Habits of Mind: Cultivating a Pattern of Intellectual Behaviors

Habits of Mind

“Habits of Mind” is a term that captures the essence of thinking and behaving intelligently. Rooted in the world of education, it offers a set of dispositions that empower individuals not just to confront challenges, but to do so in a thoughtful, reflective manner.

What Are Habits of Mind?

Developed by Dr. Arthur L. Costa and Dr. Bena Kallick, the Habits of Mind are a set of 16 problem-solving, life-related skills. These habits are necessary for success in school, work, and life. They encompass the following:

  • Persisting: Sticking to a task until completion, especially when challenges arise.
  • Managing Impulsivity: Taking the time to think before acting.
  • Listening with Understanding and Empathy: Paying genuine attention to others’ perspectives.
  • Thinking Flexibly: Being open to alternative viewpoints and solutions.
  • Thinking About Thinking (Metacognition): Being aware of one’s own thoughts, strategies, and actions.
  • Striving for Accuracy: Ensuring precision and correctness.
  • Questioning and Posing Problems: Exploring deeper understanding through inquiry.
  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations: Drawing on previous experiences to tackle new challenges.
  • Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision: Being articulate in both written and verbal expression.
  • Gathering Data Through All Senses: Utilizing all senses for comprehensive understanding.
  • Creating, Imagining, Innovating: Thinking beyond the known and conventional.
  • Responding with Wonderment and Awe: Appreciating the world and its complexities.
  • Taking Responsible Risks: Venturing out of comfort zones while ensuring it’s a calculated move.
  • Finding Humor: Seeing the lighter side of situations and not taking oneself too seriously.
  • Thinking Interdependently: Collaborating and working effectively with others.

Remaining Open to Continuous Learning: Embracing new knowledge and skills throughout life.

Why Are They Important?

In a rapidly changing world, the acquisition of knowledge alone is insufficient. To navigate the complexities of life and work, individuals must also be equipped with the ability to think critically, collaborate effectively, and approach challenges with resilience. The Habits of Mind provide a framework for these competencies, fostering a growth mindset and nurturing lifelong learning.

How to Cultivate Habits of Mind

  • Modeling: Teachers, parents, and leaders can serve as role models, displaying these habits in their everyday actions.
  • Reflection: Regularly take time to self-reflect, asking questions like “How did I handle that challenge?” or “Could I have approached that differently?”
  • Discussion: Engage in dialogues with others, exploring how they employ these habits in different scenarios.
  • Continuous Learning: Always look for opportunities to learn, be it through reading, courses, workshops, or other means.
  • Feedback: Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or coaches to understand areas of improvement.
  • Practice: Intentionally practice the habits in varied situations to turn them into ingrained behaviors.

Habits of Mind are more than just skills; they are a way of being, a way to approach the world with curiosity, resilience, and thoughtfulness. By cultivating these habits, individuals are better equipped to handle the challenges and uncertainties of life, ensuring that they not only survive but thrive in any environment.

What is Habits of Mind in education?

The concept of “Habits of Mind” is increasingly gaining traction in the educational realm, recognized for its ability to empower students with essential life skills. But what exactly are these habits, and how do they manifest in an educational context?

Defining Habits of Mind in Education:

Habits of Mind, as conceptualized by Dr. Arthur L. Costa and Dr. Bena Kallick, are 16 intellectual dispositions that help individuals approach challenging situations with confidence and resourcefulness. These habits are not necessarily about what we think, but more about how we think.

The Role of Habits of Mind in Education:

  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving: Education is not just about absorbing information, but also about analyzing, synthesizing, and applying it. Habits like questioning, thinking flexibly, and applying past knowledge to new situations foster these skills in students.
  • Emotional Regulation & Resilience: By teaching students to manage impulsivity and persist in the face of adversity, educators help build emotional strength, resilience, and self-regulation.
  • Communication & Collaboration: In a globally connected world, the ability to communicate with clarity and precision and think interdependently is invaluable. These habits promote effective team collaboration and clear articulation of ideas.
  • Self-awareness & Metacognition: The habit of thinking about one’s thinking (metacognition) equips students with self-awareness, enabling them to evaluate their cognitive processes and strategies.
  • Lifelong Learning: Instilling a sense of wonder, curiosity, and openness to continuous learning encourages students to become lifelong learners, ready to adapt and grow in a perpetually changing world.

