Focus

An Uncommon, Life-Enhancing Benefit of Diets

diets

I hate the thought of diets. Pretty much everyone knows diets don’t work.

Nonetheless, I’ve been following a new (shall we call it …) “eating plan” for the last 3 weeks. (Yeah it’s a diet I guess. Though I don’t really intend it to be.)

Of course I want to lose weight. But I’ve wanted to lose weight for the last 5 years and haven’t done a thing about it. So that’s not the real reason for changing how I eat now.

Truthfully, what I wanted was simplicity. I hate everything to do with food. I hate purchasing it. I hate thinking of what to make. I hate making it. I hate having to stop what I’m doing to make and eat it. I certainly hate cleaning up after making and eating it.

That’s a lot of hate.

So I thought:

If the need to feed myself, and all its associated hassles, fill me with such contempt, what’s the point in hanging on to my bad eating habits?

I won’t share my eating plan with you, lest you think I am giving dietary advice, which I am wholly unqualified to do. But I will share with you the process:

  • It’s simple.
  • It’s effective.
  • And I never have to think about it.

Yep, I pretty much eat a selection of food from only a handful of options. But then – I only have to shop for those handful of options. They are carefully selected to make sure my body gets all it needs. But I’ll admit, it’s boring. And that’s okay, because I’d rather be bored with my food than pissed off at it.

Now – how to incorporate diets into the rest of life…

Food isn’t the only area of my life that needs to go on a diet. There are many areas that are far-too-complicated that piss me off on a regular basis. So, for the next few months, the rest of my life is going on the dreaded “diet”.

Here’s how I’m paring down and shedding excess “weight”:

1. Stuff

I’m no pack rat. But like most people these days, I still have too much stuff. My house is nowhere near a setting in Hoarders, but my stuff still weighs me down. I’ve cleared out cupboards and closets full of one-day-I-might-need-this rubbish, and given it away or sold it. I feel lighter already.

2. Email

I get way too much email. Join the club right? I’ve un-subscribed to every email list I don’t actually open and read on a regular basis. So go ahead and un-subscribe to The Art of ADD if you don’t read it routinely. (I can safely say this, knowing that those who don’t read this regularly won’t actually see this message, ha ha!)

3. Social Courtesies

We all have them. Some of them are fulfilling, and some of them sap our energy and our souls. So I’ll give you a few examples of how I’m paring down in this area:

No more playdates for the kids several times a week. If they are having their friends over, they are both having friends over. Get it done – in one shot. In fact, once a month we may even have a big sleep over and they can both have a couple of friends over. One night of chaos is worth many days of bliss.

Screw potlucks. Everyone at work enjoys a big potluck gathering to celebrate someone’s birthday or to send off someone who’s leaving for a new job. I HATE POTLUCKS. Are you kidding? I don’t even like making food for my own family, why would I want to make it for my colleagues? So now, I’m the girl that brings the bag of buns. I’m good with that. I just won’t eat the buns myself, on account of the fact that they’re not at part of my new diet.

Facebook messenger. I won’t reply, so don’t bother. If you really need to reach me, pick up the phone. The same might go for texts, but I haven’t figured out how to tactfully incorporate this one in to my life yet.

The whole point of life diets

I’ve listed some things I’m getting rid of to make my life easier. They might not be your things though. The whole point of a diet is not to deprive yourself, but to make things better – whether it’s your body or your life.

If you love playdates, potlucks and messaging – keep them! But figure out what you are doing “just because you should” and see if you can weed it out for a while, or at least make it simpler. A life diet is about shedding the excess that brings you nothing but grief, so that you can make more room for the things that feed your soul.

For more, check out Tim Ferriss’ post on de-loading.

Focus

Read Like a Pro and Enjoy It (Even If you’ve Always Hated Reading)

 

Someone once flippantly said to me…

“We all know ADDers don’t read…”

Not only is this a gross generalization, but it’s also incorrect. I know many ADDers who read all the time, often 3 or 4 books at a time.

But many people with ADHD do struggle with reading. It’s hard to concentrate when your mind is constantly wooed by distractions, and the itching restlessness of an unsettled internal engine urges you to go do something else.

It makes reading complicated, fatiguing, and boring for us wistful souls.

On the other hand, reading can be interesting and exciting. It takes you away from the present. It helps you learn things to move forward and get ahead in life. It may even help you get a date or make a lot of money. (Disclaimer: Results may vary from reader to reader)

Most importantly, though, reading empowers you. There’s a reason the oppressors of yesteryear didn’t teach their indentured servants to read:

Reading frees you.

I don’t have to point out the obvious. Of course reading is good for you, they wouldn’t teach it on Sesame Street if it wasn’t. It’s like vegetables for the mind.  But if, like artichokes, you hate reading, even though it’s good for you, it could be because you are doing it wrong.

I’m going to show you some better ways to read – ways that will make it easier for you. It’s more likely to be something you enjoy if it’s not such a struggle.

1. Read like a Triage Nurse

When you show up to an Emergency Department with a sucking chest wound, the nurse doesn’t ask when your last bowel movement was. Why? Because constipation is unlikely to have caused the hole in your sternum, unless you were straining particularly hard.

