Moving through life’s highs and lows with precision, passion, and self-awareness is an ability that many claim to have, yet most actually lack. Humans tend to fall short in certain areas, and rather than refining these qualities, individuals tend to disregard them and focus on what they are good at instead. In their book Habits of Mind, Costa & Kallick (2008) argue that successful and intelligent humans do quite the opposite. These individuals acknowledge their shortcomings and strengths, while taking the time to enhance the qualities they fall short in.
People such as these display 16 “Habits of Mind” in every life scenario, whether it is positive or negative. The habits range from persistence and reflection to responsible risk taking and finding humor. Each is unique in and of itself, but every one requires the same factors to be used effectively; namely, they must be appropriately chosen and employed, but also reflected upon. Rumination is key because it is how an individual becomes more attune to the habit and enhances his/her ability to use it. While Costa & Kallick (2008) focus on the Habits of Mind’s academic use, they are certainly qualities that anyone can employ in their daily lives. The first step is acknowledging which quality(ies) one exudes weakness in.
After revisiting the 16 Habits of Mind, the author’s 9th habit, “Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision”, is one I dramatically need to improve. Not only is my vocabulary subpar, but my poor conversation skills have wounded me academically and personally throughout my life as well. I love chatting with friends, mentors, and professors, but I admit that I sometimes lose confidence in myself when speaking about my life. In these moments, I give vague answers that do not speak to my successes and passions honestly. I sell myself short.
Yet, my largest obstacle to not communicating with clarity and precision is that I am always in a hurry. If my schedule is not teeming with things to do, my mind is wandering about what I can do to get ahead. The moment someone stops me to converse, I see it as a barrier to accomplishing my goals. I rush through the conversations, jumble my words, and lose focus on the person I am speaking to, which gives the impression that I am both incompetent and uninterested in him/her. Honestly, I find this quite silly now that I’m reflecting simply because intimate conversations have granted me various successful opportunities in life. Even more so, I regret causing others to feel this way.
Life is not all about work. It is also about intimacy, relaxation, and self-care. Giving others my time, energy, and attention means nothing if I am hurrying through the conversation. My first goal is to no longer view conversations as obstacles, but rather to see them as opportunities to find joy and instill a feeling of affection on whomever I am speaking with. I believe this will help me communicate with more clarity. Moreover, I no longer want to feel “less than” when speaking with others. I want to have confidence in what I say and in myself, which will allow me to develop more precision when I speak.
In order to achieve the first habit, I am going to incorporate two other Habits of Mind that I feel I exude in other scenarios: “Finding Humor” and “Listening with Understanding and Empathy”. Whenever the opportunity to converse arises, I will “find humor” in the moment, meaning I will remember that relaxing and de-stressing will be beneficial to me. I will remember to find joy and delight in the conversation. Even more so, I will see it as an opportunity to take care of myself. Not only will this clear my mind, but it may elicit new opportunities as well. When the conversation begins, I will focus on what my friend is saying and give the genuine, clear responses I used to be known for.
Developing confidence first requires me to slow down when I am speaking and give attention to whomever I am speaking with, which ties into “Listening with Understanding and Empathy”. By speaking more clearly and precisely, I will feel more assured in my ability to have a conversation. Even more so, I will take the time to speak with varying diction and syntax in an effort to express the intelligent person I truly am. I will no longer reduce my achievements either. I will recognize how difficult it was to accomplish them and congratulate myself on doing so rather than brushing them off when they happen. All in all, I will believe in the person God made me to be and give each person the respect and attention they deserve.
I recognize that this process will not be easy, but I am confident that in utilizing the Habits of Mind I am strong in I will enhance my weakness exponentially. Simply taking the time to have conversations and confidence in what I say will prevent me from jumbling my words and self-deprecating. With determination, persistence, and focus, Costa, Kallick, and I would argue that “Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision” is possible.
Costa, A. & Kallick, B. (Eds.). (2008). Learning and leading with habits of mind: 16 essential characteristics for success. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.