Integrating Habits of Mind into the Classroom:

  • Curriculum Design: Infuse Habits of Mind into lesson plans, ensuring that students have opportunities to practice these habits in various subjects and contexts.
  • Classroom Discussions: Encourage dialogues that promote reflective thinking, questioning, and collaborative problem-solving.
  • Modeling: Educators can embody these habits, showcasing to students what it looks like to approach challenges with these dispositions.
  • Assessment: Rather than just focusing on content mastery, assessments can also evaluate students’ use of the Habits of Mind, encouraging their consistent practice.
  • Feedback & Reflection: Regularly provide feedback on how students are using these habits and create spaces for self-reflection.

Habits of Mind in education go beyond traditional academics. They emphasize the cultivation of intellectual behaviors that will serve students in all areas of life. By prioritizing these habits, educators are not just preparing students for exams but for life’s myriad challenges, ensuring that they become thoughtful, adaptive, and resilient individuals.

What are the Habits of Mind and fundamental concepts?

Habits of Mind refer to the dispositions that are skillfully and mindfully employed by individuals when faced with problems they don’t immediately know how to solve. These habits, formulated by Dr. Arthur L. Costa and Dr. Bena Kallick, encompass a set of 16 intellectual behaviors.

Here’s a refresher on the 16 Habits of Mind:

  1. Persisting
  2. Managing Impulsivity
  3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  4. Thinking Flexibly
  5. Thinking About Thinking (Metacognition)
  6. Striving for Accuracy
  7. Questioning and Posing Problems
  8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
  10. Gathering Data Through All Senses
  11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating
  12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  13. Taking Responsible Risks
  14. Finding Humor
  15. Thinking Interdependently
  16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

Fundamental Concepts Underlying Habits of Mind:

  • Growth Mindset: Central to the Habits of Mind is the idea of a growth mindset, a concept popularized by Carol Dweck. It’s the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed over time. Many of the habits, like persisting and remaining open to continuous learning, are aligned with this mindset.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations is a key underpinning of the habits. For instance, managing impulsivity and thinking about thinking both require a degree of self-regulation.
  • Lifelong Learning: The Habits of Mind prepare individuals not just for academic success, but for life. The commitment to continuous learning and adaptation is a cornerstone of this framework.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility: The world is constantly changing, and adaptability is a vital skill. Habits such as thinking flexibly and applying past knowledge to new situations emphasize this adaptability.
  • Interdependence: While personal reflection and individual skills are crucial, the Habits of Mind also recognize the importance of collaboration and understanding others, as seen in habits like listening with understanding and empathy and thinking interdependently.
  • Reflection and Metacognition: An overarching theme of the Habits of Mind is the value of reflection, introspection, and awareness of one’s cognitive processes (metacognition). This means not just acting, but understanding why one acts in a particular way and evaluating that action’s effectiveness.
  • Resilience: Faced with challenges, it’s resilience that often determines one’s ability to bounce back. Persisting, taking responsible risks, and managing impulsivity are all habits that foster resilience.

The Habits of Mind are not just isolated skills but are interconnected and grounded in these fundamental concepts. By understanding and cultivating both the habits and the foundational principles they rest upon, individuals are better equipped to navigate the complexities of life with thoughtfulness, resilience, and adaptability.

Example of habits of mind

To provide a more comprehensive understanding of the “Habits of Mind,” let’s delve into a few specific examples and unpack them in real-world contexts.


Scenario: Maria is a high school student struggling with calculus. Instead of giving up and deciding that math is “not her thing,” she chooses to attend extra tutorial sessions, practices problems daily, and reaches out to her teacher for additional resources.

Real-World Application: Persistence in the workplace could involve sticking with a challenging project even when there are obstacles, or consistently working on a skill to improve over time.

 Managing Impulsivity:

Scenario: During a group discussion in class, Tom feels strongly about a point being made. Instead of immediately interjecting with his opinion, he takes a moment to breathe, listens fully to the other person, and then thoughtfully responds when it’s his turn.

