For those of us who grapple with weak executive function skills, especially in the realm of time management, planning, and organization, it can sometimes be hard to feel…“happy.”
It is so easy to get stuck focusing on all of the things you don’t do right. Each expanding pile of paper, pound gained, missed commitment, and time you are late reinforces poor self-esteem.
Trust me, I’ve been there and can still slip into that headspace.
The thing about executive functions is that they take effort and consciousness to activate and maintain. It is SO easy to get discouraged.
On January 1st, I started a 30-Day challenge with myself to create a binder that documents all the information my children will need to know in the event of my death. I think of it at as my gift to my loved ones, making their lives easier at a difficult time (Hopefully in the far future!).
I started off strong and optimistic, as we all do with a brand new goal and then…life started filling up the few open spaces available to work on this project. I discovered that it takes a big chunk of time to collect and record some pieces of that information needed for the binder.
It also prompted some deep and thoughtful conversations with my husband and children, which took up a lot of time. I got frustrated and berated myself for not focusing, being inefficient, etc.
Alas, as I teach in Seeing My Time, “time doesn’t stretch” so you can do more.
Shortly afterward, I opened a page in Success Magazine and read a quote from an interview with Tony Robbins. When people ask him what it takes to be happy he replies: “It’s simple. One word: progress. Progress equals happiness.”
While I think being happy is a bit more complex than that, I do know that most of us don’t like the feeling of being stuck. His definition also rings true when I think about the brain; as a 200,000 year old species, we all have a brain that is wired to push us to grow, to explore, to learn.
Think back to babies and toddlers, and the tremendous effort and practice it takes them to learn to walk and talk. They push past so many bumps and bruises and miscommunications. They are always striving for progress. Even as adults, each little success is registered as progress, as dopamine enters our brain and we feel…well…”happy” in that moment in time.
Focusing on “progress” rather perfect completion has been a really helpful shift in my thinking. I’m starting to look at tasks and piles differently. I ask myself “what can I do to make progress?” Even accomplishing a tiny step makes me happier.
I didn’t complete my 30-Day challenge as I had hoped. However, I made tremendous progress. The really important pages are done. The rest will follow. I’m proud and happy with my growth on a rather daunting task.
Is there something weighing you down that isn’t getting done? Take a fresh look at it and see if there is just one little step, one small action that you can take that will reflect forward movement. Don’t forget to notice that feeling of happiness at your accomplishment. You deserve it.
Little by little,
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.
How Play Can Support Your Executive Functions at Home, Work and in Life
Tips for Creating Smooth Transitions When You Struggle with Executive Functions
Tips for Recovering the Executive Function Skill of Future Thinking
Have Hope: Executive Function Support Does Work