Time to Up Your Game with Better Executive Function Skills - 109Nov 22, 2022
Executive function skills are all important for us to function well as an adult, whether this means raising children, running a household, working for a company or ourselves, or being in healthy relationships.
These skills are necessary so that we can get things done and not be in a constant state of overwhelm or frustration because we can't keep up with our adult responsibilities. We all need to be competent in Executive Function skills in order to feel confident in our adult life.
In this podcast episode, Dr B talks about:
- The importance of developing your Executive Function skills
- Some examples of underdeveloped Executive Function skills
- Adult ADHD symptoms and diagnosis
- A brand new way you can work with Dr B for less than $1 a day
Full Episode Transcript Time to Up Your Game with Better Executive Function Skills – 109
Hi there Aspiring Achievers,
I realize we are all at different stages of awareness about underdeveloped Executive Function Skills and adult ADHD. And, if you are just becoming aware, I don’t want to assume you know what I mean when I say “underdeveloped Executive Function Skills” or why they are important or how to tell if you need help with yours. So, in case you aren’t yet fully aware of how well-developed EF skills can make you more competent and able to live a less chaotic life…
Well-developed Executive Function skills help you to see the bigger picture of your life with greater clarity, be responsive instead of reactive when things happen, appropriately transition from one task to another, give empowering meanings to situations instead of limiting ones from the past, and see yourself neutrally in your interactions with others.
They also help you to get started and follow through to completion on tasks, integrate new pieces of information as it comes in with what is already known, organize your thoughts and plan what to say and do with the needed details, prioritize thoughts or tasks appropriately, make a schedule and follow it, monitor the tasks that are your responsibility and course correct when things get off-course, organize your physical things to minimize clutter and know where your things live, put your focus and attention where it needs to go, when it needs to be there, and how to maintain all of this throughout your adult life. There’s more but I think you get the picture.
These EF skills are all important for us to function well as an adult, whether this means raising children, running a household, working for a company or for ourselves, or being in healthy relationships. These skills are necessary so that we can get things done and not be in a constant state of overwhelm or frustration because we can’t keep up with our adult responsibilities. We need to be competent in these EF skills in order to feel confident in our adult life.
Here’s some examples of underdeveloped Executive Function:
Being very distractible or having trouble focusing on just one thing.
Focusing too much on just one thing.
Daydreaming or “spacing out” when you need to be paying attention (such as during a conversation, meeting, class, exam, or even driving).
Trouble planning or carrying out a task because you can’t visualize the finished product or goal; you lack the details and criteria for the task.
Difficulty motivating yourself to start a task that seems difficult or uninteresting, and not knowing how to shift your state to feel like it.
Struggling to move from one task to another; often for emotional reasons.
Getting distracted or interrupted partway through a task, causing you to misplace items or lose your train of thought (like forgetting to turn off the oven because you were going to do so “in just a minute” and that turned into hours and a burnt supper).
Problems with impulse control, like eating foods you said you wouldn’t because you are wanting to feel healthier.
Struggling with thinking before you speak, causing you to blurt out the first interesting thing that pops in your head without considering whether or not it’s totally off topic.
Having trouble explaining your thought process clearly because you understand it in your head, but putting it into words for others feels overwhelming.
So, if you are living more like the underdeveloped examples rather than the well-developed examples, you just might want some help with your EF skills.
We all have Executive Function strengths and challenges that affect our attention, mood, learning, work, and relationships. However, if your EF skills are too underdeveloped, your challenges might over-shadow your strengths and cause you needless suffering. And if knowing there is a diagnosis that explains what I am sharing with you, whether or not you have ADHD, is comforting to you, then listen up. In the newest version of the ICD-11 they added a diagnostic code for “impaired executive functioning” and describe it as “impairment in higher-level cognitive abilities, such as planning, sequencing, concept formation, abstracting, and decision-making.” That code number is MB21.7, if you want to look it up.
And one other important fact about EF skills is that you don’t have to have adult ADHD to have underdeveloped EF skills. This can occur due to chronic depression, anxiety, illnesses, plus addictions or traumatic experiences. And, if you do have adult ADHD, it is highly likely that you also have underdeveloped EF skills.
Next, I want to talk about adult ADHD. The DSM-V, which is the most often used diagnostic manual, states that ADHD is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and/or impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. After that, the manual has a long list of other symptoms that are considered part of the diagnosis for adult ADHD (which I feel are all executive function skills). It’s why I said earlier that you don’t have to have adult ADHD to have underdeveloped EF skills and that if you do, it is highly likely that you will also have underdeveloped EF skills.
