Metacognition, in its simplest terms, means “thinking about thinking”. Jocko Willink, in some of his writing on leadership as a Navy SEAL, talks about it as “stepping back” from the line of fire during a firefight. Even though our natural tendency in many situations where success is vital is to fully engage in the activity at hand, doing so can sometimes prevent us from doing the sort of analysis that will make us successful at that activity. Willink says that as a SEAL team leader, when he steps back from the line of fire, he is able to see the figure picture, and get a better view of what’s going on, what needs to happen, and the dangers that exist.
When we are trying to accomplish something, whether it is a high probability of failure, or even something that we have failed at already, there is tremendous value in “stepping back”, pausing, and looking at the bigger picture. Here are some guiding questions:
1. What factors in success/failure do I have control over?
2. What factors in success/failure do I not have control over?
3. What emotions am I feeling, and how do those manifest as physical feelings?
4. What is the worst case scenario?
5. What are the key elements of success here?
6. Can there be a partial success? What does that look like?
7. In terms of my own growth, what should I be paying attention to as I act?
8. Are there any factors that I can set beforehand to increase my chances of success?
Leadership Strategy and Tactics