Episode 29: Executive Functioning offers Tools to Access Your Best Self

Below you can view or listen to Episode 29 of The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

Executive Functioning offers Tools to Access Your Best SelfHappy students accessing her best self by using executive functioning skills





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Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

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Erica, I'm looking forward to what we're talking about today. We're going to talk about how executive function helps us access our best self. And I know this is something that's really on your heart. Tell us a bit more about why you want to talk about this one today.

Well, it's a realization that I've had, I've been involved with a number of groups. I run a group that's called Dropping into Your Best Self to try to help people and create community for those that want to really access their best self.  Meanwhile in my private practice, I'm working with kids on executive functioning. I had this realization that really learning how to use our executive functioning skills is the tool - is the pathway to accessing your best self.  It was such a massive realization, and now I'm obsessed with that concept that, my goodness, if we're able to manage working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility, and we are on top of it and in control of it, they're really the same thing. And so I thought it'd be really fun for us to discuss this today because it makes us even more motivated to be involved with executive functioning if really the end result is for us to feel better about ourselves to be better to live a more fulfilling life.

So let's jump into this I guess the first question is what is our best self?

Well, I think before we get into that, it's quite interesting because often you think about executive function is about getting stuff done and about doing and you're really saying it's about being and becoming who you are meant to be and who you want to be rather than just what you want to get done.

So it's interesting to take it to that higher level or that deeper level from human doing to human being.

Yeah, and that's the beauty of it because I think within executive functioning is that being and by using these tools that helps us to cut through all the muck all the stuff that gets in our way of really expressing our true authentic self because I do really believe that underneath the cloud of dis regulation and frustration and negative emotions there is that kind of true authentic self, you can almost think of it as your inner child, you could think of it as just your spirit.

So what do you mean by your best self then?

What should listeners think of when they think about their best self?

I think it's yourself that you're proud of, that sense where you have accomplishments, and you feel good about them.

I think it's an ego list place, I think ego tends to get us into trouble and tends to make us more competitive or doesn't bring out our best self, right?

But it's a place where we regulate our emotions, where we embrace growth, where we limit distractions and we're able to focus and get into a state of flow.

It's that sense of at the end of the day where you're like, wow, I feel really good about myself and you're embracing the intentions, you're embracing your goals and you’re accomplishing them brilliant.

So those three elements of tools for working memory, tools for inhibitory control, tools for cognitive flexibility, how do we take these tools and direct them towards not just getting stuff done, but being who we want to be Well, yes, and no, because you could want to be rich and that's not necessarily going to bring out our best self, right?

Oh, I see when I say who I want to be getting rich wasn't right because of who you are, you’re a good person and not to say that they're good and bad people, I wouldn't mind being rich, but who I am as a person isn't really tied into the richness.

No, but some people do get caught up in that because they're very ego driven, and I think that this is all about kind of really connecting more on a heart level, on a kindness level, on a community based level on really trying to pull out people's best selves in the sense of being able to create community, being able to help each other being neighborly and getting into that pattern and that energy instead of competing, Being cooperative and finding the joy in giving and breeding that and passing that on so that as a community, as people, we can take care of each other.

Okay, so whatever we want to achieve within our own lives and be in our own lives and draw out within our own lives as a human being, we need these executive functioning tools at our fingertips.

So, let's talk about how inner voice and visualization those two loops in our brain of working memory.

You've got phonological loop which is keeping all those words looping around in your mind temporarily until you find a place to put them and then you've got the visual spatial sketch pad, which is another visual loop that keeps them in your mind until you know where to put them.

So how can these help us in this scenario, you can use executive functioning to access your best self, but you can also use it to go to other areas, you could use it to develop a company, you could use it to be more productive, but you can use it to be your best self and let's go there.

So how can you use your inner voice to be your best self?

I think many of us have negative inner voices or we might have critical inner voices, or we might have anxious inner voices, but if we become aware of them, we can shift them and change them so we can change a negative inner voice to a positive inner voice in order to do that.

What we have to do is become conscious of our inner voice.

