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Why You Need Executive Functions: The CEO of Your Brain

Have you ever watched a Superman series? If not, no need to worry because there's a Superman inside your brain, assisting you in every single one of your mundane tasks. In this article, we will explore and highlight three main superpowers of the Superman by drawing a few parallels from your day-day life.
woman working seriously on lap top in living room sofa and her kids keep running around her and playing

Whether you’re the boss in your workplace or you work for a boss, executive function works the same for both of you. It’s not some official jargon you might feel that’s got nothing to do with you. I’d rather say that it has everything to do with you. The story of how it interferes with your day-to-day life unravels below.

You are startled by your husband’s voice coming from the bedroom: “Babe, I can’t seem to find my car keys.” You ask with a tinge of irritation in your tone, “Where did you leave it last?” He quickly responds, “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be asking.” You sigh and put down your almond butter sandwich to join him for what seems like the umpteenth time in his quest to find his misplaced car keys. You look in all the usual places where he displaces them—the car trunk, his pant pockets, the bathroom counter—and as a last resort you search the couch and rearrange the pillows and you finally find it hidden in the folds.

He says, “Maybe it fell out of my pockets while I was watching Netflix.” He quickly thanks you, gives you a peck on your cheeks, grabs his car keys, and bolts out the door since he has a crucial meeting and is running behind schedule at work.

As you finish preparing your kids’ sandwiches, you take a deep breath and talk to yourself through the steps needed to create a successful presentation for Monday. Later, you set aside some time to sift through the flood of emails in your inbox. In the midst of the daily grind, you take a moment to enjoy the little things, like the sun’s warmth, the scent of freshly cut grass, and the sound of your kids laughing.

How you navigate through the chaos in daily life depends on 3 basic Executive Functions!

This particular instance is a snapshot of your typical day. You have to go down each of your actions to see how you were able to keep your cool in the midst of all this hurry-scurry. Without even realizing it, you’ve been using executive functions like working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility to help you get through your daily tasks and find joy in the midst of the chaos. Not everyone is capable of handling the situation the way you did.

Your working memory was firing on all cylinders as you organized the avalanche of emails in your inbox and self-talked through the steps necessary to prepare a successful presentation. Oh, you also recalled the usual spots where your husband loses his keys and came up with a solution.

Even though your husband routinely misplaces his keys, you used inhibitory control and refrained from shouting at him. Instead, you altered your viewpoint, made use of your cognitive flexibility, and briefly relished the simple pleasures in life. Later on, you exercised your planning and organization skills. You walked yourself through the steps needed to create a successful presentation for Monday.

You also showed good time management skills by blocking off some time to sort through your clogged inbox. You chose the following priorities for your tasks: finish packing lunches for your kids, get ready for your presentation, and then sort emails. Come to think of it, you navigated through your day like Superman!

Hey, have you ever wondered how life would be if you had a couple of Superman’s tricks under your sleeves?

You already have! I’m not kidding though. Think of executive functions as the Superman of your brain. Superman has super-strength, which can be compared to working memory. Just as super-strength allows Superman to handle and lift heavy objects, working memory enables you to hold and manipulate large chunks of information in your mind. Whenever you pull off multiple tasks and make decisions, it’s your working memory behind it.

Much like how Superman can quickly change directions and navigate through the air, cognitive flexibility allows you to adjust to new situations, shift your thoughts, and switch between different tasks or views.

Inhibitory control, like the way Superman focuses his laser-like vision on specific targets while filtering out distractions, helps you ignore superfluous data, resist impulsive actions, and stay focused on your goals.

These 3 superpowers allow you to begin a task, stop yourself from engaging in harmful behavior, and monitor your progress along the way. It’s like having a personal assistant in your brain that keeps you on track and ensures you meet your goals.

Without your brain’s Superman, you’d be in chaos, and you’d struggle to manage even the simplest tasks. Now imagine the utmost need to keep polishing your executive functions, just like how Superman keeps doing what he has to do, and in the process keeps honing his super-strength even more. Here are a few ways to build those 3 executive functions, take on any challenge that comes your way, and save the day!

