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Ask Dr B – about the High Cost of Not Knowing About Executive Functions - 036

ask dr. b executive function podcast Aug 24, 2017

Welcome to the sixteenth Ask Dr B episode, and the thirty-sixth episode overall of Harness Your ADHD Power, a podcast show I created to explore the many facets of adult life with ADHD and how you can learn to harness your personal ADHD power to become unstoppable.

I’m so glad you could join me today.  We’ve got a lot to cover today, so let’s get to it.

I’ve been pretty hyperfocused lately on Executive Function overall and specifically the skills that we need to develop for a more successful adult life, especially if we didn’t develop them starting back in childhood.  So whether you’ve mastered them all (which probably isn’t true if you’re listening to my podcast show) or will be learning them now, the point is, you need to learn them because they’re the foundational skills that we build a successful adult life on; with greater ability to successfully navigate the responsibilities that comes with adulthood.  No lie here!

So today’s episode is about the high cost of not knowing about executive function skills and the questions I’ve been getting recently about this topic: what is it, how come no one told me about it when I got my diagnosis of ADHD, and how come nobody told me I needed to develop these skills so that I could be more successful in my life?   

What I see has been happening over the years is that many of us have received a diagnosis of ADHD, whether it’s primarily inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive or a combination package of all three.  Some of us have opted to include medication as part of our “treatment plan” and others have not.  Some of us have opted to include rigorous exercise, good nutrition, a solid sleep routine and so on, as part of our “treatment plan.”  But nowhere in all of this have I heard of adults being told or knowing that they also had a decision to make of whether or not they were going to include the development and/or mastery of their Executive Function Skills.  This is not even a conversation that adults I know have had, unless of course they are in my ADDventures in Achievement program, in which case, this is definitely what we are focusing on because every student in the program needs to up their game with Executive Function skill-sets.

And based on what I’ve been seeing, I trust that you also need to up your Executive Function skill-sets and this may be the first time you are even hearing about this.  If so, I’m glad you’re here today and getting this information.

And remember to pay attention to your WINS!!  Please don't short-change yourself by thinking that it’s pointless or stupid to reward yourself for things you’re “supposed to do.”  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  And if you feel that these are the “thankless little tasks of life,” they probably feel that way because that’s how you think of them and have given them that “less than” meaning.  Please don’t.  These are the very things that deserve to be celebrated so they become easier to do consistently, and you find them more enjoyable each and every time.

Developing your Executive Function Skills and shifting your limiting beliefs is the fastest and most effective way to overcome ADHD limitations, find focus, gain confidence, and newfound freedom in your life!

My mission is to put an end to the worldwide needless suffering of adults with ADHD and those with under-developed Executive Function Skills - whether from ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, trauma, addictions, or chronic illnesses.  And, you don't need a formal diagnosis to know you need help developing these executive function skills in order to greatly reduce your suffering.

 

Full Episode Transcript HYAP Podcast Episode #036
Ask Dr B – about the High Cost of Not Knowing About Exec Function - 036
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Today is Episode 36 with Dr B, and the sixteenth “Ask Dr B” Show.

Hey ADDers! I’m so glad you could join me today. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

I’ve been pretty hyperfocused lately on Executive Function overall and specifically the skills that we need to develop for a more successful adult life, especially if we didn’t develop them starting back in childhood. So whether you’ve mastered them all (which probably isn’t true if you’re listening to my podcast show) or will be learning them now, the point is, you need to learn them because they’re the foundational skills that we build a successful adult life on; with greater ability to successfully navigate the responsibilities that comes with adulthood. No lie here!

So today’s episode is about the high cost of not knowing about executive function skills and the questions I’ve been getting recently about this topic: what is it, how come no one told me about it when I got my diagnosis of ADHD, and how come nobody told me I needed to develop these skills so that I could be more successful in my life?

