Randomly scattered stars light up the night sky, but it is human inventiveness and imagination that has connected these cosmic dots into the constellations we know so well. As the podcast Full PreFrontal: Exposing the Mysteries of Executive Function celebrates its 100th episode, we have the same pleasure of connecting the scattered ideas that experts have shared with us over the past two years into a meaningful constellations of Executive Function concepts. We’ll explore these concepts and their impact on learning, education, self-efficacy, interpersonal connectivity, and the human story of personal progress.
Here are 10 lessons learned from 100 interviews with researchers, psychologists, neuroscientists, educators, authors, journalists, and thought leaders who believe that the power of the brain is a gift to us all – a gift we must take the time to unwrap with careful attention to details, mindfulness, and tremendous self-control.
10 Things Learned:
Success stems from the complex balance between talent, effort, and effective orchestration of future-forward thinking. Such skills are known as Executive Function, which allow us to map out our thoughts, behaviors, and actions in order to yield favorable outcomes that benefit the future-self. Here are the 10 takeaways:
- At the heart of human evolution is the ability to inhibit, which means saying no to the impulsive thoughts, ideas, and desires that lead to actions that only benefit us in the now.
- Executive Function skills allow us to become intentional, reflective, and problem solvers. But in order to activate the prefrontal system that accomplishes this, we have to get off “autopilot.”
- Executive Function systems are brought online when we learn new things because novel information requires novel adaptive responses.
- The brain is the most advanced future simulator. It allows us to envision the future and provides us with the tools to imagine the self through the continuity of time. We must extend compassion towards that “future self” who is hopelessly dependent on the mercy of the current self.
- Student success depends largely on the mastery of Executive Function because academic skills including reading comprehension, completing projects, conducting research, and writing papers all requires highly engaged Executive Function skills.
- There are innumerable barriers in attaining self-actualization; primarily, our self-blindness. We are often erroneously guided by our false confidence in our ability to be rational, fair, and consistent.
- Executive Function skills are extremely critical for transitions as they help us with the adaptive adjustment needed as we exit one area of our life and enter another. But we are not always fully prepared to handle such adjustments with resilience and grace.
- Executive Function skills are directly related to the maturation of the brain—delayed development, brain injury, and aging all impact the growth of these skills, especially decision making, problem solving, and adaptive and emotional adjustment.
- While stress often feels undesirable, it turns on adaptive flexibility and engages Executive Function. Stress in small to moderate doses is an essential ingredient to sharpening our self-regulation and critical self-directed problem solving.
- The most hopeful message from experts is that Executive Function can be cultivated, nurtured, and strengthened through practice and coaching. These skills can be put to test with carefully crafted activities by parents and educators alike.
Even though life has many moving parts, including those that create utter chaos as well as those that bring sheer joy, this podcast hopes that you will find a message
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