Have you ever struggled with getting from point A to point B? Maybe you are REALLY struggling, and slightly avoiding losing weight, or getting into shape and you keep starting at point A, but never make it to point B.
Your ability to make decisions, plan accordingly and manage tasks to get where you want to go is part of our Executive Functioning capabilities. Now, stress can impact executive functioning, as well as trauma, so even though you might have very strong Executive Functioning skills, on occasion due to outside elements you might notice your ability to make decisions and get to where you want to go are a bit more difficult than normal.
Lets look at the definition of Executive Functioning according to dictionary.com
Executive Functioning: a set of cognitive skills used to control one’s thoughts and behavior, especially the skills needed to focus on and organize tasks.
Why we at IFIOC often talk about executive functioning is during the process of using and teaching Motivational Interviewing, a communication method that increases engagement, decreases resistance and helps aligns behaviors with values. We discuss executive functioning because so often in many communication styles, we all want to share our expertise or our ideas on how to solve a problem or get to a solution. It’s like that phrase we’ve all heard many times. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for life.” If we want to truly help others become independent and self sufficient, we have to help THEM come up with the solutions and steps to get there, rather than inserting our own opinions.
Let’s look at an example, lets say a child is coming to their parent to ask for money for a new toy. We as parents have a few choices, we can give them the money, or help them to start thinking about how to earn money independently. We are going to focus the conversation more on engaging the childs executive functioning skills, rather than providing the solution to them.
Child: “Loving parent of mine (Yep this is how I started most conversations myself as a kid), can I get $20 to buy the latest toy all my friends have at school? It’s really cool and I’m the only kid that doesn’t have it!”
Parent: “Well there are a few ways to get $20, you’ve started by asking us for the money, but what are some other ways you could earn the $20 for your toy?”
Child: “Well, I’m not sure. Maybe if I pick up my room, I could have $20?”
Parent: “Oh that is another way, what other ways could you earn the $20?”
Child: “Mrs. Smith down the street always wants help around her house and mowing the yard, maybe I could ask her if I could help out?”
Parent: “Oh wow, so in just a few minutes you’ve come up with some brilliant ideas on how to get $20 for your toy, you could clean your room, ask your parents or talk to Mrs. Smith and do some housework for her! Do you have any other ideas?”
Child: “Maybe I could do the dishes for a week?” Or see if Grandma wants me to clean out her garage? Or the neighbor has a dog they often like walked, maybe I could talk to them!”
Parent: “Wow, these are great, so you ultimately want to earn your $20 so you can truly enjoy your toy given your hard work to get there. Out of those options, what do you want to do from here?”
Child: “I’m going to see if I can help out Mrs. Smith today so I can get my toy today!”
Wow what a different conversation than expected right? We are helping children to THINK, engage their brain to problem solve to get to their own solutions!
Executive Functioning is something we all need at different times, not just kids. It’s your ability to plan a vacation 1 year out, it’s your ability to plan a work project that is to be completed in 3 weeks, it’s the ability to critically think about outcomes, challenges and solutions and make effective decisions.
Communication Challenge: Executive functioning is a skill we all need to embrace, so the next time you feel the urge to provide the solution for someone else, take a step back and try to engage THEIR executive functioning and help them create their own solutions and steps. Just by asking them the simple question, “what are your thoughts on how to get there?” will open up a whole new conversation and help them take a deeper look inside their own brain to find the solution.