“The single greatest predictor of…success is executive function.”
You’ve hit the wall. You haven’t yet created the outcome you’ve been yearning for. You’re wondering if it’s because you’re not disciplined enough, not motivated enough, or simply not enough. You have a vision, but you find you’re not taking action at the right time or in the best way.
Are you repeating the same mistakes? Not taking the long view? Running out of time? Putting off what you’re afraid of?
I’m a big believer in going deeply. It’s the only way we can truly transform our experiences. Yet, there’s another way to look at life outcomes that you may not have thought of.
A simplified list of EF skills would include the following:
- goal-directed persistence
- working memory
- emotional/self- regulation
- resisting distractions
- time management
If you’re looking for motivation and purposeful attention, EF skills are the motherlode.
EF is your command central for everything you do – or don’t do – in a day. It also includes how you feel inside and how you respond outside. Get to know it, embrace it, and learn how to work with it for optimal performance. When it comes to positively changing your outcomes, there is no limit.
Remember that you don’t have to have ADHD to work on your executive functioning. If you have a brain, you can tap into this great resource.
How to Know You’re on the Right Track
When your EF skills work well, you feel in control of yourself. You’re proactive and decisive.
You enjoy deeper and more trusting relationships, learn more effectively and efficiently, execute at work consistently and productively, and sustain effort over the long haul as you create that new business.
Best Intentions, Poor Results
When your EF skills don’t work so well, you set out with good intentions but get distracted by every call or email and never get to your project. You establish the right contacts for your new business, but you don’t book the time you need to plan your next steps more deeply. You decide your health is a priority, but you don’t have a plan to put that into place.
Free Yourself from Blame
Most people get upset with themselves when they repeatedly fail to achieve the goals they’ve set. I see this in my work all the time. They don’t know who or what to blame, so they think they’re at fault somehow. Are you taking your failures personally too? What would your life look like if you chose not to identify with your failures? You are so much more than your outputs!
Consider how free you’d feel if you knew that you simply needed to pay attention to your operating system.
4 Steps to Strengthen Your EF Skills
1. Recognize that your brain can change. Everything you do repeatedly changes the structure of your brain, so choose wisely.
2. Identify your EF strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not sure what they are, this is an excellent inventory In this document, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare also provide clear and accessible definitions of the basic EF skills.
3. Choose a strategy for your weak EF skill – and use it – often.
If your working memory function is low, making it hard to remember what people say to you, focus instead on the general meaning of what they’re saying. Connect with the message, not the detail. Trust that you’ll remember the meaning.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about planning the next steps for your business, give yourself lots of time to sit with it. Make sure no one disturbs you. Minimize distractions. See it as a creative time. Brainstorm – only. You’ll know what to do next.
If you’re always running out of time, look at what you actually do in a day. Ask yourself: How long are these tasks actually taking? What’s distracting me? What choices am I making about my time?
Meditation, yoga or other body work trains the brain to slow down and step out of doing. These practices help you connect with the present moment, increase your focus, and create more clarity.
More deeply still, practice checking in with yourself periodically during the day and ask, “How am I right now? What is here? What do I need? Am I reacting? If so, how can I slow down? These (metacognitive) questions will help you increase your purposeful attention, leading to better choices and the successful outcomes you’re looking for.