One of the most freeing discoveries many of my students make is that how you look at things matters. The stories we tell ourselves matter. They matter because they make us feel a certain way and they make us believe certain things.
Looking at a math problem as something that will never be needed in your life will make you feel like ignoring it. Why bother with homework if you'll never need to look at it after tonight? But if you look at a math problem as a puzzle, as something that will help you become smarter and more prepared for opportunities in the future, you're more likely to try and solve it.
Another example may be seeing a less than stellar grade on a recent test you took. Student A tells themselves they're a failure, they're dumb, they're no good at that subject. Student A is building beliefs about themselves that will affect their behavior. Why try to study if you think you're inherently bad at something? Student B, on the other hand, reminds themselves that they've been out sick all week and were confused about the material. Student B tells themselves that they'll do better on the next unit because they'll ask questions and they'll study more. Student B then approaches that next test with a completely different set of circumstances than student A.
Let’s consider another student with known executive function challenges. They have trouble focusing on and comprehending what they read. I hear this person say to themselves, “I’m horrible at this. I can’t do it. I space out. I have to read it a million times to understand it and I have no time. I give up.”
Thoughts easily become rigid, fixed. Repeating these thoughts, this story, day in and day out cannot lead to improvement or growth. Many students need to learn that they can change the way they think about themselves and their challenges.
Flexible thinking allows us to adjust the way we approach problems or uncertainty. Flexible thinking helps us adapt to obstacles. When we learn to think flexibly, we experience less frustration.
Executive function coaching addresses this problem and helps students find freedom and success where they may have never felt it before.