Doodle, self-express with pen and paper!

a hand drawing pictures with a pencil on white paper, doodling

Doodling, according to neuroscientists, can help you focus, ease your irritation, allow you to let out your emotions, and trigger fresh ideas now and then. If you find yourself dozing off in the midst of your lecture or staring blankly, doodle to keep your brain engaged and active. It helps you stay in the moment and keep your thoughts from drifting to a far-off no man’s land.

Talk to yourself in the third person!

young man stand in front of mirror talks to himself looking at the mirror

Use your name or pronouns to address yourself in self-talk. For example, while preparing for a job interview or managing challenging emotions, instead of saying “I can do this,” you would say “Jack can do this.” This type of self-talk is thought to be less emotionally charged than first-person self-talk, allowing you to distance yourself from negative emotions and view situations more objectively. According to research, third-person self-talk may improve memory, reduce stress and anxiety.

Build Memory Palaces!

Create a mental image of a familiar physical space, such as a house or a street, and then place the information you want to remember at different locations within that space. The more vivid and unusual the mental images you create, the easier it will be to remember them.

middle aged woman in grocery store looking at a bottle of milk, her shopping cart is already full with groceries

Let’s do a simple memory palace exercise together:

Imagine that you need to remember a grocery list, which includes 5 items: apples, bread, milk, eggs, and cheese. Now, create a memory palace using the rooms in your house as locations to store each item.

  1. Start by visualizing your front door.
  2. Then, move to the living room.
  3. Imagine a big bowl of red apples sitting on the coffee table.
  4. Move to the kitchen.
  5. Visualize a fresh loaf of bread on the counter.
  6. Continue to the dining room.
  7. Imagine a glass of milk spilled on the table.
  8. Move to the bedroom.
  9. Visualize a nest of eggs on your bed.
  10. Finally, move to the bathroom.
  11. Visualize a block of cheese on the sink.

To recall the list, simply walk through your memory palace in your mind, and the items should come to you easily. You can also add more detail to each location to make it more memorable, like the smell of fresh bread or the sound of cracking eggs.

Give it a try and see if it helps you remember your grocery list!

Do Acute Moderate-intensity Resistance exercises!

Acute moderate resistance exercise is like wielding a powerful tool that can bring about immediate changes to your body and brain. Just as Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, grants him the strength to overcome any obstacle, a single session of resistance exercise can act like a superpower for your body and brain! In fact, research has shown that just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity resistance exercise can improve inhibitory control, memory, and focus.

For example, Inhibitory control urges you to create goals and plan ahead of time. It reminds you to eat more nutritional foods like fruits, veggies, and lean proteins instead of junk food.

beautiful girl holding a dumbbell in one hand and drinking a healthy green juice with the other hand

Imagine walking into the gym feeling tired and unfocused, but after just one session of lifting weights, you leave feeling like a superhero, more confident and energized. It’s like you’ve unlocked a new level of your potential!

Examples of acute moderate resistance exercise include using dumbbells, resistance bands, or weight machines to perform exercises like squats, lunges, chest presses, and rows. You can also use your body weight to do exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and planks. The key is to work at a moderate intensity that challenges your muscles but doesn’t leave you completely exhausted.

So next time you’re feeling sluggish or mentally drained, do some of the acute moderate resistance exercises shown below. It might just give you the superpower you need to conquer your day!

a person lifting weights with her arms up

Dumbbell Chest Opener

Keep your arms bent while holding the dumbbells at your sides. Take a breath and straighten your body. Open your chest while keeping your elbows as wide open as you can. Exhale, and lean forward. Keep a flat back and maintain a soft bend in both knees.

a person doing push ups

Pulse Push-Up

Just wider than shoulder-width apart, place your hands on the ground. Keep pulsing in little up and down increments while staying strong. Place your knees on the ground to make this simpler by pivoting from your knees as opposed to your feet.

a person lifting weights up

Dumbbell Military Press

Swivel your palms forward while holding the dumbbells at shoulder height. Once your arms are fully extended, start pressing the dumbbells up above your head. Hold for a count of 20, then return your arms to shoulder height, with elbows bent.

a person lifting weights with a white background

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Keep your knees slightly bent. Lift your arms out to the side until they are parallel to your shoulders as you breathe in. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position as you breathe out.

