Elon Musk, inarguably one of the wealthiest men on earth today, had the following to say in a recent interview: “I think this is the single best piece of advice I can give to anyone: constantly think about how you could be doing things better, and always question yourself.” In one sentence, Musk tapped into a concept that Neuroscientists have explored for years, yet the public has been oddly estranged to: the value of Metacognition. While this is a phenomenal that most educated and well-off people understand, metacognition is an invaluable part of life that, unfortunately, most people from underprivileged communities have probably never even heard of… let alone practiced. Metacognition, in its truest essence, is a deeply transcendent process that involves learning and unlearning oneself, over and over. It is an incredibly precious skill that builds resilience and self-awareness, and when practiced consistently and consciously, metacognition can literally take you from rags to riches. There’s only one thing that separates “common people” from individuals such as Elon Musk, and that is the understanding and practice of metacognition.
Knowing thyself is the key to all wisdom. Metacognition, sometimes described as “thinking about your own thinking,” refers to knowledge and awareness about one’s own thoughts and cognitive processes. The average human has about 70,000 thoughts per day, according to the research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University. What’s even more shocking? 90% of those thoughts are considered repetitive; meaning a lot of our thoughts are merely mental noise. Not being in true control of our thought processes can cause all sorts of impediments including mental fatigue, depression, anxiety… the list is endless. However, once you begin practicing metacognition, and become faithfully committed to the idea of monitoring a significant portion of your thoughts, you decrease the mental noise in your brain, and as a result, you gain a better understanding about thyself and the world around you. As the former Roman Emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, once said: the happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard them accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature. “Reasonable nature” is incredibly subjective, but for the most part, I think Aurelius was right on the money. We are the product of our thoughts; and what we think, we become.
Life is a beach, and we’re just playing in the sand. Put in other words, we are simply learners in this game called life. Though some people are born in better circumstances than others, nobody was born with a manuscript for life. We are all figuring it out as we go, day by day, trying our best to make something out of nothing. Metacognition involves knowing yourself as a learner, that is, knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a student of life. Reflecting on our thoughts is a big part of understanding our feelings and learning new things. That is why many scientists recommend meditating at least twice a day. Meditation is a topic that honestly deserves its own blog post. However, after taking a stress and conflict management class that was rooted in the practice of meditation, I can truthfully attest to the fact that taking a few minutes to be attune with one’s breathe and thoughts can drastically improve mood, bring clarity, and help regain a sense of confidence. I wouldn’t say it works like magic, as my class was over a period of 16 weeks of constant meditation every day. Nevertheless, it was an experience that really allowed me to dig deep on a daily, and I got a lot of answers from within; answers that I would have never gotten amidst the wild hustle and bustle of life. It requires great discipline to meditate everyday, and it takes even greater discipline to be metacognitive.
The word meta is Greek and means among, with, after. Therefore, meta cognition simply means “with cognition.” Cognition is defined as the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. Being cognitively aware, therefore, is the closest thing to becoming metaphysical as a human in this lifetime. You naturally tap into your superpowers when you allow your brain, arguably the most important part of our entire system, to think critically. When you think critically, and are conscious of your thoughts, you are able to move with coherence and sharpness. While other people are in la-la land in their heads, a metacognitive person is light-years ahead of their time – constantly considering ways to better themselves and others around them. In other words, when you are metacognitive, you become the boss of your brain, and not a mere slave to your thoughts. Personally, every time I have made a haste decision without thinking cognitively about it, I have always regretted that decision. We learn from our mistakes, yes. However, a wise man once told me that the best way to learn is through others’ mistakes. Learning through your own mistakes is arduous and takes too long; learning from others’ mistakes saves you time and pain. Metacognition is a lifestyle. It’s a vow to always be present in your thoughts and actions. Mastering this skill is considered the “million dollar mindset” because you can essentially manifest anything you want in this life once you have mastered thyself. That’s why it is so crucial to be conscious of ourselves and what we are thinking, at all times.
Writer and orator, Winston Churchill, once said: the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. I appreciate this quote because it aligns perfectly with what I value. As someone who has lived a vast and tough life, I can honestly say that things genuinely started changing for me a few years ago (in 2021) when I adjusted my mind frame from a fixed to a growth mindset – which is a whole subunit of metacognition. In short, having a fixed mindset means you believe intelligence, talent, and other qualities are innate and unchangeable. If you’re not good at something, you typically think you will never be good at it. Because of this, you become pessimistic and fail to learn – even from your own mistakes. By contrast, a growth mindset means you believe that intelligence and talent can be developed with practice and effort. This is a much better mindset because you see failure as a constant opportunity to grow. Instead of getting discouraged from your downfalls and short comings, a growth mindset allows you to get motivated enough to learn about what went wrong, and how it could have went better. We can’t control what happens to us, however, we are in full control of what we think – which ultimately dictates the trajectories of our lives. The mind is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand. Neuro-plasticity, or the concept of brain growth and development, is a concept that is booming in research and science right now, and for great reasons. We are learning each and every single day that the brain continues to grow throughout our lives despite a process called “pruning”, and this means that we literally have an opportunity to start anew, every single day. Take advantage of this fact. Use it to better yourself. And remember, you are what you think!
That’s it for today, Royalty Family. I hope you enjoyed this article on metacognition, but most importantly, I hope that you can begin to practice some form of mental control in some capacity. Challenge yourself this week by keeping a journal of your thoughts, and let me know if you see any improvements over time. Thank you so much for supporting my art. I love y’all to the moon and back!
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