So that's the first step, become conscious of your inner voice and say do I like it?

And is it bringing goodness into my life or is it bringing stress into my life and um being aware of it?

So if I notice that my inner voice is being very critical or negative, I can change it, I can shift it and sometimes simply by saying wow I'm being really negative, I'm now conscious of it as soon as unconscious of it, I then have a choice of saying, oh okay, I'm not going to feed that energy, I'm going to change it?

So instead of thinking negatively about someone, how can I flip it?

And how can I be perhaps helpful, how can I change it or even how can I move away from it?

So I think we do have the capacity to be aware of that inner voice and to choose whether we feed it or shift it and we can get into the habit of recognizing it and then changing it.

So let's take an example.

So give me an example of something on the negative, anxious, or critical side that maybe your inner voice or somebody's inner voice might be communicating to them.

It's getting personally, it doesn't necessarily have to be you.

I would go for there you go, Darius, you've got distracted again.


So how can we flip that, Darius?

So what could you say back to that in her voice to try to shift it?

Well, first of all, the first thing that you can do if that's hard is you can always say, is that true?

And let me ask you that, is that true?

Often than it is?

Not always, but often it is.


So, but as long as you're saying that you are supporting it, is that true?

Yes, I'm assuming it, I'm jumping to that conclusion, that's for sure.

And then ultimately, you're creating it, you're feeding it.

That's right?

So how what could you say back to that inner voice to kind of soften it and to have it be more supportive and compassionate?

Yeah, okay, so let's see, this is really interesting.

Is this what I'm meant to be working on right now, right?

That's probably what I would want to be saying to myself in those situations rather than oh, you got distracted again.

I would say, oh, this is really interesting and I meant to be working on this right now, and I go often I do that, say that when I'm a bit more self-conscious and I go, oh gosh, no, I'm not actually, I've got a little bit distracted here, I'll just put this down and go back to what I'm meant to be doing, especially if I'm on my phone or whatever, because my phone has a habit of, I don't know if you experienced this, but I go into my phone, open my phone to go and put in a task or something, and I see a red dot on the messenger or on the email, and I go, oh gosh, what's that?

And I click on it and then I've lost my train of thought and I have got distracted there.

Sometimes I'll even say to my inner voice because we don't want to completely ignore it because it's happening for a reason.

I'll say, oh thanks for reminding me, However, I don't really want to speak to myself that way, and perhaps I can reward it?

So how could you reward that very thing in a kinder way.

Do you say that to yourself?

I do.

And so how could you reword that very phrase in a kinder way?



So tell me Erica something that I've been thinking about while you were talking about the inner voices, where do you think the line is between the inner voice and the phonological working memory loop because they're part of each other?

But surely the inner voice is something way more than just that working memory phonological loop.

I'm making an assumption here.

But from your experience, would you say the inner voice is something bigger than just working memory and that phonological loop?

Well you can use it in your working memory.

Yeah, definitely.

But I think that the inner voice is just this, their thoughts that we're having, that our subconscious, they're not conscious thoughts, they're kind of coming at us.

I think that the more we become aware of it we can change the tone.

So your tone that you expressed was very critical and a little demeaning and cutting and you can remind yourself that you're not focusing without being demeaning or cutting.

You can say like oh Darius focus or you can even come up with another word like Darius, maybe I'm not doing the right thing right now or oh I've got a strategy, let's write down that thought, so I can let it go and the reason why I chose that as an example was I was going to ask the next question is sometimes our inner voice can have the tone of other people in our past, like your mother, a teacher, other people.

So it's not always it is your inner voice, but you've adopted certain phrases and tones and so on.

Tell me more about that.

Thank you for going there.

That is so brilliant.

And I will express something personal too, which is no that all of these little things are passed from generation to generation.

So I don't blame anybody for passing something on because they're subconscious picked it up from their past.

But there are times where I will do something in the negative realm of inner voice and I'll say hi mom, I would literally say out loud to myself, I'll say hey mom or I'll say whoever it is that that phrase up from, you know, and as soon as I do that it softens the tone, it doesn't create this emotional reaction, I'm now aware of it.

