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In this on-demand masterclass, Eric will guide you through:

1. How to pick a single, impactful goal

2. Create an actionable plan

3. Build the habits and skills you need to succeed

With real-life examples, practical tools, and guaranteed progress for committed individuals, this session is your first step towards a more organized life.

Adult EF Skills 101: How to become a flexible thinker

We are launching our first course, Adult EF Skills 101, in 6 weeks. And, to no one's surprise, creating an impactful course takes work. It is a true test of my executive function skills, especially flexible thinking.  And let's just say, when it comes to flexible thinking, I'm a work in progress.


  • Have you ever had your day turned upside down by a last-minute request from your boss?

  • Do your stakeholder's directions change on a whim, sending stress levels through the roof?

  • Are you overwhelmed by sudden changes in weekend plans? 


If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone. But, there's a silver lining, you can become someone adept at rolling with the punches and who thinks on your feet. 


Read on to discover how.


The Eternal To-Do List

My fiancé was traveling for work all week and I wanted to pick her up from the airport in a good mood, ready to spend meaningful time together.


However, as the afternoon edged closer, and I reviewed my mountain of tasks, it dawned on me that completing everything was a pipe dream. Cue the rapid increase in stress, the tightness in my chest, and the looming dread of a miserable upcoming week filled with missed deadlines.


I started to panic. Then, I caught myself. I paused and asked a powerful question:


“Who do I want to be in this moment?” 

The answer was clear: I wanted to be present and excited to see my fiancé. I wanted to be the best, most fun fiancé I could be.


This simple mindset shift changed everything. Suddenly, work wasn’t as important. My relationship took top priority. This moment of transformation was fueled by my executive function skills. Specifically flexible thinking. It is exactly what I aim to teach in Adult EF Skills 101.


white male with long, dark hair, standing in front of a green background, wearing a black jacket

What is flexible thinking?

Flexible thinking (aka cognitive flexibility) is an executive function skill. According to Peg Dawson and Richard Gaure, “Flexible thinking is our ability to revise plans when faced with obstacles or mistakes.”


It’s our brain’s capability to adapt, solve problems, and integrate new information, allowing us to navigate the day's unexpected turns with grace and agility.


Imagine a world where sudden changes don't faze you, where stress diminishes, relationships flourish, and productivity soars. That's the power of developing flexible thinking skills.


What is a person with flexible thinking like?

Every day, you engage in cognitive flexibility, often without a second thought. Consider the differences in how you communicate with a friend versus your boss, or how you adapt to unforeseen circumstances, like choosing to work from home when you're unwell. Even a simple task like substituting an ingredient while cooking because the grocery store ran out showcases this adaptability in action.


What if you could handle unexpected changes in stride? Developing flexible thinking skills reduces stress, improves relationships, and boosts productivity.


What is rigid thinking? 

Individuals who struggle with flexible thinking often exhibit rigidity. They only see one solution to a problem, are derailed by sudden changes in plans, or become stressed when things do not go as expected. 


This is notably common among adults with ADHD.


Signs of struggle with flexible thinking 

  • Overwhelmed and anxious when plans change 

  • Unable to accept other’s ideas or see other people’s opinions 

  • Repeating the same mistakes 

  • Struggling to take on new, complex projects at work 


If you are wondering if you might struggle with flexible thinking, you can use this researched-backed questionnaire to find out. 



How to become a flexible thinker 

By practicing cognitive flexibility, we can create new neural pathways, enhancing this skill. Through these approaches, we can all inch closer to becoming more adaptable, resilient, and ultimately, flexible thinkers.


Here are 3 strategies to become a more flexible thinker: 


The power of self-talk

Ask yourself this powerful question: In this moment, who do I need to be in order to…


  • Become the best parent possible? 

  • Be a supportive partner?  

  • Complete this task at work?

  • Reach my big goal? 


This is a powerful tool to use when facing imposter syndrome


Create small moments of uncertainty 

Start small and practice handling situations that you do not know the outcome of or may change. For example, leave it up to someone else to choose between two different restaurants to go to. Then, no matter their choice, go with the flow. 


If you create new experiences or challenges for yourself, you will learn to think flexibly.

Practice “if…then…” statements 

Practice creating different solutions to past experiences or ones you predict you will encounter. When a moment arises that requires flexible thinking, you will be prepared to manage your emotional response and take action.


For example:

  • "If my boss assigns a last minute project, then I will explain my current priorities and ask if I should adjust them."

  • "If my friend cancels our weekend plans, then I will go for a walk during that time."

  • "If there is traffic on the way to work, then I will take four deep breathes and listen to my favorite podcast."


Conclusion

Flexible thinking enables us to gracefully handle life's uncertainties, fostering improved relationships and productivity. It's a skill that, though often challenging, can be developed through practices such as self-reflection, embracing uncertainty, and preparing for various scenarios with "if…then…" statements.


Ultimately, cultivating flexible thinking isn't just about coping with the unexpected; it's about transforming challenges into opportunities for growth. By embracing these strategies, we can all become more adaptable, resilient, and open to life's twists and turns.


Want to join our next cohort of Adult EF Skills 101?


We know adulting is HARD. It demands strong executive functions. Luckily, we've made a course to cover the fundamentals so you can make the best of each day. In this course, you will:


  • Learn how to plan your priorities 🎯

  • Learn to get started (task initiate) 🔨

  • Learn how to keep things tidy 🧺

  • Learn how to find and keep a job 🧹

  • Learn how to communicate effectively 🗣️

  • Learn how to budget 🤑




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About the Author

Eric Kaufmann, M.Ed is a Professional Educational Therapist and Certified Executive Function Coach. He is the Co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, an online adult executive function coaching company designed to guide adults in overcoming disorganization, procrastination, and productivity roadblocks so they can unlock their potential. Eric is also the founder of Elevate Learning Solutions, an Educational Therapy practice located in San Clemente, CA, that guides students with neurological differences toward becoming independent and confident students and self-leaders.

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About 👋

Upskill Specialists was founded when two former special education teachers turned executive function coaches decided that adults need tools and coaching to improve their workplace skills and feel confident and empowered. Our mission is to ensure every adult with EF challenges has access to high-quality coaching services. 

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