What is Metacognition and Why is it Important?

When was the last time you reflected on your natural mental process? When was the last time you tried to refine it? Paying attention to how you think — and how your thinking affects your actions — is a huge part of increasing self-awareness and performance. We call this “thinking about thinking” metacognition. Many work to refine theirs over a lifetime.

Metacognition involves five thinking practices:

  1. Planning and goal setting
  2. Monitoring progress
  3. Identifying what you know
  4. Identifying what you don’t know
  5. Adapting as necessary

By working through this process methodically, one can become more productive, flexible and self-reliant as they reflect on their mental processes, evaluate them and find new ways to improve. In other words, metacognition involves the ability to step back, evaluate one’s strengths and weaknesses and pivot accordingly.


Metacognitive knowledge involves both your beliefs about how you learn and how others learn, and the task of learning  how you process information. Consider this example: let’s say you have to learn a totally new language in six months. Here’s how you might approach the task at hand using metacognitive knowledge.

Example of metacognition

  • The Learning Process: You think, “I am good at learning languages. I can totally handle this in the time I’ve been given.”
  • The Task of Learning: Then, you consider “To complete the task, I will need to think about the following:
    • How soon can I get the info I need to start learning this language?
    • How long will it take me to learn the language?
    • What information is available to me that could help me learn this language?
    • Is this language similar to one I’ve learned in the past?
    • Will I be able to learn the language in time?
    • How hard will it be for me to do so?
    • What do I need to do to learn this language?
  • The Strategy: You muse, “I think that learning this new language is going to take me twelve months, but I only have six to prepare. I will need to find other ways to meet this goal — maybe hiring a private tutor or just focusing on the basics and not getting sidetracked.

Sound like a lot? It is probably a lot more “thinking about thinking” than you’re used to. But the person who approaches their problem — learning a new language in six months — this way, will likely be much more successful than the person who jumped in without consideration for the monumental nature of the task at hand.

Why does this matter?

So many people go through life on autopilot, without truly understanding themselves and why they do what they do. Metacognition presents a strategy for expansion, growth, elevation.

“So few people are really aware of their thoughts. Their minds run all over the place without their permission, and they go along for the ride unknowingly and without making a choice,” said Thomas M. Sterner in his book The Practicing Mind. 

Wouldn’t you rather make the choice?

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Frances G
Frances G25 days ago


Peggy B
Peggy B26 days ago


Emma L
Emma Labout a month ago

Thank you for posting

Paula A
Paula Aabout a month ago

thank you for sharing

danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thank you

danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thank you

Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookinsabout a month ago

Thinking about thinking.

John W
John Wabout a month ago


Ingrid A
Ingrid Aabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

Greta L
Greta L1 months ago

Thank you