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Cultivating Executive Function for Peak Performance

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There's an executive functioning skills list you utilize every single day, often without thinking of it. These skills include a variety of memory, flexible thinking, and self-control functions that help you work, function, and just generally live your life. Although we call upon many of these skills unconsciously, there are ways to further cultivate these skills to reap their benefits to a greater extent and achieve peak performance. 

In today's post, we're going to cover everything you need to know about cultivating an impressive executive functioning skills list, as well as the basics of executive functions, and much more. 

What are Executive Functions? 

Before we talk about strategies for cultivating these skills, let's begin by covering the basics of executive functions and get to the root of what this term means. 

To do so, we'll turn to for a helpful definition: 

"Some people describe executive function as “the management system of the brain.” That’s because the skills involved let us set goals, plan, and get things done. When people struggle with executive function, it impacts them at home, in school, and in life. 

There are three main areas of executive function. They are: 

  1. Working memory 
  1. Cognitive flexibility (also called flexible thinking) 
  1. Inhibitory control (which includes self-control)" 

It's pretty easy to see why these skills are so important and the impact they have on our lives. To highlight exactly how they help us on a day to day basis, let's now look at a list of executive function skills. 

List of Executive Functions 

There are a number of skills you use every single day that are possible thanks to executive function. 

They include: 

  • Emotional control: Being able to manage your emotions so they don't consistently interfere with your life 
  • Flexible thinking: This relates to resilience and the ability to adapt and adjust when circumstances change or become challenging. To learn more about resilience, take a look at this post next: 10 Powerful Ways to Enhance Your Resilience. 
  • Working memory: This involves calling on past experiences or memories to help you manage the task at hand. For example, a child could learn that the last time they touched the stove, it burned their hand. Then, the next time they're near the stove, they can call upon this memory to avoid touching the stove. 
  • Self-monitoring and metacognition: When you are able to take a step back and view yourself objectively or with a "bird's eye view," this is thanks to your metacognitive abilities, which are also included in your executive functioning skills list. 
  • Planning and prioritizing: Determining which steps or responsibilities should come next on a list is an important part of brain development. These executive function skills fall under the planning and prioritizing category  
  • Task initiation: How quickly do you start on a task? Are you likely to procrastinate and put it off for as long as possible? Your ability to quickly initiate tasks speaks your task initiation skills 
  • Response inhibition: How well are you able to stop yourself from acting on impulse? This is part of response inhibition, which includes considering the impact of your actions before making them.  
  • Organization: Organizational skills vary at different ages but are an important part of brain development during every part of your life. As a child, you might learn where to put your stuffed animals at the end of the day when your parents ask you to clean up. Then, as an adult, your organizational skills could include the system you have for organizing your gardening supplies in your tool shed, for example. 
  • Stress tolerance: Are you someone who can thrive in stressful situations? Do you perform best under pressure? If so, your stress tolerance skills could be quite impressive. But what if you tend to fall apart under stress or become withdrawn and disengaged? These are signs your stress tolerance skills could use some work.  

Cultivating Executive Planning Skills List for Peak Performance 

Right off the bat, you might notice you're better at some of the items on the executive functioning skills list than others. Perhaps your organizational skills are superior, but your task initiation has room for improvement.  

So, your next question is: is your executive functioning ability set in stone? Can these skills be further developed and improved? 

The good news is, the answer is yes! 

You can cultivate executive functioning skills, so let's talk about how to do that next. 

Fostering Your Executive Functions 

After reading the executive functioning skills list, you can probably imagine the difference it would make in your life if you foster these skills even further. And that doesn't just mean how you live your day to day life, but it also refers to achieving peak performance. 

We have a whole post about peak performance right here. In it, we explain what peak performance means: essentially, performing to your maximum ability. So, if you can perform executive functioning skills to the maximum of your ability, this results in peak performance.  

Developing executive function skills 

There are different ways to foster your executive function skills, depending on the skill itself. 

Let's go over some of the skills we mentioned in our list, along with different methods for cultivating these skills. 

Flexible thinking 

For this skill, we mentioned how it involves resilience. There are all kinds of ways to develop your resilience and become better at responding to life's changes and challenges.  

At Neuvana, one of our favorite ways of doing this is with the help of vagus nerve stimulation. More specifically, utilizing Xen by Neuvana's vagus nerve stimulating headphones. The vagus nerve plays a critical role in building stress resilience. As such, when you strengthen your vagus nerve, you can strengthen your ability to be resilient as well. 

Click here to shop Xen by Neuvana or learn more.  

Self-monitoring and metacognition 

For cultivating this skill, it's helpful to ask yourself how you can work on becoming more self-aware. The good news is, if you're asking this question, you're already well on your way! Beyond that, here are some tips for cultivating your metacognitive skills: 

  • Regularly check in with yourself, especially when you're performing tasks. Ask yourself what's working, what isn't, how you feel, and what you're thinking. 
  • Set goals: This helps you remain aware of your progress and identify gaps where you can improve 
  • Ask for feedback: The feedback you receive from others offers you unique insight into your own behaviors and also offers you a perspective you might not have considered. Taking the time to ruminate on this feedback is incredibly useful when it comes to improving your metacognitive abilities.  

Stress tolerance 

No one is completely immune to the effects of stress. Nor should we be! In fact, the stress response is an important (and useful) part of human existence. Stress can be motivating, and the stress hormone also helps our body perform important functions when we face a threat.  

Of course, when stress becomes ongoing or chronic, it ceases to become a good thing. That's when it's important to cultivate your stress tolerance abilities so you can check them off your executive functioning skills list. 

In this post, we list a number of ways to manage your stress levels. In it, we discuss the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation for stress relief and management techniques. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Cultivating Your Executive Functioning Skills List 

We've included two examples of how vagus nerve stimulating headphones can be a useful tool when you're working on cultivating your executive functioning skills. The pursuit of strengthening these skills is an admirable one, with effects that can range anywhere from increased productivity to achieving your peak performance. 

If you're ready to start experiencing the power and science of vagus nerve stimulation for yourself, you're in the right place. Click here to learn more about how Xen by Neuvana works.