What I see has been happening over the years is that many of us have received a diagnosis of ADHD, whether it’s primarily inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive or a combination package of all three. Some of us have opted to include medication as part of our “treatment plan” and others have not. Some of us have opted to include rigorous exercise, good nutrition, a solid sleep routine and so on, as part of our “treatment plan.” But nowhere in all of this have I heard of adults being told or knowing that they also had a decision to make of whether or not they were going to include the development and/or mastery of their Executive Function Skills. This is not even a conversation that adults I know have had, unless of course they are in my ADDventures in Achievement program, in which case, this is definitely what we are focusing on because every student in the program needs to up their game with Executive Function skillsets.

And based on what I’ve been seeing, I trust that you also need to up your Executive Function skillsets and this may be the first time you are even hearing about this. If so, I’m glad you’re here today and getting this information.

There are specific ways of teaching, learning, practicing and mastering these Executive Function skills based on how they are taught starting in childhood. I have adapted what I’ve learned about how kids learn these for how we adults can learn these too. I’ve taught many of them to myself over the years and am bringing more of them up to speed currently. I’ve found that one of the greatest ways to learn them is through “play.” In fact, there’s a great deal of research about “play” and how effective it is for learning. One of the first books I read about play and learning was “Play,” by Stuart Brown, M.D., who is the founder of the National Institute for Play. Dr. Brown states, “When we play, we are open to possibility and the sparks of new insights. Play – defined as any kind of purposeless, all-consuming, restorative activity – is the single most significant factor in determining our success and happiness.”

I need to shift for a moment to something important that bears saying now, and that is what those with ADHD and/or Executive Function Deficits want you all to know, if you don’t have their type of brain. First and foremost, that ADHD is real!! Truly!! It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask that others without these challenges believe that something that someone is struggling with is real and not made up. In fact, how rude and disrespectful it is to say otherwise; it’s kind of saying that the person is lying and just making up excuses for how things turn out time and time again. Let’s not do that!

Just because the DSM-V (the diagnostic manual used to code mental health conditions) and every other version of that book doesn’t see fit to assign a separate diagnostic code for adult ADHD, doesn’t make it less real. In fact, I just read recently that the DSM follows trends; it doesn’t lead them or set them. So I guess until the world believes that adult ADHD is real, then the DSM-V or future editions won’t see fit to give us an adult ADHD code that “proves” it’s a real diagnosis because it has a code. That’s sad. Enough said…

If you’re on this journey, I applaud your courage straight away. Truly! It definitely takes courage and training to rise up and become the person you were intended to become. And it’s worth every bit of the time, effort and energy it takes! I want you to have the life you want for yourself as much as any other person can want something for another. I feel it’s your birthright to have a good life and to be happy, and just because you didn’t have that in the first half of your life doesn’t mean you don’t get to have it in the second half; it just doesn’t.

Shifting focus for a moment since this is an Ask Dr B episode…

Do you have a hard time even putting words to what you don’t know? Let me help. It’s okay to send me questions like “I don’t understand why I can’t fall asleep at night, even when I’m tired” or “Why I’m so slow to wake up in the morning even after a full 8 hours sleep.” Whatever you send me as a question or statement, I’ll write you back if I don’t understand and ask you questions to clarify, so no worries. OK?

Wondering how you can ask me? Just click the link in the episode description on your mobile device or on my website where it says “Ask Dr B” and ask away. I’ll be notified and get to work on answering your question. You can also Ask Dr B every Monday at 5 pm Pacific time when I go live in the community group for Q & A. Love to see you there as well.

If you don’t know what I’m referring to as the community group, I created a group on Facebook where we can come together to celebrate WINS, interact about podcast episodes and I can answer your questions when I go live every Monday at 5 in the group. So please friend me on Facebook and then ask to join the community!

Whether this is your first or thirty-sixth time of listening to my show, you’ll hear me say time and again, that you are NOT what you do or don’t do; that you are more than that. WE are not defective or less than as people – as human beings; we’re just wired differently and the difference doesn’t have to be a bad thing, once you understand what activates you, how to sustain efforts with the least amount of stress possible, and have a lot of new tools to live your best life. It’s my hope that you’ll get some of what you need here.

