Sometimes you reach a moment in your life when you realize a change is needed and you know exactly what that change is.

But it doesn’t always happen like that.

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More often than not, we go through a period of strain and discomfort.

We start to recognize that things are not as we would like them to be, but we can’t pinpoint exactly why or how we can begin to make it begin to make it better.

This is where your incredible human brain comes into its own.

Our ability to not only consciously experience the world, but to also think about and reassess the experiences we had.

This is a key life skill that is used in therapy.

It is the epicentre of any big life change.

You cannot change what you cannot make sense of.

Albert Einstein reportedly once said,

‘If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.

This quote often comes to mind when I hear the common misconception that therapy consists of sitting in a room and dwelling on your problems.

It does involve thinking about your problems, but there is a method to that.

The most effective way to resolve a problem is to understand the problem inside out.

So how do we use metacognition when we are facing big changes?

Metacognition refers to the process of thinking about and understanding your own thought processes. It involves being aware of your own thinking and learning strategies, and being able to monitor and adjust them as needed in order to achieve better results.

Building awareness begins with looking back.

For anyone in therapy or counselling, you can talk about things that have happened and get useful prompts from the therapist to help you make sense of it.

For those who are using a self-help approach, journaling is a great place to start.

There is no pressure to write huge amounts or to write in a way that makes sense to anyone else.

The aim is to build on your ability to reflect your experiences and how you responded to them.

For example, let’s say you failed an exam, and in the moments after finding out, you called yourself a stream of unprintable names and told yourself that you will never amount to anything.

Metacognition involves reflecting those thoughts and how they further impact your experience.

The power of using metacognition is that it opens up our ability to be accountable to ourselves and to examine the part we play in staying the same or making change.

It reveals the big influence that seemingly small behaviours can have, both positive and negative.

Journaling in this way can feel strange if we are used to glossing over things without paying too much attention to the details.

But over time those details can help us to build our awareness of our experience in hindsight, as we start to spot the cycles and patterns of behaviour in the moment, as they happen.

This is when we create the possibility of choosing something different and making the positive changes that we want for ourselves.

Try performing the following task on the problems you are facing and it may help you to understand where it is coming from and the solution.
  • Describe any significant events that happened.
  • What thoughts did you have at the time?
  • How did that way of thinking impact how you felt?
  • Describe any emotions you noticed.
  • What triggered those emotions?
  • What urges did you have?
  • How did you respond to the feeling?
  • What were the consequences of your response?

Remember, the most effective way to resolve a problem is to understand the problem inside out.

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