And the interesting thing is the more you do that, the more you shift your inner voice to a softer, more supportive inner voice.

So we don't have to live with a negative inner voice.

We don't have to live with an anxious inner voice.

We don't have to live with a critical inner voice by being aware of it.

You can train it to be positive calm and kind well I know there's a whole lot more to executive function and let's move on to visualization.

The other aspect of our working memory and how we take information and because I think what's useful here is working memory is all about what information we choose to take in and what we do with it.

And so there are certain aspects of our working memory.

We are creating filters in our minds and allowing certain things to be picked up auditory cues, visual cues, and things like that.

We're training our particular activating system the more we look at red Lamborghinis or a Tesla or a little mini or the woodwork that you've just done, you've just built a beautiful table and then you just look at all the other tables in a different way that you encounter in any person's house.

You're starting to identify certain things and you're not always consciously looking for these things.

But you've been so sensitized to look for those things and that's part of your particular activating system.

It's instructing what your working memory should shine its spotlight on both auditory spotlight of what it keeps repeating to yourself or what words and sounds you're wanting to keep holding on to until you store it and what pictures and ideas and visuals that you want to pay attention to, which TikTok is very good particular activating system.

It's basically if you take TikTok as an example.

I've been watching a lot of TikTok and observing how YouTube Instagram are being influenced by TikTok’s algorithm of the interest graph rather than the social graph.

It's trying to figure out what you're really interested in, not who you're interested in amongst your friends, but what sort of things you're interested in, what else you might be interested in, which is a form of particular activating system where your brain is being trained to choose what it allows into the brain, through the working memory and what it filters out.

And so let's move on to the visual spatial loop and working memory.

How can we work with that to move towards our best self, the person we want to be, or you pointed something out?

Very important is that there's a lot going on in our environment and we don't, we're actually not able to absorb all of it, it would shut us down.

There's just a plethora and so we have to put up our blinkers, so to speak, which is bringing inhibitory control, but we have to focus our attention on something.

So the bottom line is, what are we going to focus on?

We tend to focus on our interests.

Sometimes we focus on our fears, right?

Which Is a problem.

Do we really want to be focusing on fears?

They say that 95% of our fears never manifest.

So what a waste of time to focus on fears.

And in fact when we focus on them, we often manifest them.

So, we can be conscious about not only what we visualize but what we look at right when thinking of when we get a new car and we get a particular color of a car, if another one passes us, we see it.

Whereas we would not have noticed that before.

Again it's bringing in being conscious.

We can consciously drive what we're visually focusing on.

We can start to consciously look for new things in our environment.

That's so much of what mindfulness is.

For example when you're meditating, you're focusing on your breath which you normally don't focus on.

We were just focusing on our inner voice and saying, wow is our inner voice negative, anxious or critical or is it positive calm or kind we can do the same thing with what we look at and what we visualize.

And that's where some people love to do vision boards by doing vision boards, you're helping your brain you're consciously deciding what you want to be focusing on and then you're creating these visuals that you place around yourself to remind yourself to be thinking or visualizing more positively.

So whether you're visualizing more positively or whether you you're using your inner voice in a more positive way.


I think this visual programming of our mind is really quite powerful as well.

It's kind of like we were talking about how our family and relationships can preprogram our inner voice and drop in certain phrases and tones and trains of thought that you then adopt and likewise visually we can do the same thing.

Isn't it strange how you can really love doing something?

But then you don't do it.

I wish I did it more.

But I look back over the last 30 odd years of my adult life and I can actually point to certain years where I decided I would do a little vision board and a vision board is a really fancy way of doing a little bored with pictures cut out of things that you're passionate and interested about.

So it might be a picture of your family, it might be a picture of a sailboat.

Might be a picture of a little fire and I remember doing a vision board when I was 26 with my wife and I cut out all these pictures from magazines and it had a little driveway in it because I wanted the driveway from my car in my driveway was terrible and I need to fix it up.