While facilitating an adult ADHD meetup group for a number of years, what members mostly talked about were all the other things in the list of symptoms and not so much about the inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. Yes, they experienced those 3 symptoms but more so all the rest of the symptoms. This got me to thinking about the symptoms and differential diagnoses; especially while being a primary researcher for two international studies back around 2005. I realized that many of the participants in the Major Depression study most likely had underdeveloped EF skills and that it may have played a factor in their ongoing depression. Just a theory of mine since we weren’t assessing for EF skill development.
An accurate differential diagnosis is important to determine what is primary and what is secondary, and to rule in or rule out other reasons for the symptoms you are experiencing. This is important given the many adults worldwide who self-diagnose their ADHD for a variety of reasons. There may be more to it than just ADHD.
So, could someone be anxious or depressed because of their underdeveloped Executive Function Skills and their inability to function well in their adult life? Yes. And what causes these EF skills to derail in the first place and then remain underdeveloped? Many life experiences. And could someone be misdiagnosed with depression and/or anxiety as the primary diagnoses when in fact it is a result of their undiagnosed EF skill underdevelopment? Yes.
Over the 30+ years of my career as a licensed therapist, facilitator of an adult ADHD meetup group, volunteer in ADHD organizations as a conference speaker, and support group facilitator as well as member of professional advisory boards, it has become clear to me that how we are viewing this global problem is too narrow and incomplete.
I am clear that the bigger problem is about underdeveloped EF skills that remain that way once they derail; because they don’t just re-boot after whatever derailed them concludes. And what derails them? Depression. Anxiety. ADHD. Traumatic events. Addictions. Chronic illnesses…and more. How does this derailment take place? We are all wired for the development of these EF skills when we are born. They begin to develop throughout childhood and then life happens. The energy and attention that was going into their development gets pulled to something else that needs our attention and energy such as the conditions I mentioned. We deal with those situations and once they are over, life returns of some version of normal except it doesn’t. Our EF skills have derailed and need to be intentionally re-booted to continue their development. If we don’t intentionally do so, then our development has stalled out wherever it did. Is the vastness of this problem becoming more clear to you? I hope so.
In case you are new to the world of adult ADHD and diagnostic criteria, let me offer you some concrete information about that diagnosis. According to the DSM-V, all of the following criteria must be met for a diagnosis of ADHD in adults:
Five or more symptoms of inattention and/or ≥5 symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity must have persisted for ≥6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with the developmental level and negatively impacts social and academic/occupational activities.
· Several symptoms (inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive) were present before the age of 12 years. (This used to be age 7; both ages are arbitrary)
· Several symptoms (inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive) must be present in ≥2 settings (e.g., at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities). And symptoms must occur “often.”
· There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning.
Symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication, or withdrawal).
Diagnosis should be based on a complete history and evaluation of the patient.
The following symptoms are listed in the DSM-V for making a diagnosis of adult ADHD, yet these are symptoms are based on male children and have been modified as symptoms for all adults.
ADHD symptoms of Inattention
· Makes careless mistakes/lacks attention to detail
· Difficulty sustaining attention
· Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
· Fails to follow through on tasks and instructions
· Exhibits poor organization
· Avoids/dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
· Loses things necessary for tasks/activities
· Easily distracted (including unrelated thoughts)
· Is forgetful in daily activities
ADHD symptoms of Hyperactivity/Impulsivity
· Fidgets with or taps hands or feet, squirms in seat
· Leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
· Experiences feelings of restlessness
· Has difficulty engaging in quiet, leisurely activities
· Is “on-the-go” or acts as if “driven by a motor”
· Talks excessively
· Blurts out answers
· Has difficulty waiting their turn
· Interrupts or intrudes on others
It’s not your fault if you think it’s ADHD that’s been biting you in the butt all these years. The symptom list for ADHD is about 90% underdeveloped Executive Function Skills and that 90% belongs in the diagnostic criteria of other conditions such as chronic depression, anxiety, illnesses, as well as addictions, and traumatic experiences.
Life has become increasingly challenging for many people. More and more women are being diagnosed later in life; sometimes much later in life. If this is you, then you are recognizing the significant impact that not knowing has had on your life. If you stop there, it doesn’t necessarily get better. You need to take action by developing your EF skills; the very life skills that we all need to create a quality of life for ourselves that we are happy with.