a person lying on her back

Glute Bridge + Heel Raise

With your knees bent, and heel raised, lie on your back. Squeeze your glutes while raising your hips. Your body weight will now be on your toe tips as you lift your heel off the floor. Before lowering back down, pause for a count of 20.

a women doing Dumbbell-Push-Up

Dumbbell Push-Up

Start in a plank position with your hands holding the dumbbell and your shoulders over your wrists. When performing a push-up, exhale, lower your torso, and bend your elbows behind you. Back up to plank and inhale.

women doing push up plank

Push-Up Plank

On your hands and toes, start in the plank position. Complete one push-up. Next, extend your right arm in the air while assuming a side plan position. Then get back to the plank, and do a push-up. Extend your left arm, and do a side plank.

a person holding weights in her hand

Tricep Kick Backs

Keep your back straight and contract your abs. As you breathe in, raise your arm back until it is parallel to the ground while keeping your elbow stationary. Return the weight to the starting position with a 90-degree bend in the elbow as you exhale. Repeat on the other side.

As of today, the most talked-about topics are IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient), but wait! Your executive functions are just as important as them in helping you navigate through your day. So go ahead and start honing them.

FAQ: Why You Need Executive Functions: The CEO of Your Brain

What are executive functions, and how do they affect daily life?

Executive functions are cognitive processes that help us manage and regulate our thoughts, actions, and emotions. They play a vital role in our daily lives, allowing us to plan, organize, solve problems, make decisions, and stay focused. Without well-developed executive functions, tasks can become overwhelming, and managing daily responsibilities can be challenging.

Key information:

  • Executive functions regulate our thoughts, actions, and emotions.
  • They help us with planning, organization, problem-solving, and decision-making.
  • Nurturing executive functions is essential for managing daily responsibilities.

What are the three main components of executive functions?

The three main components of executive functions are working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. These components work together to help us navigate through various tasks, adapt to new situations, and stay focused on our goals.

Key information:

  • Working memory allows us to hold and manipulate information in our minds.
  • Inhibitory control helps us filter out distractions and resist impulsive actions.
  • Cognitive flexibility enables us to shift our thoughts, adjust to new situations, and switch between tasks or perspectives.

How can doodling improve executive functions?

Doodling has been shown to help improve focus, reduce irritation, enhance emotional expression, and spark creativity. Engaging in doodling activities can keep the brain active and engaged, preventing it from wandering or becoming disengaged during lectures or other tasks.

Key information:

  • Doodling improves focus and engagement.
  • It helps reduce irritation and allows for emotional expression.
  • Doodling can spark creativity and generate fresh ideas.

How does self-talk in the third person benefit executive functions?

Using self-talk in the third person, such as referring to oneself by name or pronouns, can be less emotionally charged than first-person self-talk. This type of self-talk helps create a psychological distance from negative emotions and allows for more objective views of situations. Research suggests third-person self-talk can improve memory, reduce stress, and alleviate anxiety.

Key information:

  • Third-person self-talk creates psychological distance from negative emotions.
  • It can improve memory and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Referring to oneself by name or pronouns enhances objectivity in self-talk.

How does acute moderate-intensity resistance exercise impact executive functions?

Engaging in intense exercise, such as lifting weights or performing bodyweight exercises, can have immediate positive effects on executive functions. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity resistance exercise can improve inhibitory control, memory, and focus. It acts as a superpower for both the body and the brain, enhancing cognitive abilities and providing a boost of confidence and energy.

Key information:

  • Acute moderate-intensity resistance exercise improves inhibitory control, memory, and focus.
  • It acts as a superpower for the body and the brain.
  • Just 30 minutes of exercise can provide immediate positive effects on executive functions.


Executive functions play a crucial role in our daily lives, helping us manage tasks, make decisions, and stay focused. The components of executive functions—working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility—work together to ensure efficient cognitive processing and adaptability to new situations. Activities such as doodling, using self-talk in the third person, and engaging in acute moderate-intensity resistance exercises can help enhance and strengthen executive functions. By honing these skills, we can navigate through daily challenges, improve our cognitive abilities, and achieve our goals more effectively.

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