I took a long, wonderful walk with my friend and talented author Elin Waldall this week. We covered so many topics as we explored a few historic bridges (more on this later) and Balboa Park’s gardens.
One stuck with me. It was a conversation about an overlooked brain function that smacks most us in the face as we age without us really understanding what it is or how to approach it: sequencing or, in simpler terms, the order of life.
Sequencing is part of a larger group of executive functions that allow us to handle more complex situations and solve problems so it is a pretty important part of successful thinking. It is, however, something we take for granted. Of course you know all the moving parts of everything you do during the day and in what order to perform each part of the process… don’t you?
This is a tough concept to wrap your head around. How about an example? You want to boil an egg. Sounds simple enough? Let’s look at this process more closely.
- Get a pan out of the cabinet.
- Fill it with water.
- Turn on the burner.
- Take the carton of eggs out of the refrigerator.
- Take an egg out of the carton and put the egg in the pan.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Turn down the temperature so the water does not boil over.
- Wait 5 minutes.
- Take the pan off of the burner.
- Turn the burner off.
Is there a step you could leave off or could you change the order and still end up with a boiled egg? Not likely but there are also steps you could skip and end up with a pan on fire or an egg sitting in cold water. Now try to shuffle those steps and what happens? Every process — making a phone call, starting a car, brushing your teeth, as well as boiling an egg — work best when you take all the steps in a pretty consistent order.
Like other executive functions, successful sequencing does not happen in isolation – it starts with attention and is tied to memory/recall, language processing, problem solving, and in many cases, emotional control. It is a great thing that, like many other brain processes, challenges with sequencing can be improved and respond really well to training and games.
Yep, you know what is coming next – some exercises in the form of 2 types of games – both challenging and both meant to help you stretch your limits just a bit.
Check out the completed sample of Word Sequences.
Got it? Try this one:
Here is another type of word game you can use to practice the order. This one makes you think in degrees or magnitude. What word goes in the sequence? Fill in the blanks! (Hint there might be several logical answers to each but be mindful of the sequence!)
Were these easy for you?