.
Whe confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent: This statement is double edged. Firstly it points out that the Habits of Mind are only required when we are challenging ourselves. To solve the obvious problem requires not special effort. However, implicit in this statement is profound connection to what we know about successful people – that they do challenge themselves by confronting problems the solutions to which are not immediately apparent. And this is something I talk about in a future blog entry about “The Goldilocks Zone”