Tips/How To Strengthen Executive Function Skills for AdultsSep 03, 2022
As you may have heard me say before, you don’t have to have a diagnosis or even suspect ADHD to have underdeveloped EF skills.
The developmental energy that was intended for strengthening them could have gotten derailed by depression, anxiety, addictions, traumas, illnesses and more. All of these conditions, including ADHD, can create a developmental derailment that leaves you with the EF skills of a much younger person, and all the responsibilities of an adult who needs well-developed EF skills to create the quality of life you deserve.
How Executive Function Skills Work?
When I talk about executive function skills, I'm talking about things like your ability to plan, to organize both your environment and your mind. It’s also about being able to hold on to an idea or concept while simultaneously working it together with other pieces of information, which is your working memory, and to integrate multiple pieces of information.
Some of you are great at planning. You make a beautiful plan, and you may even schedule it. But the problem happens when it's time to actually implement the plan that you’ve created. It's in that moment when it’s time to start the action that it doesn't happen because you don't feel like it. Ironically, you felt like doing it, were maybe even excited about it, when you planned and scheduled it. But when it comes to actually taking action nothing happens. That's a huge problem for us.
From my perspective, it’s a horrible way to live because who controls how you wake up from day to day, and how will anything ever get accomplished, if we have to wait until we feel like doing it?
What we need are the EF skills to shift our state of mind to the place that we were when we originally scheduled and planned it. That’s how it can actually happen because we can tap into the excitement and purpose we had in the first place.
The things that I am talking about are all related to executive function skills. And there’s so many more–ones that even determine how successful you are in all types of relationships with people at work, at home, friendships–intimate or romantic. Underdeveloped EF skills affect any kind of relationship. Self-monitoring, an EF skill, is a relational skill. If we don't have the ability to see ourselves and see how we are relating with others, it's very difficult to have successful and rewarding relationships with other people, including yourself.
Success in Developing Your Executive Function Skills
We have to go back to the beginning…Ideally, these skills should have been developed during our childhood. Many of the games that we may have played as children actually taught us some of the Executive Function Skills. For example, one of the skills is Inhibiting which is all about pausing, stopping and shifting or making transitions.
I remember different games I played, whether it was “Simon Says” or “Musical Chairs,” that required many of these Executive Function Skills during these games.
The problem for me growing up was that there wasn't a game about “concentration.” And there was certainly a lot of judgment that I experienced for not playing the games right. If a playmate thought that I moved, and I hadn’t moved, or if I did this, or that, I got criticized. It wasn't a judgment free space. Perhaps you experienced this too as a child and maybe even as an adult in your job or in relationships.
Tips for improving executive function in ADHD adults?
- One of the things that allows these skills to develop, especially in adulthood, is a judgment-free space. We need a supportive, judgment-free community where we can ask questions and explore.
- We need to be able to learn the skills, practice them by experimenting and playing until we find what fits for us. When we find what works and practice it through repetition, it is at that point that it gets in our bones, and we get a sense and a feeling of what these skills are.
- It’s important to practice self-awareness (paying attention to yourself) to stay focused and present when developing your EF Skills.
- If you decide to take medication to help with your ADHD, it’s important to remember there are no skills in the pills that we take. Your skills won’t come back online with medication.
- Dive into a program, like my ADDventures In Achievement Foundational Skills Program, where you can fully commit to developing your EF skills for seven months in a group of like-minded individuals who are all seeking the same type of transformation.
- Have grace for yourself. You’re not broken or defective. However, you are responsible to get the help you need to grow. It’s important to let go of your limiting beliefs so that you can develop the skills you need.
Here's the thing. If you are like I was, you may have come to believe, because life's been so difficult and challenging, that developing your EF skills would be really hard. And you believe that this would take a lot of time, effort and energy. And the truth is, it doesn't have to. Change can happen in little committed bits of time, even 15 minutes a day. My program was carefully designed with methodical teaching, a scaffolding approach, coaching, lifework, and a private, supportive community.
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 a newfound freedom in your life!
We all need empowering beliefs and well-developed Executive Function skills to thrive as adults in today’s world, because if we can’t plan, organize, prioritize, get started and keep going until the end, or regulate our states of overwhelm and analysis paralysis so we can more easily make good decisions and know they are good decisions, it’s going to cost us dearly.
You each came to this lifetime with an empowering gift, and I would love it if each and every one of you on this planet were able to express his or her unique, empowering gifts freely, without the threat of being shamed or criticized or worse. So, let’s put an end to that stigma once and for all.
If you’d like to learn more about developing EF Skills and what a difference it can make, listen the the the podcast episode:
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