And that’s why I want to make sure that everyone knows the developmental state of their EF skills, which is why I created a free resource as a starting point for that purpose. Have you gotten your free PDF, “13 Signs Weak Executive Functioning Is Holding You Back”? And, have you read it and scored yourself? If not, there’s no time like the present to do so. And if that free PDF shows you that your EF skills are sorely lacking in their development, and you want to know what you can do about that news, be sure you take the next step.
Get your free roadmap and free training video about The Transformation Club. It may be exactly what you’ve been waiting for; especially if you aren’t ready yet for the ADDventures In Achievement Foundational Skills program. I’ve been asked a number of times to create something that is smaller than the AIA-FS program as a place for people to start working with me. And that’s exactly what The Transformation Club is. I just rolled it out and there is a time-limited offer for less than $1 a day waiting for you until November 30, 2022.
I’m excited about this new opportunity for you and this new vehicle for me to serve more people who need to be developing their EF skills. And the bottom line when your EF skills are underdeveloped is that you just are as competent as you need to be in today’s world. The Transformation Club. is a unique Membership that helps adults with underdeveloped Executive Function skills (with or without ADHD) increase competence within days without overwhelm, moral judgments, or self-doubt so they can feel calm and in control. So, your next step once you know your EF results or even before, is to find the link in the show notes and get your free roadmap and free training about The Transformation Club. Take action right away and find out if The Transformation Club is right for you, before this very special lifetime offer goes away for good at midnight on November 30th.
Assuming for the moment that you check this out and get your free roadmap and training video, you’ll see that we’ll be developing your EF skills in 3 phases: Enlightened Mind, Empowered Emotions and Bold Behaviors. Plus, it will be fun. We are feeling-driven people and if it isn’t fun, we just don’t engage. I love creating games and fun strategies for engaging learning experiences.
Side note, if you’re older than 30, you may have heard that your EF skills start developing around the age of 2 and finish developing by age 30. That means that many adults are misinformed about what is possible for them. I’m 71 now and my EF skills are better than they have ever been. The majority of my students are over 30 and they are all developing their EF skills. So, just like Roger Bannister busted the limiting belief that humans couldn’t run a 4-minute mile or their heart would explode, I am busting the limiting belief that adults over the age of 30 can definitely develop their EF skills to become stronger and stronger over time, instead of the cognitive decline that we are led to believe awaits us as we get older. Definitely a limiting belief from my personal experience and those of my students. Neuroplasticity dictates that as long as we're here and alive, we can continue to develop the skills we need. It doesn't cap out at 25 or 30 and that’s it.
So, let’s talk about what you can do to start developing your Executive Function skills today because it seems to be the best kept secret in the mental health field. Your mind is a powerful asset, even if you currently don’t feel that way about yours; it can learn and develop the skills you need to succeed. Executive Function skills are getting more press lately, and that’s a good thing. There are books to read and podcasts to listen to and all of that is great! It’s about time that Executive Function skills came front and center. However, there’s more to developing these skills than just gaining more information. You need to apply the information you get and often there are obstacles preventing you from doing so. Missing pre-skills, limiting beliefs, outdated identities, codependency, and even cumulative traumatic experiences can all slow you down and keep you from developing the EF skills you need.
I can tell you ways to develop the skills, but it doesn't mean that's going to be the right way for you. Because what I've learned after 30+ years of working individually with clients and working with my student groups for almost 6 years now, is that people learn and develop their executive function skills differently. You can't get out of a book what you can get live by having someone offer you training and then answer your questions and guide you to find out what’s going to work for you or what you need to do.
And if you're reading a book to develop your skills, it's pretty cookie cutter with a book. That’s why I am actively involved in my programs; and now will be in The Transformation Club as well. If you want to learn more about what you get with this special time-limited, lifetime membership in The Transformation Club, be sure that you get your free roadmap and training right away because all the details of this special offer are right there under the training video.
I’ve heard it said many times in years past that we are having two experiences in this lifetime: that of a human being having a spiritual experience, and that of a spiritual being having a human experience. Either way, you are a precious child of the universe; and are called a “human being” not a “human doing” for good reason. You don’t have to earn your value; you were born with it. Your value comes from “who” you are “being”; not what you are doing, which means that you can wake up every day with your value 100% and that’s pretty awesome. It’s a great win.
Speaking of wins, what’s it going to be for you today? You have been making your bed every day for an entire week; that’s wonderful. You have been spending 15 minutes a day decluttering your bedroom and it’s really coming along; that’s awesome. You’ve been making yourself a priority at least once a week and feeling so much happier with your life; that’s fantastic. Each one of these WINS deserves your full-hearted celebrating! YES!!! WOW!!! AWESOME!!! I know you all have wins – big and small – and I am hopeful that you are celebrating them all every day.