I have a question for you about your state of mind and your WINS. I continue to ask you about your WINS and encourage you to acknowledge and celebrate them every day because they matter! Every WIN you acknowledge and celebrate with emotional authenticity, is changing your neurology, meanings and mindset in a positive way.

Please don't short-change yourself by thinking that it’s pointless or stupid to reward yourself for things you’re “supposed to do.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. And if you feel that these are the “thankless little tasks of life,” they probably feel that way because that’s how you think of them and have given them that “less than” meaning. Please don’t. These are the very things that deserve to be celebrated so they become easier to do consistently, and you find them more enjoyable each and every time.

So, what’s it going to be for you today? Maybe you finally took action on something that you’ve only been “trying to take action on” for months now; that’s a WIN. Perhaps you figured out what really lights you up and started eliminating everything else you could that isn’t essential to your life; that’s a WIN. Maybe you decided to live each day with intention as a formal practice; that’s certainly a WIN. You get the point; celebrate all of them. And none of this “half-hearted celebrating”; mean it. Exaggerate your emotions. YES!!!! WOW!! AWESOME!! You want your acknowledgement and celebration to register in your physiology. Many of us need a higher level of stimulation or intensity for things to register. So, if that’s you, give that to yourself and exaggerate your celebration of your WINS so you can actually feel it.

Today’s episode is all about answering the questions you have about issues or challenges you experience as an adult living with ADHD, and offering you hope. How much time do we have? Not much. So let’s get to it.

Thanks to those of you over the years who have shared your questions and concerns with me about ADHD and Executive Functions; you have been instrumental in the focus of today’s episode on the high cost of not knowing about executive functions and their relationship to ADHD.

Now back to being an adult with ADHD in today’s world.

Remember, for you to feel confident, you need to know with certainty that you are competent. And I don’t mean competent in everything you do; just in those areas of your life that you want to feel confident. As you become competent in more and more areas of your life, by increasing your mastery of essential skills, you will hopefully experience a greater sense of confidence overall. I hope that today’s focus will resonate with you and be of benefit. So let’s keep going.

Let’s look at some of the executive function skills: what they are, what they look like when they’re well developed and when they’re underdeveloped, and what you can do to develop each skill.

· Mental flexibility
o What it is
·This is your ability to adapt to new situations, improvise, and shift your focus and strategies when you encounter a sudden change in plans rather than having a meltdown or going into overwhelm
·It often refers to the cognitive skill that allows us to learn from our mistakes and to change our approach to a task; to not be rigid in how we live life.
o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Are able to step outside of your “self” perspective and into “other” perspective, to view situations from others’ point of view without your own biases
· Are able to shift your mood when you don’t get your way or lose at a game of tennis or racquetball and accept defeat or disappointment with grace
· Are able to make the necessary transitions through the day, such as leave a party to go home to sleep or stop surfing the Internet and get to work on time
· Are able to embrace changes as they occur and shift your energy and your focus instead of going into overwhelm or becoming angry because something changed
· Are able to allow yourself time to attempt to figure out something new, try different approaches, rather than shut down or quit

With under-developed skills
· Cannot adapt to a change in plans very easily or easily change your own plans
· Stay mental or emotionally “stuck” in stuff from the past and ruminate or dwell on that
· Become oppositional, insistent or indignant in new situations where you have trouble adapting or fitting in
· Have a lot of difficulty with transitions for many reasons; letting go of what you are doing to shift to something else and embrace that new thing. Also, difficulty going back to what you stopped once you have finished the new thing that needed your attention
·If something doesn’t go the way it is “supposed to go” you get frustrated and perhaps just quit

o What you can do to strengthen Mental Flexibility
· Practice patience, while learning about something new while being open-minded as well as okay with not knowing right away how something works
· Practice learning something new by trial and error; allowing yourself to try something and fail and take what you learned from the failed attempt into the next attempt with a higher possibility of success
· Work on your beliefs about “making mistakes” until you can get comfortable with doing so. It has to be okay to make mistakes so you can learn from them
· Take your time in new situations so you can learn about them and integrate the new information with previous information to come up with a new learning or insight.
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro specifically on Mental Agility