And then I had a little open fire in it because I love open fires.

But there was no way I could have an open fire in my current house.

And then there was a few other things in there and these were just things that I would really love one day in my life.

And the funny thing was within about six months to a year we had moved house and when we moved house, we made sure there was an open fire, we made sure there was a driveway, we made sure, and I had taken this board and I put it on the back of the door and forgotten all about it.

And you open up the door and you look at it and you go, oh my goodness me a year or two later or whatever and you go, that's happened, that's happened, that's happened.

And I didn't actually look at it every single day or anything like that.

But sometimes that intention of putting that image and telling your subconscious mind this is what I really want.

Your subconscious mind has an incredible way of making what you've programmed in it to happen.

I've got a vision board on my iPad as my home screen and I highly recommend that you take 15 to 20 images off google and drag and drop it onto a google doc or onto your iPad, good notes.

Procreate something like that.

Just drag it and drop it and take 20 minutes to do it.

Just say what can I do in 15 to 20 minutes.

You might end up taking longer but just spend 15 to 20 minutes and say what pictures would actually symbolize things that I really would like my heart to be set upon and then you look through your own photos and pictures for your family, Children, your granny, your mom, whatever and then special places you want to go, special things that you want little things that make a big difference in your life?

Just drag and drop them.

And then one of the things that I do that's quite helpful is I then resize them according to the size of my desire.

That's another little flat five minutes.

I just drag and drop and then that's the beauty of doing it digitally just to enlarge or and you can move it and so forth.

It's a really fun exercise to do.

And it's really powerful at programming.

I think it's good at programming your inhibitory control that focus.

I don't know how it does it, but it really does work.

Erica doesn't and it can change your inner voice a little bit too because instead of complaining about what you don't have, you focus on what you are working towards.

Oh, that's good.

That's good.


Well, let me share with you my hack on vision boards.

I use canvas to canvas is brilliant because you can drag whatever images you want.

Then they have all sorts of images have all sorts of symbols.

Again, you can make it big, you can make it small.

You can add words.

So even in my sessions with students when I see that they're struggling, we will do an image that describes their struggle through metaphors.

So they might be stuck in the woods, so to speak.

I had one of my students that felt a tsunami coming upon her and they all have different things.

One felt like she was in a refrigerator.

That's interesting and honoring that feeling and then saying, okay now how would you choose to feel then redoing that image and saying, okay, this is how I feel.

But alright instead of being in a refrigerator, I want to be on the beach instead of having a tsunami.

I want to be here or there.

And so we counteract that by honoring how they truly feel and giving them an image that they can work away from or counter act and coming up with strategies on, alright, how are we going to protect you from the tsunami?

I love it.

And I think canvas free as well, which is fantastic.

It is, I have to show you some of my images because they're just really lovely.

I'd love to see them.

This stuff is just absolutely stunningly beautiful and like it's a work of art and when you're working in metaphors it's really beautiful.

And sometimes if the kids can't work in metaphors, I'll say color.

What color is it?  What shape is it?

Is it sharp?

Is it soft?

And then all of a sudden, they've created this absolutely beautiful work of art and then it's really fun.

But one thing that I have noticed with vision boards is that you have to be careful not to be like your vision boards are very explicit if you're very general and like I'm just doing an image of money falling out of the sky that's not specific enough and that's that happening really slim.

So what you want is to be more specific and do all right.

What's the next step towards being wealthy if that's what you really want?

But even then, is that what you really want?

Is that going to bring you what you want, or do you really want to be happy?

I mean granted a certain amount of money is very important because you have to meet your basic needs and that might be what's going on your board as well.

The cost of living is going up and you want to make sure you're warm and so forth.

I love that.

That's brilliant and the reason why it's worthwhile us spending so much time on all of this.

This is literally being the executive of your life and that's what we're saying is how we're going to be the executive of our life and using these tools if we can use it to be our best self.

So if I can guide you towards using it in that way because you can use it in a way of greed.

For example, you can use it as a way to control, but you can also use it to give you can also use it to create community.