How much time do we have? Not much. So, let’s get to it.
My hope is that eventually more and more healthcare providers will see the benefits of specialized Executive Function Skills Training for adults, no matter what diagnosis they give us, since the development of these skills gets derailed for many conditions other than ADHD. And yes, it would be wonderful if we had been given this opportunity when we were kids, but that didn’t happen for most. We are being given this opportunity now, as adults, and it is our choice to close the gap now or not. Our quality of life depends on what we decide.
Three important pieces of the puzzle for well-being is (1) your quality of sleep, (2) the nutrients for your mind-body and (3) staying well hydrated. Are you getting a solid 8 hours of restorative sleep per night? Do you awaken feeling refreshed and energized? And what about the nutrients you give yourself? Are they wholesome and health-building? And your daily hydration? Are you drinking your 64 oz. of pure water a day or more? If only drink water when you are thirsty, that is a sign of dehydration. Better to get ahead of it and drink water throughout the day.
These are 3 rituals you can start building right away until they become your new automatic way of being. Daily consistency is so important here, as is keeping your word to yourself if you make the commitment to these 3 rituals. If you do decide to live by all 3 of them, they will change your life.
And speaking of changing your life, that is also what developing your EF skills will do for you. I tried many approaches for the development of my own EF skills along the way, and I have found one approach to be truly effective: receiving specialized training, getting answers to my questions about that training, and making my changes in a judgment-free, supportive community environment where I am safe to be me. And that is what I created The Transformation Club to be.
If you’ve been dreaming of better EF skills (and who doesn’t wish they were more organized and capable in their daily life?), perhaps now is the time to go beyond dreaming. If you want to develop better executive functioning and just want to take a small step that will elevate your skills quicker than any other you’ve worked with, I encourage you to check out The Transformation Club.
EF skills are a system for a way of interfacing with your life experiences in an exceptionally productive way. This means more balance in your life and more things getting done. The choice is yours. If you are committed to becoming more competent, are actively seeking real solutions to your challenges, and are willing to invest in yourself, then get your free roadmap and training about The Transformation Club, and if now is your time, I’ll see you on the inside of TTC. We’ve already loaded up the Membership with some training videos to get you started until we have our first live training in early December. Remember, you get lifetime access to TTC if you act now and get in before November 30, 2022.
Please slow down and become a student of your own life. Understand what you need to succeed with the multi-faceted brain you have. Take action on what you learn about yourself. This is the lifework that lies ahead for you if this is your time.
A Favorite Quote: William Glasser said, “No human being will work hard at anything unless they believe that they are working for competence.”
I studied the works of William Glasser years ago. He was an American psychiatrist whose career highlights include theories about personal choice, personal responsibility and personal transformation. His ideas about schools not being where we get to fail touched me, because if we are set up to fail, why try? If we are set up to succeed, it’s okay to be a student and experience learning.
Loving the podcast? Here’s how to get even more support: · Free PDF - 13 Signs Weak Executive Functioning Is Holding You Back: https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/Executive-Function · Free PDF and free training video about The Transformation Club: https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/ttcprogram Be sure to check this out; it’s going to replace the Facebook group with live monthly training, live Q&A session, private podcast episodes and community support in a private forum · EF Information List about the 7-month AIA-FS Program: https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/AIA · Living Beyond ADHD Facebook Support Group for podcast listeners is being archived on December 1, 2022 and transitioned to The Transformation Club so that we can have the training and support that those of you in the Facebook group have asked for when you joined that group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/livingbeyondadhd
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If you are seriously ready to stop your needless suffering and develop your competence without overwhelm, moral judgments or self-doubt so that you can feel calm and in control, be sure to check the show notes about The Transformation Club and other resources. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on something that will change your life. These are real solutions to the challenges you are experiencing, and they are available now. Time is our most precious asset, and none of us have time to waste on solutions that don’t work. I would love to help you realize a new freedom, that is…if that’s of interest to you. Thanks for listening… Until the next time… Bye for now…
- The Transformation Club – A unique membership that helps adults with underdeveloped Executive Function skills (with or without ADHD) increase competence in days without overwhelm, moral judgements, or self-doubt so they can feel calm and in control. CLICK HERE to opt-in for the free training and learn more about The Transformation Club.
- Get your copy of 13 Signs Weak Executive Functioning is Holding You Back: https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/Executive-Function
- Join the Living Beyond ADHD Facebook Group & hang out with your peeps
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