Real-World Application: In a business negotiation, managing impulsivity might mean taking the time to fully understand a proposal before reacting or making a counter-offer.

 Listening with Understanding and Empathy:

Scenario: Priya notices her friend Lana seems down. Instead of offering advice right away or dismissing Lana’s feelings, Priya asks open-ended questions and genuinely listens, trying to understand her friend’s perspective and feelings.

Real-World Application: A manager might use this habit by genuinely listening to an employee’s concerns or feedback without immediately jumping to solutions or defenses.

Thinking Flexibly:

Scenario: Raj is working on a science project and his initial hypothesis is proven wrong. Instead of feeling defeated, he considers alternative viewpoints, adjusts his hypothesis, and tries a new approach.

Real-World Application: In product development, if a prototype isn’t working as intended, thinking flexibly might involve brainstorming alternative designs or solutions.

Creating, Imagining, Innovating:

Scenario: For her final art project, Clara decides to blend traditional painting techniques with digital media, even though she’s never seen it done in her school before. She’s excited about exploring uncharted territory.

Real-World Application: In the tech industry, innovators might think of new ways to integrate AI into daily life, creating products or solutions that didn’t previously exist.

These examples highlight the practical application of the Habits of Mind in both academic and real-world scenarios. By recognizing and nurturing these habits, individuals can approach challenges and opportunities in a more thoughtful, effective, and innovative manner.

Tips for learning habits of mind

Cultivating the Habits of Mind requires intentional practice, reflection, and commitment. Here are some practical tips to facilitate the learning and internalization of these habits:

 Self-Awareness and Reflection:

  • Start with a self-assessment. Which Habits of Mind do you already possess or lean towards, and which ones need more attention?
  • Reflect regularly on your actions, decisions, and experiences to determine which habits you employed and where there might be room for improvement.

Set Specific Goals:

  • Choose one or two habits to focus on for a specific duration.
  • Set actionable goals related to those habits. For example, if you’re working on “Managing Impulsivity,” a goal might be, “I will count to five before responding in discussions.”

 Model the Habits:

  • Observe people you admire, whether teachers, mentors, or colleagues. How do they exhibit the Habits of Mind?
  • Modeling helps in understanding how the habits look in real-life situations and provides a practical framework for embodying them.


  • Keep a Habits of Mind journal. Document instances where you applied a particular habit or when you missed an opportunity to do so.
  • This practice not only aids reflection but also tracks your growth over time.

 Engage in Group Discussions:

  • Engage with peers or groups who are also keen on developing these habits.
  • Group discussions provide varied perspectives, insights, and scenarios that enrich understanding and application.


  • Role-play different scenarios that require the application of specific habits.
  • This helps in internalizing the habits as you actively practice them in a controlled setting.

 Reinforce with Visual Cues:

  • Create posters or flashcards of the 16 habits and place them around your study or workspace.
  • These visual reminders can serve as prompts to practice the habits in your daily activities.

 Continuous Feedback:

  • Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or educators regarding your use of the Habits of Mind.
  • Constructive feedback helps identify areas of strength and those that need further development.

Commit to Lifelong Learning:

  • Recognize that mastering these habits is an ongoing journey.
  • Engage in courses, workshops, or seminars that delve deeper into these habits, their importance, and their application.

Celebrate Progress:

  • Acknowledge and celebrate small victories and improvements as you internalize and apply these habits.
  • Positive reinforcement can motivate continued growth and application.

 Integrate in Diverse Settings:

  • Apply the habits not just in academic or professional settings but also in personal and social scenarios.
  • The more varied the application, the more ingrained the habits become.

Remember, the Habits of Mind are not just about knowing them but embodying them. As with any skill or disposition, consistent practice, patience, and persistence are crucial to internalizing and effectively applying these habits in various life situations.

Tricks for learning habits of mind

While “tips” focus on structured strategies and methods, “tricks” are often seen as clever shortcuts or more informal approaches to grasp a concept more easily. Here are some tricks to help you internalize and practice the Habits of Mind:

Mnemonics & Acronyms:

  • Create catchy mnemonics or acronyms to remember the list of habits. For instance, the acronym “PLT” might stand for “Persist, Listen, Think Flexibly.”