· Focus
o What it is
· This is your ability to start a task without hesitation or procrastination and maintain your attention and effort until you complete the task, even with lots of distractions around.
· It’s many skills rolled into one: it’s our ability to avoid daydreaming and quickly tune into a task, our ability to know how and where to start on a task, and to remain attentive and ignore distractions until the task is completed
· It often refers to the cognitive skill that is essential for us to learn effectively.

o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Are able to continue to work on tasks that feel boring
· Are able to complete tasks in a timely fashion without dragging your feet and it taking hours longer
· Are able to achieve long-term goals, not just short-term ones
· Are able to complete personal tasks or work assignments without interruptions or distractions
· Are able to get right to things instead of taking time to get “warmed up” to the task that needs doing

· With under-developed skills
· Cannot just stay with a task from start to finish; restless and are often up and down
· Are easily distracted by the surrounding activities, people or noises; might even need to go check it out
· Are frequently bored
· Difficulty sitting through an entire movie or meal
· Procrastinate on getting started on things
· Often don’t complete tasks; sometimes half finished or less
· Often do things quickly or last minute and quality is poor

o What you can do to strengthen Focus
· Find and focus on something of interest in the task to be completed and stay focused on what’s interesting to stay with it until it’s completed
· Choose an activity that will require your full attention and practice it often, such as a sport with others or musical instrument as part of a group
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro specifically on Focus

· Organization
o What it is
· This is your ability to create order out of disorder; to see the patterns and sequences.
· It’s the ability to collect everything you need to complete a task and being able to step back with perspective to see the entire situation and make sure you have everything needed
· It often refers to the cognitive skill that allows us to keep track of our actions, our things and ourselves. It’s also important for problem solving; goal setting and supports time management.

o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Know where things are and how to find them
· Things have “homes” and are returned there daily
· Are able to work on long-term projects because of the ability to see the flow or unfolding of the project over time in an organized image or thought
· With under-developed skills
· Often lose things and spend lots of time in the hunt
· Have very messy homes or rooms or spaces
· Cabinets, closets, drawers or any space that is a “container” is disorganized
· Unable to find things easily when they are needed
· Lacks “foresight” along with organization to look ahead to what is needed when a project is going to be started and have everything on hand ready to go

o What you can do to strengthen Organization
· Find something in your life that is naturally or easily organized by you and use that as a model for what to do in other situations
· Get help learning to break down tasks into smaller ones and learning to see the organizational flow in the smaller ones that is also there in the larger task
· Using calendars or organizers is fine so long as you have the ability to use them
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro and focus on how each training game is organized to achieve its goals

· Planning
o What it is
· This is your ability to develop strategies to accomplish goals; it’s taking the time “before” starting a task to think it through and know that you are competent to start and finish the task.
· This has many steps from the thinking it through to the gathering of materials needed to the actually taking step-by-step until the goal is achieved.
· It also includes noting how realistic the goal is, having the foresight to “see” possible obstacles to achieving the goal and planning for alternative ways to achieve the goal.
· It often refers to the cognitive skill that also includes foresight; and both are necessary for goal-directed behavior

o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Are able to plan for work, personal and social activities without dropping the ball on any of them or getting overwhelmed
· Are good at scheduling activities
· Are able to look ahead and anticipate the supplies or tools necessary to successfully complete a task and have them available and ready to go
· Are able to effectively prioritize activities; using criteria to plan the sequence
· With under-developed skills

