What are Habits of Mind?

The Habits of Mind have become defined as

the dispositions that are skillfully and mindfully employed by characteristically successful people when confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent

These dispositions were derived by Art Costa and his co author Bena Kallick, following meta-analysis of studies into successful people.

There is much research in the field of success and the acquisition of excellence, However the work of Costa and Kallick differs in several critical ways.

The work of pioneers like Anders Ericsson, his peers and contemporaries has been ┬ácaptured and popularized in books like Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, Geoff Colvins’s Talent is Overrated, Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, and more recently summarized in Mathew Syed’s Bounce. These are all excellent books and capture the modern view of the acquisition of excellence extremely well.

This body of work focuses on the process successful people go through to acquire excellence and all come to basically the same conclusion that excellence is the result of effort (perhaps with a little bit of circumstance thrown in along the way). Certainly the message that we are all capable of achieving excellence is clear.

What Costa and Kallick have added to this field, is not another message of hard work wins out in the end, but rather, if you want to work hard, effort is not enough. You must also be able to use your mind well to make the effort worthwhile!

This is where the 16 Habits of Mind come in. Costa and Kallick have identified the 16 thinking dispositions that are developed and applied by characteristically successful people. Not only do successful people work hard, but they use their minds well during that process.

In the video below Art Costa briefly describes what the Habits of Mind are. You can download a single page summary of the Habits, or a longer description of the 16 Habits of Mind by Art Costa for your reference.