 Habit of the Week:

  • Each week, spotlight one Habit of Mind. Challenge yourself to actively practice and incorporate that habit into your daily routines.

Daily Alarms:

  • Set periodic alarms on your phone with Habit of Mind reminders. It could be a simple prompt like, “Have you listened with empathy today?”


  • Relate each habit to a personal story or anecdote. We tend to remember and internalize information better when it’s tied to a personal experience or narrative.

 Habit Bracelets:

  • Wear bracelets or bands, each color-coded for a specific habit. The visual reminder on your wrist can prompt daily practice.


  • Turn the learning process into a game. For instance, give yourself points every time you actively apply a habit. Once you reach a certain score, reward yourself.

Visual Imagery:

  • Associate each habit with a specific image or symbol. For example, for “Thinking Flexibly,” you might visualize a bendy rubber band. Over time, seeing similar objects can prompt a recall of the habit.

Sticky Note Mantra:

  • Write down a habit on a sticky note and attach it to your computer, mirror, or fridge. Change the note every few days to a new habit.

 Role-Model Inspiration:

  • Identify public figures or personalities who exemplify certain habits. For instance, when you think of “Persisting,” a figure like Thomas Edison and his numerous attempts before inventing the light bulb might come to mind.

 Habit Challenges:

  • Team up with a friend and challenge each other with a Habit of Mind to focus on for a week. Check-in regularly to share experiences and learnings.

 Reflective Doodles:

  • If you’re artistically inclined, doodle or sketch scenarios where you’ve applied a specific habit. This not only reinforces the habit but also allows for a creative outlet.

Songs and Rhymes:

  • Turn the habits into a catchy song or rhyme. Singing or humming the tune can reinforce memory and understanding.

Habit Jar:

  • Have a jar filled with the 16 habits written on individual chits. Every day, pick one out randomly and focus on that habit for the day.

Digital Prompts:

  • Use apps or browser extensions that allow for daily reminders or prompts. Configure them to remind you of the habits.


  • Turn each habit into a daily affirmation. For “Taking Responsible Risks,” you might say, “Today, I will step out of my comfort zone and embrace new challenges.”

By weaving these tricks into your routine, learning the Habits of Mind can become a fun, interactive, and engaging process. Remember, it’s the consistent application and reflection on these habits that will lead to meaningful internalization.

A Chart Table of Practicing habits of mind

Below is a chart table that outlines each Habit of Mind, along with a brief description and actionable steps for practice:

Habit of Mind Brief Description Actionable Steps for Practice
Persisting Sticking with a task until completion.  Break tasks into manageable steps. Set mini-deadlines.
Managing Impulsivity Think before you act. Take deep breaths before decisions.  Wait 24 hours before making big decisions.
Listening with Understanding and Empathy Truly hearing others without judgement. Paraphrase what others say. Avoid interrupting.
Thinking Flexibly Being open to alternative viewpoints.  Consider 3 different ways to solve a problem. Actively seek out different opinions.
Thinking About Thinking (Metacognition) Being aware of your own thought processes. Journal about your thinking. Reflect on learning experiences.
Striving for Accuracy Aiming for precision and correctness. Double-check work.  Ask others for feedback.
Questioning and Posing Problems Being curious and inquisitive. Ask open-ended questions. Challenge assumptions.
Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations Using what you’ve learned in new contexts. Relate new concepts to personal experiences. Make analogies.
Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision Being clear in thought and speech. Avoid generalizations. Use specific examples in discussions.
Gathering Data Through All Senses Using sensory experiences for learning. Take field trips. Engage in hands-on activities.
Creating, Imagining, Innovating Thinking outside the box. Brainstorm regularly. Sketch or doodle ideas.
Responding with Wonderment and Awe Being fascinated with the world.  Explore nature.  Watch documentaries.
Taking Responsible Risks Venturing out of comfort zones, responsibly. Try a new hobby. Speak up in group discussions.
Finding Humor Finding joy and laughter in situations. Watch comedies.  Share jokes with friends.
Thinking Interdependently Collaborating effectively with others. Engage in group projects. Attend community meetups.
Remaining Open to Continuous Learning Embracing new knowledge and skills. Take online courses.  Read books on varied subjects.