· Have difficulty setting priorities and goals
· Difficulties with the step-by-step processes
· Complete things at the last minute “reactively” since there is no plan for getting things done
· Impulsively jump into things without planning for how you will do them; like not reading directions before starting something
· Often live in the moment; “in time” instead of transitioning back and forth to “through time”

o What you can do to strengthen Planning
· Practicing and improving foresight is important to effective planning skills
· Create a checklist for something long-term or larger than immediate and go over it with a friend to see that you’ve considered everything in the plan and list
· Plan an outing and then go on the outing and see if what you planned included everything that you needed to have a successful trip; learn from the experience
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro and planning how you will approach the training game rather than just jumping in and doing it without a plan

· Self-Awareness
o What it is
·This is your ability to accurately judge your own performance, behavior and skills
· Being aware of yourself; your feelings, sensations, thoughts, meanings you put to them, etc.
· Helps us to learn from our mistakes, accept criticism and listen and understand the feelings of others
· It often refers to the cognitive skill that allows us to be aware of ourselves from outside of ourselves; what the impact of our actions are on others

o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Are able to identify what you need to learn in order to successfully complete a task
· Understand your personal strengths and weaknesses
· Able to use self-talk or self-instruction and walk your self through a task with, “First I’ll do this, then this and then this…”
· Able to both understand and articulate personal feelings
· Understand how your behavior impacts others
· Willing to honestly evaluate yourself
· Able to recognize the needs of others and meet them

· With under-developed skills
· Have a lot of difficulty getting outside of yourself and understanding others perspectives
· Difficulty understanding nonverbal cues or communications
· Frequent conflicts with others due to misunderstandings
· Behavior inappropriately due to lack of self-awareness of impact on others
· Difficulty honestly and accurately assessing yourself; embellish
· Unlikely to make or take the time to double check work and make simple mistakes

o What you can do to strengthen Self-Awareness
· Practice making predictions and seeking if your predictions are close to what the outcome is; what’s going to happen if..
· Express yourself a loud and “hear” what you are thinking rather than just thinking it inside yourself
· Get ready to engage in an activity in advance and prepare by anticipating what is needed; to show up intentionally to have the experience be what you want it to be rather than whatever it is
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro and pay attention to your Self-Awareness as you train

· Self-Control
o What it is
· This is your ability to control your feelings and behaviors in order to make good decisions, while also dealing with impulsivity urges and frustrations
· It is the ability to not take an action until we have engaged our thinking and decided it is the right or appropriate action to take
· It often refers to the cognitive skill that allows us to regulate behavior and emotions. Helps us to think before we act; is the ability to STOP, think and then act, rather than impulsively ACT first and regret it afterwards

o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Are able to step back and assess a social situation or work situation and understand what is going on before joining in or saying anything
· Able to use good judgment when crossing a street or driving a car or using a knife or making a decision
· Able to understand the need for waiting for your turn and able to regulate yourself so you can wait your turn and not impulsively jump in out of turn
· Are able to manage your emotions and feelings well enough to handle disappointment or frustration well and not get overwhelmed or have a meltdown
· Are able to accept constructive criticism without becoming defensive or angry
· Have a positive rather than negative self-image

· With under-developed skills
· Act out with anger or frustration when you need to wait your turn or wait to receive something you ask for
· Act out in frustration when you find some task too difficult for you to start or stay with or finish
· Tendency to blurt out and not wait for your turn or the appropriate time to speak
· Overly aggressive in language or physically with others
· Do things last minute and sloppy work is okay with you

o What you can do to strengthen Self-Control
· Practice STOP and GO often; time yourself and get yourself to honor the timer and the purpose of practicing STOP and GO
· Practice with others stop and go and taking turns and reading social cues f timing
Practice working with your own frustration and tolerating the distress it might be causing
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro specifically on Self-Control which includes many of the training games

· Time Management
o What it is
· This is your ability to adapt to prioritize tasks and complete things in a timely fashion because you understand the passing of time and are aware of its passing
· It also refers to sticking to a schedule once you have planned it and scheduled it
· It often refers to the cognitive skill that allows us to accurately estimate the time things will take us and start when it is time to do so

o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Are good at planning and scheduling
· Able to judge how long something will take to complete
· Able to complete tasks in a timely fashion
· Prioritize activities effectively
· Anticipate accurately the time needed to complete long-term projects and start on time