You can also use it to be proud of who you are as a person and to leave a legacy.


On the last podcast we talked about the expedition.


And in my vision board, I've got this map of the Iona trip and I've got people sailing and I've got the sailboat and things like that in the corner there.

And the funny thing is like, I would look at this nearly every other day is when I open my iPad and that moment you see that screen, you don't look at it very much because you're going straight in.

But that moment is actually just triggering those thoughts in the back of your head.

And it's funny to think about that connected to my inner voice.

And I would look at that and I go, yeah, right, Darius, Iona is not happening.

And I'm going like, yeah, I know it's not happening because it didn't just happen.

It wasn't all smooth sailing.

There were times where it was like, my goodness, this is like walking through Treacle.

I've got to fix this.

I've got to fix that.

I've got the satellite navigation system to figure out and I've got a picture of that in it and that, that it put off for two years and so on.

But it kept prompting me and there was this sort of a little bit of a wrestle between my inner voice and this vision board.

What have your thoughts on that Erica?


And just to let everybody know, Darius just did this amazing feat.

This was a goal that he had for many years, and he just recently sailed from, you tell them, yeah, I sailed from Ireland to Scotland and then to an island called Iona in a 16 ft dinghy, a little dinghy the size of a car.

Which is just extraordinary.

But yes, it's so interesting and maybe sometimes it's easier to do a vision board than it is to change your inner voice.

But it's very interesting Darius, because I think now that I've made you aware of it, you can start to manage your inner voice.

It's part of it is just being aware of it.

We all walk around with this inner voice, and we are we have not been brought up in a culture that's made us feel that we can manage and control it.

What about this is another thought to throw in there?

Not all of our thoughts are our own.

And sometimes we assume that everything that we're thinking about is our own thought and what we think.

But sometimes it can be something we've heard something.

We've seen another thought flowing through our mind and you're like, well hold on a minute.

Is that my thought, do I want to own that or not?

And in a way that's what we're saying here as the executive of our life.

Do we want to own that or not?

Do we keep it, or do we trash it?

And we get to change the inner voice.

We get to change the pictures we think about, we get to change the thoughts we choose, we get to do all of that and that's the whole function of being the executive of our life and our executive functions as choosing our thoughts, our words, and our future and who we are.

And I think the interesting thing about it is it is our thoughts, and it is our words because they have become that now the genesis was not from us.

We picked up that from the external environment, but we have to realize that yes, it is our voice.

Do we really want to keep it?

It's become our voice.

And do we have to, it's like our normal, but we can choose to change it.

How about this as a metaphor: one of the promises we make to people who are listening is to take all this theoretical stuff and find some sort of creative metaphor to pull it all together holistically.

And how about this?

Our minds are like a garden, and we sometimes have plants that fly into that garden - seeds that drop into that garden and they grow into this tiny little tree and then it starts to grow to become a bigger tree and you're like hold on a minute, I didn't want that little bush there or that little tree there and I'm thinking of it like this?

The vision board is like the garden design plan for sections of the garden or parts of the garden.

Oh I really want a pizza oven in the corner there.

I really want a fire pit; I really want a few fruit trees and so forth.

And the American Indians used to say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the next best time is now. I think that's often the case with regards to the garden of our minds, the garden of our soul, the garden of who we are is You might wish that you had planted that tree 20 years ago.

But the next best time is now.

I love that.

Thank you, Darius.

I am an avid gardener, I love gardening.

I was in my garden this morning gardening and I actually last year hired a gardener and I work with her in my garden, and I call it Olga therapy because that's her name and she's wonderful.

But yeah, using that metaphor of the garden just really made my soul sing.

So thank you for that because you're right.

Sometimes there are weeds in the garden and as much as I hate to pull those little guys out, I do because otherwise they're going to choke out the other ones.

And I think we can look at it that way that sometimes we have an inner voice or something that our inner voices saying that's a weed that we need to pull out because it's not helping, it's not helping, it's not serving us and then we can plant something else in its place.

