Habits of Mind Self-Assessment

“These Habits are lifelong pursuits, and proclaiming success is likely to let your guard down.”

Image: nasa.gov

Nowhere in the US Constitution is there an express right to privacy. Wouldn’t it just be bonkers if the government could intrude in your personal affairs as long as it technically didn’t violate any clauses of the text? Thankfully, it can’t, because in 1965 the Supreme Court held that an individual right to privacy can be found in the collective shadow cast by others in the Bill of Rights. Privacy is, therefore, a penumbral right. Thus, penumbral came to refer to an implicit concept that’s logically entailed by other, explicit ones.

Introspection, I submit, is a penumbral Habit, logically entailed by PSU’s four explicit Habits. It’s only fitting, then, that professors like me would be asked to undertake this introspective exercise, assessing their own progress in the HOMs.

Purposeful Communication

You would hope a person with two degrees in information, combined with two decades of practice using information, both analog and digital, would have reached the proverbial summit.

And while I believe I have, I am reluctant to claim such a pinnacle. As I tell students, these Habits are lifelong pursuits, and proclaiming success is likely to let your guard down.

I always “seek additional knowledge” for contextualization and “recognize implications” of text (probably to a fault given the amount of time I often take composing emails).

I intend to work on “organizing and synthesizing information” to generate “new insights” in my communication. This has always come slowly to me.

Problem Solving

I face the day’s challenges, large and small, with a repertoire of approaches. When confronted with, say, a workplace conflict, I apply strategies to “survey the problem from various points of view.”

Often, that involves seeking common ground and showing empathy. Good faith efforts like these foster compromise.

Sadly though, I still sometimes succumb to the Lebowski Trap. The Lebowski Trap, if you haven’t heard of it (because I just made it up) is the condition of having the facts on your side while being so abrasive that the other person still resents you.

The Lebowski Trap

This means I must need more practice “exploring and incorporating multiple perspectives.” I am close to, but have not yet, reached the summit.

Integrated Perspective

Speaking of perspectives, I think I excel at “analyzing the interconnectedness” between systems and “augmenting my own limited perspective.” Being a research librarian prepares one for that.

I have become well versed at seeking facts from diverse sources and disciplines, then provisionally cobbling them into an incomplete whole… like a 1,000-piece puzzle you’ll only ever see 12 pieces of.

Considering not only outside perspectives, but unheard-of perspectives, and even as-yet-unknown perspectives, gives me a sense of intellectual humility on my way to the summit.

Self-Regulated Learning

Oof. I did not save the best for last. Learning I do with alacrity; it’s the self-regulation at which I fall short. Unfortunately, I need to make much more progress at “setting high expectations for myself and “developing a plan” to meet them.

Never has this deficit been more clear than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Setting organizational goals and deadlines has never been a strength of mine. The pandemic has given me even more slack. My work and personal time have started to run together, and I often fail to hold myself accountable. The struggle, the climb, is real.


As I tell students, these four Habits of Mind are not the only ones a university could have chosen to pursue, but they are extremely worthwhile.

Introspection has always been my forte. Even if I have much progress to make in the four HOMs, this penumbral habit will serve me well.

While I am at or near the summit in most of the Habits, my philosophy forces me to believe it’s always just a little further.

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