· With under-developed skills
· Often rush through tasks because of poor time estimating or planning
· Take too long to get ready for work or any activities
· Spend more time procrastinating than working
· Difficulty estimating accurately how long it will take to complete a task
· Often stay up very late to complete work assignments or other tasks that are due

o What you can do to strengthen Time Management
· Reward yourself for getting right to something and completing it
· Time yourself for parts of tasks so you can estimate more accurately what the total task might take
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro specifically on Time Management since they are timed

· Working Memory
o What it is
· This is your ability to remember and use relevant information while in the middle of learning something new; the ability to hold onto something known while learning something new and integrating them
· It often refers to the cognitive skill that allows us to remember what we are about to do when we leave the situation for a moment to do something else

o What it looks like
· With well-developed skills
· Are able to remember and follow complicated directions
· Able to use what is learned in a previous experience in a new situation
· Able to sustain attention and effort throughout entire task and complete them
· Reorganize thoughts or materials that encourage better outcomes and further learning
· Maintain level of engagement while performing a task even when shifting activities within a given task

· With under-developed skills
· Can only remember the first or last things in a series of directions
· Difficulty with tasks that include more than one step
· Forget what you are doing in the middle of doing it
· Absent-minded and often need help remembering directions to do tasks
· Difficulty retelling a story in your own words
· Very confused when attempting to complete multi-step problems or tasks

o What you can do to strengthen Working Memory
·Practice remembering the first piece of info while learning a new piece and then recalling the original piece of info
· Practice rehearsing, chunking to build strength with working memory
· Training with cognitive apps, such as Peak Pro specifically on Working Memory; great training tools for this


· I hope what I’ve shared helps you to have a basic understanding of what these skills are. As to the high cost of not knowing about them and acquiring them, I hope I have been able to show you how not pursuing the learning and mastery of these skills will stand in your way for so many things you want to do in your life and make them much more difficult to try and achieve or just do, because of these missing skills.

That’s it for executive function skills today. I’ll be talking about this topic again in future episodes and probably focusing on one at a time with stories in the regular Monday episodes to help you understand them more deeply and work on them through the stories I use to illustrate them. I want to thank any of you who know you have contributed to the content for today’s topic for the Ask Dr B format.

A Favorite Quote: Ray Bradbury said, “Life is trying things to see if they work.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is “Are you willing to try new things, fail at some of them and get back up to try something new again and again until you are satisfied with your outcome?” If you haven’t been, I hope you will start today.

Whether you’re learning from my podcast episodes or live videos or part of the new community group on FB or working with me directly in my innovative online program or 1:1, I’m here to serve your needs, and it’s an honor to accompany you on your journey and make a difference in the quality of your life.

New episodes are released on Mondays and Thursdays. As a subscriber, the newest episode will be in your feed by 1 am Pacific time, plus you won’t miss out on anything “special” I create; certainly a good reason to subscribe.

Please share this podcast with your friends and family, if you are finding it valuable, as well as rate the show. And if you’d like to do a little more, I’d be grateful if you wrote a thoughtful review on iTunes so I know I’m meeting your needs and how the show is helping you, if it is. You don’t have to write anything lengthy; just a line or two would be great! I do love hearing from you, reading your reviews, learning about your struggles and how the show is benefiting you and those you care about. It continues to mean a lot to me to know that your life is getting a little bit better every time we get together.

So that’s it for today. If you want to participate in the survey, ask me a question for a podcast episode or live video, get your free resources, receive periodic updates on new happenings with Dr B, find out more or enroll in ADDventures in Achievement or just download your Show Notes, you can do all of that on my website, as well as learn about other resources and services, that is…if that’s of interest to you. Thanks for listening… Until the next time… Bye for now…

 

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