From the Greek μετα “beyond”, “after” and cognitio -onis “to know”.

The best way to reduce the risk of choices we may consider wrong is to understand our cognitive functioning and mental strategies, as well as the emotional and motivational processes underlying our actions and decisions; having knowledge of our mindset and awareness that our mental schemes may also become real “perceptive” traps.

Being able to think about thinking means having an attentive understanding of ourselves and of our characteristics (abilities, limits and methods of processing information); the features of the task and action to be undertaken (what it requires and what it entails and what degree of difficulty marks it); the features of the strategies that may be used to enhance our cognitive behaviour and achieve the goal. It means being intuitive, perceiving and recognising behaviours and habits; it means giving a name to reality.

Knowing the way we make our decisions, our way of thinking about thinking and thinking about how to understand and solve problems, we may distance ourselves from action to think reflectively about things, to act and not react to things that happens to us, to enhance and use our abilities, to predict what their performance will be by recognising emotional signals and taking active control of our cognitive processes.

Metacognition therefore represents an indispensable tool for gaining a clear understanding of how we learn, why we encounter difficulties in learning or performing a certain action, how we judge and evaluate ourselves, when and why we change our thinking and how we reorganise our attentional and memory resources.

Being aware of our intellectual functioning and cognitive processes is essential in order to be in control of our knowledge and to live meaningful experiences.
Such people are in fact aware of what they are doing, why they are doing it, when it is appropriate to repeat the action and under what conditions to change strategy. They are able to predict how they will tackle different situations, to choose behaviours and attitudes that are more functional for achieving their goals, thus managing to live their lives being more prepared for events.
They have a high perception of self and what motivates them; they have confidence in their abilities, they know they can do it; they have a locus of control or the ability to understand if their actions and failure depend on external or internal agents. Being more aware in fact increases the ability to analyse and review events, with resulting greater likelihood of being able to distinguish between our own interpretation of events and experiences and understanding reality more objectively.
Being endowed with an excellent metacognition ability is a good indication of also having other skills, specifically, problem solving and reasoning and decision-making. Having self-knowledge, procedural knowledge (how to perform a task) and conditional knowledge (when and why to apply a piece of knowledge rather than another) allows us to solve a problem faster and with less effort, not to make the same mistakes and implement strategies to overcome obstacles.