What’s uncommon about Common Sense?: Ten ways of Identifying Executive Dysfunction

I often say, good executive functioning ability is like taking a daily shower. “No one compliments you for looking clean and smelling fresh but it’s guaranteed that everyone will notice or even comment that one day you stink”. In that vein, no one is really complimentary of those who are organized, goal oriented, consistent, reliable or independent. It’s when you have to ‘fix’ someone else’s faux pas and anticipate their mismanagement then we notice.

In my professional career I have noticed that some are naturally talented in the arena of being organized and methodical, being focused and goal oriented or self motivated. While others, lack these intuitive abilities appearing to be less reliable, less driven or simply put, unable to see things through.

For example, in most schools a popular way to identify intellectually endowed is to look though their dean’s list, national merit scholarship recipients or winners of awards in mathematical excellence. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, not all of these students might be executively endowed.  That needs a bit of deeper look at their daily habits, procedural knowledge, impulse control, sense of priorities and self-regulation and the ability to see the big-picture.

Individuals with executive dysfunction that I am referring to do not just reside in our schools. They can be college bound, in the work force or even housewives who are attending and spearheading their domestic management. Once again, being smart does not automatically guarantee good executive functioning ability.

Here are some guiding questions that you can ask to spot executive dysfunction:

  1. How inattentive is this individual who either interrupts a lot or is interrupted easily?
  2. How effective is this individual in getting done a boring and a mundane task (without compromising quality or outcome)?
  3. How easy is it to persuade this individual to stop current engagement and to shift focus onto something new?
  4. How quickly does this individuals jump into tasks for which the deadlines have not yet become lethal?
  5. How well does this individual stop himself from wandering aimlessly through time while just merely jumping from one irrelevant thing to another?
  6. How does this individual employ structure when none exists?
  7. How does this individual work under ambiguous circumstance when instruction are provided but unclear and yet the expectation is such that a successful outcome is expected?
  8. How well are this individual’s actions connected to the bigger goals of life or are they missing the forest for the trees?
  9. How anxious and frustrated does this individual feel about overall personal incompetence which does not contribute to improved performance or prevention of repetitious mistakes
  10. How challenging is it to influence this individual by being able to persuade him to inculcate advise and change the course of their actions

As you can see, being able to understand complex ideas, being able to retain vast knowledge in memory and having set abilities or talent alone will not guarantee one to become accomplished individual. Rather self-actualization by using talents and abilities to guide one’s own success with self-driven pace is epitome of executive proficiency.

I invite you to leave a comment and join me in sharing ideas. If you would you like to know more about my practice, visit my website at www.cerebralmatters.com. For any further communication, leave me a note here or contact me at Sucheta@cerebralmatters.com.

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