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  • Writer's picturekarri winn



I learned about the concept metacognition via Adam Blatner writing that it means “paying attention to the way one is thinking…(2004 - unfortunately I don't have the complete citation, just a scribbled note left over from graduate school.)”

When I learned about metacognition, I realized that the large thrust of my academic exploration around thinking for sustainability was in fact applied metacognition.

Metacognition is an attribute of second attention awareness, that is, while I am doing one thing I am also consciously observing myself do something else. From a felt sense perspective, metacognition, holistically applied, is the outcome of embodied awareness, i.e., consciousness.

In Nia practice, we refer to the part of self consciously observing as The Witness. Nia practice facilitates metacognitive skill development - but not just pertaining the thinking mind, Nia extends these skills to the thinking body. For example, practitioners learn how to feel emotion while simultaneously observing the sensation of feeling.


I took a small note “know self, beliefs, desires, characteristics” in reference to Daniel Goleman’s 1998 HBR article, “What Make’s a Great Leader?”. For Goleman, self-awareness is critical to one’s ability to know thy self.

What is self-awareness? One thing I know for certain is that self-awareness is not purely a mental exercise. Self-awareness requires the whole body and unfolds overtime through the intent to learn about oneself. Usually this requires as many disturbing self-revelations as much as joyous insight!

Goleman’s idea also hinges on one of the elements of purpose-based critical thinking I learned from Jane Lorand, i.e., Intellectual Humility. Lorand describes this as “the ability to uphold with equal vigor the strengths and weaknesses of one’s thinking”. Upholding this posture requires significant discipline and personal fortitude. One must cultivate the psychological ability to detach from peer pressure to have the best idea or to not be wrong. We live in a culture where we have mistakenly ascribed a value of the best thinking to the value of the person. The value that we possess as a human being cannot be measured by our thinking alone.

We have devalued, collectively, the importance of thinking about thinking and developing discrete thinking skills based on the kind of problem/opportunity we are facing. There again, the self-awareness ability to assess one’s thinking metacognitively becomes paramount to developing the leadership skill of Intellectual Humility.

Further, we have devalued the felt sense as an avenue of legitimate knowledge and wisdom. That is, there is an aspect of self-awareness that is inextricably linked to the ability of any individual to sense and perceive their interiority (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) in relationship to external stimulus moment-to-moment. Self-awareness without body awareness, I argue, is not possible. Yet at the same time, self-awareness / body-awareness are dynamic evolutionary potentialities. The more one learns, the more possibility there is for change and embodiment of the individual’s totality. This is an excellent example of a virtuous positive feedback loop.


Self-efficacy as defined by Albert Bandura is the “…process of examining personal capacity vis-á-vis performance in various environments…[b]elief in capacity to act” (1997).

I first learned about self-efficacy from Bandura. I love the concept. Self-efficacy requires metacognition and self-awareness. The degree to which I possess capacity to sense my thinking and the totality of my self moment-to-moment is tantamount to my self-efficacy.

When I put these three concepts together, they make for interesting musings on attributes of consciousness - a whole body phenomenon. It is popular to talk about consciousness, yet few people have any real pathway to shape their consciousness and grow their perceptual capacities.

Consciousness without body awareness is per definition not possible – consciousness has been reduced to a mental exercise. Self-awareness without metacognition is not possible. It is essential to develop a second order awareness to be able to track one’s thinking. And also, people need to diversify their cognitive skills to include associative, intuitive, imagination qualities, to be able to consider feelings and to expand their horizons conceptually to embody systems thinking principles while advancing their self-efficacy. Without the cognitive and consciousness skills to metabolize complexity and the evolutionary dynamics of living systems, our individual and collective self-efficacy is delimited.



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