Coaching for Metaprovement

Are you good at math? If so, please help me execute this calculation: 1 +2 +1 +3 +1 +2 =? Got it? If yes, congratulations! Your logical thinking is good since you are making good use of the cognitive process. But is the cognitive process really the only way to resolve this question?

In a nutshell, cognition is the mental process of “connection” between the neurons and it is through this mechanism that thought emerges. There is an interesting aspect about this cognitive process: since the brain gets used to follow the same structure of interconnected neurons, over time it excels in executing the path that has already been established by the interconnected neurons.

Human beings behave the way they think, that is, behavior is generated by thought. This is a true wonder of the human mind, because this ability to create habits of implementation out of structures of interconnected neurons is what allows/encourages a person to be proficient in specific behaviors.

However, besides advantages, this feature also carries a burden for people’s lives. This burden rests on the idea that the more an individual repeats certain, unhealthy behavior, the more your brain will also become a true ‘expert’ in performing that behavior. The same reasoning applies to feelings, since every feeling is also generated by a thought. This way, based on continuous repetition, the brain becomes an expert in cultivating certain feelings. So the most effective way to change a behavior or feeling is precisely to change the thought underlying it.

In practice such a change of thinking is not something that is easy to achieve. To demonstrate one possible way of meeting this challenge, however, we must return to the calculation presented in the opening paragraph of this text. Now, instead of following the almost instinctive thought of calculating the sentence, it is possible to ask questions like: What do these figures mean? Why these numbers? Why this type of calculation? Are there other ways to achieve the same result? What will be done with the result of this calculation? Etc.

When we approach the problem this way, we are applying a process called metacognition, or rather a meta-thought, which can also be explained clearer as “thinking about thinking.” To enable this metacognition, we can adopt a meta position, or in other words, a position outside the box. This way an individual can see with more clarity how a thought is structured, and hence question the criteria used to construct that thought.

One could argue that this natural ability of metacognition is the basis for continuous improvement of human behavior. Its practice is, therefore, extremely healthy for the personal and professional success of an individual and, consequently, of an organization.

Yet many people neglect this natural ability of metacognition and because of this must go through a very painful experience generated by a certain thought before they allow themselves to make a new mental strategy (metacognition) regarding this thought.

I used a play on words to call this process metaprovement, i.e. meta improvement, which briefly means using metacognition to improve the goal oriented improvement. Helping the individual in this metaprovement process is one of the primary goals of coaching. This includes providing the necessary inputs for the individual to take different perspectives in order to broaden their perception of their behavior and especially the impact generated by it. Once this perception has been broadened, the individual can take responsibility for an inspection and adaptation process, starting with the metacognition of his own thoughts and, consequently, of this own behavior.

As can be seen, exercising metaprovement is a good solution to puncture thoughts that are unfavorable for healthier and better, goal oriented performance. We should also note that “even if one has walked a lot, it is always possible to switch to a better path.” That is, even if you excel in certain behavior, you can always apply metaprovement to construct even better behavior. This is the basis of mankind’s real progress.

More information
# Introductory article on Metacognition:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metacognition

# Definition of metaposition (PLN):
http://www.nlpworld.co.uk/glossary/m/meta-position
Note
A special thanks to my friend Serge Rehem for the inspiration of playing word games.
About the author:

Manoel Pimentel Medeiros – Coach with 15 years experience in IT, where he worked with Coaching and Training for executives and teams in Consultancy, Banking and Telecom environments. He is Managing Director of Instituto de Coaching Aplicado a Tecnologia da Informação (ICA-TI). He is founder of the magazine Visão Agil and has written about Agile and coaching for portals and magazines in Brazil and abroad. He has also lectured at national and international events on agility. In possession of PPC, CCC, CEC certifications of the SBC/BCI/ Worth Ethic Corporation, CSM and CSP from Scrum Alliance and he was a pioneer in the use and disclosure of agile methods in Brazil.

One thought on “Coaching for Metaprovement

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