Our brain works best when synchronized.
The executive system of the brain regulates our emotions and keeps us connected with other people. We calm our emotions and repair ruptures. We focus on what is important and shift our attention as necessary. We control our cravings and quiet our impulses. We stay proactive to complete commitments and meet our goals. We learn from our mistakes and live according to our values. Creativity flourishes.
This most complex brain region is the last to mature and is known as the prefrontal cortex, what we refer to as Level 4 of the control center. While early life trauma has a negative effect on the development of this system, all of us can use some improvement.
The executive system helps us carefully weigh our options and remember events from our history so we gauge what is most needed in the big picture. We focus on what is important in the moment as we stay mindful of the future. We contemplate critical decisions, predict consequences and weigh our options. We find clarity when we ask, “It is more satisfying for me to stay up late watching this movie or go to bed early and feel rested tomorrow?”
Level 4 answers the question, “What would Jesus do?” or at THRIVE we would say, “How is it like me to respond in this situation if I am being who Jesus created me to be?”
When the executive system is not fully engaged we become rigid. We lose our ability to see events from a different perspective. We focus on results instead of relationships. We have difficulty changing our opinions and behaviors. Our attention becomes hijacked by cravings, problems and pain.
Try these eight methods of activating the executive system.
- Reflect on highlights from your day. What was most satisfying and enjoyable?
- Review conversations and interactions. Is there anything you would do differently in specific situations and scenarios? Interact with Immanuel and trusted friends for clarity.
- Create appreciation to spark joy. Tell Jesus and other people the things you are thankful for. Share the qualities you appreciate about others.
- Attune to other people and stay engaged as you practice quieting your feelings.
- Change viewpoints to see current situations from a different perspective.
- Pay attention to your body as you quiet. Use the Shalom my Body exercises to calm your body.
- Journal and talk with Jesus to increase your peace.
- Exercise 12.2 in the THRIVE Basic Skill Guide helps you identify how you would like to respond when you feel the big six emotions of anger, fear, shame, disgust, sadness and hopeless despair. Consider the qualities you would like to define your legacy.