It's really quite beautiful and it will bring us joy.

And I think using the garden metaphor it's easy to think of plants as weeds.

But let's talk about our best self in this context and that is maybe that inner voice aspect of my mother really loved buddleias and really loved fuchsias and really loved these shrubs in the corner and they are lovely.

But is it me and it was interesting seeing my wife moving into the new garden in our house and we had this established garden with all these shrubs and so on and she said they're good but they're not me.

And I think that's what we're choosing is it's not whether it's good or bad, it's whether that garden is a true reflection of who you are and whether you yourself are a true reflection of who you really are.

And that process is like being a gardener where you are, the executive, the gardener is the executive of the garden, the one who chooses where the path goes actually in my own in my part time, I I've trained to be a permaculture designer which is a form of garden design, small holding design farm design, which is a sustainable, permanent agricultural approach to designing productive workspaces.

And one of the things that I've learned the most about designing is that you go into a garden and often the shed is in the wrong place and someone 20 years ago decided, oh I got a new shed and I plunked it over there in that side of the garden because there's lots of big bit of grass and there wasn't much happening and so on and then 20 years later goes by and this whole garden has kind of been built around this shed.

The path goes through the shed that goes and you realize when you're looking at the design of the garden, you go that shed is against the sunniest wall is in the sunniest sitting spot and is in the best location of the garden.

Why is that shed there?

And actually sheds are not that hard to move.

You just lift them up, put around fence post underneath it, put another one underneath another one and you just roll it across your grass until you put it in the right place.

You don't have to dismantle or anything.

You don't need to take stuff out of it.

Sometimes you just need to roll it like the Vikings did their boats.

But the moral of the story is sometimes things that feel so fixed in your garden that you have to design your whole life around aren't as fixed as you think even that voice, That inner voice isn't as fixed as you think even those expectations that are in your imagination aren't as fixed as you think and we should not be designing our gardens around artificial fixed points, okay, walls and things like that.

Yes, but there are parts of our lives, we think, well that's just fixed, that's just the way it has to be.

No, that person can be told to leave your life as a friend or whatever, that relationship, that thought, that job, that whatever it is that you think is a fixed thing can actually be moved because there's not as much as you think are fixed in that mind.

So, this metaphor of garden design is - I would just say, maybe, there's some things in your mind and in your thinking process that you think are fixed, but they're not.

The other thing that's very interesting is now pay attention to what you need.

And I think that’s a nice metaphor for that.  When I think of Olga, she says put these flowers there and I'm like, they've never worked there.  It never worked there because the soils not right, or they're just not happy there.

So that's another thing to notice is sometimes we're forcing something into our garden.

Our metaphor of a garden that it's not supposed to be there, or it's not the right place and notice that and be aware of that and see if you can either move it somewhere else in your garden or whether you can give it to somebody else - where it can thrive.

And the garden ultimately, we can say is your body. Make sure that you're giving your body what it needs so that it can thrive.

I suppose you could take the metaphor and make it body, soul, and spirit - as three types of gardens.

You could expand the metaphor to body soul, spirit and then your work.  Whatever is the work of your hand is like a garden. What you're responsible for, whether it's a job or a department or a company or a charity and then that can extend into other areas of responsibility.

Your family is like a garden etcetera.

I suppose practicing doing it in your mind is the start of getting all these things to change and shift and reflect who you are out with your mind.

And maybe that's a tool.

If you don't want to do a vision board, you could visualize your garden, you can visualize, you can spatialize your garden as you were saying.  You can move things around, you can change it, change the structure, you can change the order, you can change the allocation of where things are.

But again, if vision boards are uncomfortable for you because you're like, oh it's all about manifesting what you want and that seems greedy.

Then you can go into that beautiful notion of just create a beautiful garden in your in that garden and you can say that flowers maybe represent other things in your life, but you can do a vision board that's truly metaphorical and now if gardens aren't your thing then pick something that's your thing that you can use as a metaphor that really appeals to you and then it gives you that momentum, it gives you that reprogramming your subconscious in a way that's going to help you to step into your best self.


