(Everyone) Why is Executive Functioning so IMPORTANT?

 This entry was posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2019 at 6:43 pm

As a kid I struggled mightily with the deeply held belief that I was stupid. As you can imagine, going through school was a real challenge when you have this deeply held belief, because, well, there are so many reinforcers……..especially when you are always on the lookout for them.

Looking back, I recognize now that much of my internal struggle came from a lack of training and education in my limited executive functioning abilities. It would’ve been these abilities that could’ve saved me a great deal of heartache, strife, discouragement, etc.

So, what are executive functioning skills? Our Webster’s Dictionary for 2019 (aka Wikipedia) would state:   “Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.”  Huh?

  • 1) What are cognitive processes?
    1. Cognitive processes are the procedures in charge of processing all the information we receive from the environment.
      1. Ex. Short version – Sitting on the couch watching Dr. Phil and you smell something burning. Your brain starts firing and working to figure out the source when you realize that you put a pizza in the oven and forgot about it.

Back to Wikipedia: “Executive functions gradually develop and change across the lifespan of an individual and can be improved at any time over the course of a person’s life. Similarly, these cognitive processes can be adversely affected by a variety of events which affect an individual.”

  • Our brains have plasticity (the ability to learn new things well into our old age) ……meaning, because you may not have the best Executive Functioning skills, you can still learn them at any age.

Why is Executive Functioning so important?

  • It allows for the abilities that enable goal-oriented behavior, such as the ability to plan, and execute a goal. These include:
    • Flexibility: the capacity for quickly switching to the appropriate mental mode.
    • Theory of mind: insight into other people’s inner world, their plans, their likes and dislikes.
    • Anticipation: prediction based on pattern recognition.
    • Problem-solving: defining the problem in the right way to then generate solutions and pick the right one.
    • Decision making: the ability to make decisions based on problem-solving, on incomplete information and on emotions (ours and others’).
    • Working Memory: the capacity to hold and manipulate information “on-line” in real time.
    • Emotional self-regulation: the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions for good performance.
    • Sequencing: the ability to break down complex actions into manageable units and prioritize them in the right order.
    • Inhibition: the ability to withstand distraction, and internal urges.

Link to more Executive Functioning Skills:


Brain teasers:

  • Which way is the bus going?

o   https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/07/06/brain-teasers-to-exercise-our-minds-our-top-five/

  • The Empty Triangle

o   https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2007/06/22/pattern-recognition-brain-teaser-the-empty-triangle/

  • Sunday Afternoon Quiz

o   https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2007/06/10/sunday-afternoon-quiz/


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