These 16 Habits Of Mind Will Make You Smarter

Terry Mansfield

Habits of Mind are 16 life-related skills that make you smarter about solving problems so that you can operate more effectively in life.
Habits of Mind illustration.Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

What Are the Habits of Mind?

Habits of mind is a term used to refer to dispositions certain intelligent individuals utilize when faced with challenging problems or questions to which the answer is not readily known. As defined by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, there are 16 common habits of mind employed to troubleshoot and problem solve. These 16 habits of mind are: persistence; keeping impulsivity in check; listening with understanding and empathy; thinking flexibly; thinking about thinking; striving for accuracy; questioning and posing problems; applying past knowledge to new circumstances; thinking and communicating with clarity and precision; gathering data through all senses; creating, imagining and innovating; responding with wonderment and awe; taking responsible risks; finding humor; thinking interdependently, and remaining open to continuous learning.”

Why Are They Called Habits of Mind?

When people encounter problems in life, it’s vital that they can behave intelligently, especially when they don’t know the answers to those problems right away. Habits of Mind enable you to utilize strategic reasoning, craftsmanship, creativity, perseverance, and insightfulness in tackling and solving problems.

Habits of Mind Include These Dimensions:

Value: Choosing to employ a pattern of intellectual behaviors rather than other, less productive patterns.

Inclination: Feeling the tendency to employ a pattern of intellectual behaviors.

Sensitivity: Perceiving opportunities for, and appropriateness of, employing the pattern of behaviors.

Capability: Possessing the basic skills and capacities to carry through with the behaviors.

Commitment: Constantly striving to reflect on and improve the performance of the pattern of intellectual behaviors.

Policy: Making it a policy to promote and incorporate the patterns of intellectual behaviors into actions, decisions, and resolutions of problematic situations.


Why Are Habits of Mind Important?

Let’s examine the case of students to answer this question. If students in middle school develop Habits of Mind, they set themselves up for later success in high school and, in turn, in college because they become stronger students.

Why is this? The reason is that they have enhanced their ability to solve problems, research, reason, and persevere in their efforts. And, of course, these same Habits of Mind are extremely valuable for young people as they move on into adulthood and face various challenges in their everyday life that require critical thinking.

7 Critical Thinking Habits That Are Effective

1. Explore a Question. Critical thinkers ask questions — lots of them. It’s only through having solid questioning habits that we’ll find what we seek.

2. Manage an Ordered List. Organizing tasks and setting their level of priority is a great way to make a complicated day more streamlined.

3. Engage in a Conversation. A good conversation should have us looking differently at others and at ourselves. It should inspire us to think differently, consider broadly, and view wisely. That’s the power of true dialogue, and why it’s a key habit that critical thinkers engage in regularly.

4. Pinpoint a Weakness and Plan to Improve it. Is there something in your experience that you want to get better at? Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, but our weak points can always be improved upon. So think about an area of your life you want to improve on and begin taking small steps to make it happen.

5. Set a Goal. To many, goal-setting is an important part of leading a successful and fulfilling life. When we have goals, we strive to push ourselves to be more than we are and to build our minds, bodies, and spirits in equal measure. Besides, nothing feels better than looking back at an accomplishment that seemed impossible and saying to yourself, “I did it.”

6. Solve a Simple Problem in Your Life. Critical thinkers are natural problem-solvers, and solving a problem engages us in disciplined critical thinking. No matter how big or small the problem, our thinking skills can benefit from solving a problem a day.

7. Learn Something New. All throughout our lives, we never stop learning. There is always something new to discover, no matter where we are in life. Being a learner for life does, in fact, keep the mind fresh and young, and thus, it is one of the most essential critical thinking habits to have.

Wabisabi Learning

What Makes Habits of Mind Powerful?

Many situations come up in life when you don’t know the answer, yet you want to behave intelligently in coming up with a solution. Using Habits of Mind lets you bring to bear certain intellectual behavior patterns that cause powerful results through various proclivities, attitudes, and skills.

How Do You Teach Habits of Mind?

The best way to teach Habits of Mind to students in school is to find creative ways to incorporate the 16 habits into the curriculum. This can be done in a way that weaves the habits into lessons on various subjects.

For example, a history lesson about George Washington can discuss how Washington used certain Habits of Mind to overcome his early failures in life and went on to become a successful general leading the Revolutionary War effort and, ultimately, the first President of the United States.

Also, businesses could incorporate the Habits of Mind into their company policies and ethics standards, and making sure that all new employees clearly understand what’s expected of them to be smarter and more effective in carrying out their job responsibilities.

Even sports teams could make good use of Habits of Mind to instill in athletes the behavior that will help them become successful both on the field or court and off.


When you use Habits of Mind, you understand others better by listening to them with empathy, and by paying close attention to their thoughts and ideas.

And using the full arsenal of Habits of Mind gives you the mental energy and critical thinking framework to be smarter in how you go about your daily life to confront obstacles and successfully overcome them.

The quality of your habits will determine the quality of your future.”
― Clyde Lee Dennis


Tophat, ASCD, Wabisabi Learning, YouTube, The Systems Thinker, Edutopia, CHSVT, Education Closet, Art Costa Centre, TeachThought, The Institute for Habits of Mind, Lifehack, TeachHub

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

My mission is to create and share interesting and helpful content with my readers.

Chesapeake, VA

More from Terry Mansfield

Comments / 0