Well eric we didn't expect to go so deep into that inner voice and the visual side of things and in the metaphor of the garden, but it's been really nice to just go deep into that in this podcast. We still have two areas of executive functioning that I would like to explore.

So let's look at how can we use inhibitory control to access our best self.

Well first we can use it to really focus our attention and intention by using those blinkers.

So it's playing off of the visualization because we are choosing to focus on something.

It also helps us to block those distractions, right?

So that we're not focusing on the things that are getting in the way or that maybe are here driven, It also helps us to regulate our emotions because if we're speaking back to our negative inner voice and saying, okay, is there a nicer way that we could word that or thank you for that thought now I'm going to do something good with it or oh okay, I'm going to pull out my tools then all of a sudden we're regulating our emotions instead of letting our negative inner voice guide us towards this regulation.

Yeah, you're making me think about the garden again and inhibitory control and it ties into two things in permaculture, we have a saying which is only changed 10% of the garden each year Because the temptation is to go in and just do a total re haul of everything, but it's very important that you observe and interact with the garden before you change it because often you don't fully understand, it so to put that that self-restraint of saying, I'm only going to change 10% of it this year, you then are inhibiting your control of the garden and how much you're going to change.

So I think that ties in, it's a good discipline, I think sometimes we're very tempted to go in and overhaul everything and we just get overwhelmed with it because we just do a little bit of everything, nothing really gets done.

Whereas inhibitory control in this context is deciding to limit even our vision board maybe to say no, this isn't my vision board for the next year or two that will go on to another one, maybe my 10 year or 20 year one or whatever, but part of the vision boarding is about inhibiting what you do, you can't have everything at once but you can't have it one at a time.

So it's that one at a time process that is also part of that inhibitory control that actually get stuff done.


And the other beautiful thing under inhibitory control.

We also have meta cognition and meta cognition is your awareness of your own thoughts.

So if we use that metaphor of the garden, it's really your ability to plan, right?

It's that planning of your garden and it's that decision of weight.

Okay, I want to move the shed or I want to create a new flower bed or I want to add some more bulbs to this flower bed and it's that awareness and as soon as we start to manage our inner voice and we choose to manage our visualizations and our spatial skills that is meta cognition, meta cognition is what enables us to alter and change and really to access that pathway to our best self to flexibility then Alright, so cognitive flexibility.

So how can cognitive flexibility help us to be our best selves?

And when were inflexible and we just sit in our garden and leave it just the way it is right that we're not really growing.

We're not really realizing what it could be.

So having that cognitive flexibility enables us to be creative.

It's an example of observe and interact where you're willing to observe whether that soil is good for those flowers.

Like you just said that soil is not actually very suited, it's maybe too acidic for those particular flowers.

We could make it more alkaline or just move it to another more acidic place underneath the pine tree or something like that.

That's flexibility.

That's cognitive flexibility as well, isn't it?

Rather than know, it has to go here, that's what was in the plan and that's the end of it.


Or inflexibility is also being able to work with others because many times it's not just our garden, it might be other people's garden to that, you're sharing it with them.

And so you have to have that level of flexibility.

But I think cognitive flexibility also enables us to be compassionate, enables us to be compassionate with somebody that has a different viewpoint.

It enables us to be compassionate with ourselves so that we can change that inner voice from maybe a negative inner voice to a more positive supportive inner voice.

So it really enables us to change without cognitive flexibility, we'd be very stagnant, we would be stuck in that inner voice, we’d be stuck in maybe a negative visualization, we'd be stuck in bad habits.

That cognitive flexibility is our way out.

I think this is also the place where you could get stuck in ideology as well because I've noticed a lot of people within different voluntary sector work and community work and so on.

I've done.

Often people are motivated with the best of interests, but they have an ideology and the ideal that they're looking at is things should be this way.

Things should be that way this should happen.

And people should be like this, and people should be like ants, etcetera and in the real world tells them something different and then there's this dissonance and so that's where cognitive flexibility comes in.