This table provides a structured way to glance at the Habits of Mind, understand their essence, and find actionable steps to incorporate them into daily life.

Habits of Mind
Habits of Mind

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs ) About habits of mind

Here’s a compilation of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Habits of Mind, along with their answers:

  1. What are the Habits of Mind?

Answer: Habits of Mind are a set of 16 problem-solving, life-related skills, identified by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, that help individuals effectively handle real-world challenges and act intelligently when facing problems they haven’t encountered before.

  1. Why are Habits of Mind important in education?

Answer: They equip students with essential skills beyond mere academic knowledge, fostering lifelong learning, adaptability, and the ability to approach unfamiliar challenges in a thoughtful and effective manner.

  1. Can adults benefit from learning the Habits of Mind, or is it just for students?

Answer: Absolutely! While they’re beneficial in educational settings, adults can apply these habits in various life scenarios, from workplace challenges to personal relationships, making them valuable for all ages.

  1. How can teachers incorporate Habits of Mind into their curriculum?

Answer: Teachers can embed these habits into lessons by creating activities that challenge students to use specific habits, discussing and reflecting on them, and highlighting real-world scenarios where they’re applied.

  1. Are the Habits of Mind based on any scientific research?

Answer: Yes, they are grounded in research from cognitive psychology, educational theory, and best practices in education. Costa and Kallick drew upon decades of educational and cognitive research when formulating these habits.

  1. How do the Habits of Mind differ from traditional subjects like math or history?

Answer: While traditional subjects provide content knowledge, Habits of Mind equip students with the disposition and skills to use that knowledge effectively, especially in unfamiliar or challenging situations.

  1. Is it necessary to master all 16 habits?

Answer: Ideally, individuals should strive to integrate all the habits into their way of thinking. However, everyone is different, and some might find certain habits more natural than others. The goal is continuous improvement and application.

  1. How can parents support their children in developing these habits?

Answer: Parents can model the habits in daily actions, engage in discussions about them, create home activities centered around specific habits, and provide constructive feedback when they observe their children applying or overlooking a habit.

  1. How long does it take to develop a Habit of Mind?

Answer: It varies for each individual and each habit. Consistent reflection, practice, and application are key. It’s less about the time it takes and more about the journey of integrating these habits into one’s thinking and behavior.

  1. Are there any resources or books to learn more about Habits of Mind?

Answer: Yes, Art Costa and Bena Kallick have authored books on the subject. “Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind” is one notable title. Additionally, many online resources, workshops, and courses delve into the Habits of Mind in depth.

These FAQs provide a foundational understanding of the Habits of Mind, addressing common queries and clarifying their importance in various contexts.


In the intricate tapestry of education and personal development, the Habits of Mind emerge as critical threads that, when woven together, create a resilient and adaptable fabric. These 16 habits represent more than mere skills or tactics; they symbolize an intentional way of approaching challenges, dilemmas, and unknown territories with a thoughtful and proactive mindset.

The rapidly evolving world demands more than just factual knowledge. It calls for individuals who can think critically, adapt flexibly, and respond effectively to new scenarios. This is where the Habits of Mind play a transformative role. By fostering these habits, we not only empower students to excel academically but also equip them with the intellectual behaviours necessary for lifelong success.

Cultivating the Habits of Mind is akin to nurturing a garden. It requires patience, consistent effort, and the right conditions. Over time, these habits grow, blossom, and bear the fruits of intellectual maturity, personal growth, and effective problem-solving. They become inherent aspects of an individual’s character, guiding them through the varied landscapes of life.

Who We Are. The Habits of Mind are not just educational tools but life philosophies. They challenge us to elevate our thinking, to approach problems with an open mind, and to continuously seek growth. By integrating these habits into daily practices, both in educational institutions and beyond, we pave the way for a future generation that’s not only knowledgeable but also wise, discerning, and innovative. Thus, in the journey of personal and societal advancement, the Habits of Mind stand out as beacons, illuminating the path towards intellectual excellence and holistic growth.

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