How do you match what your ideals are?

Which is basically what I want to see happening or what I think should be happening to what's actually happening.

That's cognitive flexibility as well.

We're not talking about compromise necessarily or giving up on ideals, but sometimes we can be so ideological that we become fixed and cognitively inflexible.

So, some people might be getting this and some people knocking it might be hearing me wrong, but basically general themes whether you're on the right or on the left or in the middle or into railways or how people should run or whatever.

Often, we have an ideal the way things should be.

And then when they don't meet that, we can be very harsh on them, and we can also be very harsh on ourselves.

And that's where that compassion comes in through the cognitive flexibility.

That's what I'm hearing from.


Sure, Sure.

And I think another thing is that we can get stuck in a part of our garden, right?

Because of that inflexibility.

We can kind of back ourselves into a corner as well.

And sometimes part of it is just shifting to something new, shifting to a new part of the garden, letting something else live for a little while and sit and then even stepping back and looking at the big picture, sometimes we're just too zoomed in and that's why we're unable to shift and we have to zoom out and say, oh well the reason why that part of the garden isn't doing very well is because that trees become too big and all I really need to do is prune it a little bit.

So sometimes we have to step back and look at the big picture.

So sometimes it's just that we have to say, okay, where am I in my garden?

And am I considering all parts of it, am I considering all people do.

I just need to shift to a new task, and I may just obsessing about somewhere where I am and that I'm only stuck there because I'm obsessing so you can see how really cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control and working memory are all these incredible tools that can help us to realize our best self.

And it's a choice.

We don't have to go there if we don't want to be our best selves, that's fine, you might want to reward it in a way I want to be my successful self.

But that's the thing is that what executive functioning does is it gives you the steering wheel so don't sit in the back seat anymore and just let your subconscious take you where you've been programmed to go by somebody else, by someone else's voice, you should be doing this, you shouldn't be doing that etcetera.

You have to choose what one of those voices are living in your garden and growing in your garden.


Yeah, absolutely fantastic, Erica.

We need to go away and do some real work. Don't we.

I'm going to go in my garden.

You've made me think. I'm going to go away and ponder on this garden metaphor and think what is working memory within the garden metaphor?

What is inhibitory control, what is cognitive flexibility?

Because you see permaculture has got 12 principles within it in the design system that are very powerful principles and one of them is observe and interact.

Sometimes one of the exercises to sit in your own garden in the same place at the same time for two or three minutes every day.

And so you just do that for maybe 10 days in a row or 30 days in a row and you just see how things are changing, how you're changing etcetera.

And that simple observation task is a form of meditation on the physical world, you’re just focusing your attention, your observation, there's a lot of executive function stuff going on there in terms of the meta cognition and awareness and so forth and I wonder what that would look like if you took that metaphor and brought it back into how we did that for our mind.

Well ponder on this and if it's something that really flowers into something very profound for you, let's discuss it on another podcast.

What would be fascinating is to take the 12 principles of permaculture design for sustainable garden design and apply them to executive function and the garden of our mind because such dyslexic thing to do isn't it?

Take two very different disciplines and bring them together and make them cross pollinate.

What I think about that and if that really blossoms for you, it really grows into something, let's have a discussion on that.

We've already discussed the garden and we'll let you all go into the gardens of your own minds or bodies and see how this perhaps helps you to step into your best self.

I'd love to find what listeners own metaphors are.

Well, there's information in the show notes about how to communicate with us.

And then you can always leave a comment with the podcast which we'd love to hear.

And then we also have our podcasts on YouTube.

So you can also comment on YouTube.

All right, so you could go into the podcast apple podcast or whatever you're listening to it.

Put in a review and just in the comments of the review, leave what your thoughts and comments and for us are and sort of help other people understand the way we think about executive function in this podcast, which is both in the linear format and also in that wide angled visual.

Well, nice speaking to you Erica.

Likewise, this was a fun one.

Bye bye.

Thank you for joining our conversation here at the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

This is dr Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast and please leave us a review and shares on social media until next time.