Likewise, all the words in a paragraph are not relevant. Most words in a book are fluff. They give the publishers a product bigger than a pamphlet to sell. Most of what you read is filled with a lot of … fillers, this post included. Most books can be condensed to beef jerky-sized renditions simply by cutting out a lot of the fillers.

The point of reading is not to imbibe words with your eyes – it’s to gain an understanding of a concept. Try scanning and reading only the most important words and phrases and skip over the rest. I promise you’ll still gain the concept – no ifs, ands or buts.

 

 

2. Read like a Race Car Driver

Reading can feel like a slow, laborious process, especially when you have to repeatedly go over the same material to remember what was written.

Simply speeding up can engage your mind in the same way that whipping around corners Mach one makes falling asleep at the wheel difficult.

ADHD brains are built for speed. They tire out when they’re forced to go too slow. Try speeding up and see if that helps you concentrate better. Skipping over the filler words, as mentioned, helps you gain momentum.

 

3. Read like a Crime Scene Investigator

 

Admittedly, I don’t know any crime scene investigators. But I imagine they don’t scrutinize one piece of evidence in totality before collecting the rest.

Most likely, they gather all the evidence, examine each closely and then, perhaps, go back and look for more clues (CSI aficionados – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

They look at the “leads” and make conjectures about how they fit together.

Before you dive into a chapter, flip through it and read all the headlines first. Get a sense of what you are about to read. This alone will help you concentrate better when you are reading. Because you have been given a snippet of what’s ahead already, your brain will be looking to fill in the gaps and get the whole picture. A brain that is looking for something is more likely to pay attention.

Skimming the material first helps you connect the dots quicker, especially if you are reading faster and skipping the fluff.

 

4. Read like a Fighter Pilot

Aviators don’t navigate the airspace lying back with a bag of chips. Relaxation doesn’t lend itself to alertness and focus.

Reading should be done in a similar fashion, especially if you want to get through material quickly and remember it. Sit up in a chair, make sure you have good lighting and clear the area of other distractions. When you’re done, you can kick back with a bag of chips (or artichokes if you’re feeling virtuous now).

Of course, some reading is done for relaxation, especially fiction. By all means, go ahead and relax while you’re reading, if relaxation is your aim. But if you are reading to gain knowledge, then take it seriously.

 

5. Read like a Movie Producer

Does Spielberg read every script that lands on his desk? I doubt it.

Does he frequently give up partway through a script, once he realizes it’s not going to be his next big Block Buster? I imagine so.

It may sound obvious to give up on a book if it doesn’t interest you. But I know many people who persevere through books they hate, simply because they feel like they must finish what they start. Or worse – they give up on the book partway through, deducing they aren’t good readers because they abandoned an unengaging tome.

It’s the author’s job to engage you. What resonates with some people won’t engross others. Possibly I’ve lost a few readers already, but I’m not going to assume they weren’t good readers. This post just wasn’t their bag.

If a book hasn’t captured you’re attention in the first 30 or so pages, be parsimonious with your attention span and drop it. There are millions of books in publication, surely there is a better one out there for you.

Of course, this advice doesn’t help if what you are reading is mandatory – say, for a college course or to prepare yourself for a meeting. But in these cases, rules one to four will cover your back and help you cope with unstimulating material.

 

6. Read like an Artist

An artist practices his or her craft daily, trying out different mediums and subjects. Reading in short doses every day can help you get more proficient at it. If sitting still is not your thing, try an audio book. They say multitasking is generally not very effective, but in this case, I beg to differ. Many of the books I have “read and re-read”, I have done so whilst washing the dishes, exercising the dogs, or driving long-haul to the prairies (you’ll understand this well if you’ve ever driven across the prairies.)

I have given six suggestions to make reading easier for you and, in turn, more enjoyable as well. If you are serious about reading like a pro, or just want to get better at it, here are two books I recommend:

Remember Everything You Read: The Evelyn Wood 7-Day Speed Reading & Learning Program by Stanley Frank and 10 Days to Faster Reading by The Princeton Language (Abby Marks-Beale).

Though I have no inclination to read books with freakish velocity, both of these books have helped me improve my reading tenfold. They helped me reader much faster (though not technically at a “speed-reading” rate, I admit), focus better, retain more, and be more discerning with the information that I take in.

This has profoundly improved my research practice, especially when time is short. Try them for yourself, and see if they can improve your reading experience.

What are your reading conundrums? Do you like to read or avoid it whenever possible? What are you reading right now, or what would you recommend other ADDers read? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Focus

Opportunity Knocks: Catch Up on the Life You’ve Missed Out On

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get back all the time you’ve wasted in your life? Imagine what you’d do with the days, months, even years!

It feels like time speeds up as you get older. Having lived more life, you become acutely aware of how each moment of life can be (has been) savored or squandered.

The older you get, the less time you have ahead of you. This creates an urgency to use it devoutly. While you can afford to waste time in your youth, doing so only causes a delayed side-effect of mid-life regret.

That kind of time-grief isn’t limited to middle age.  In fact, existential crises can happen at any time in your life.

 

Who am I?

What do I stand for?

What do I want to do with my life?

 

These are the “crises” of youth. At some point, though, we get a pretty firm grip on the answers to those questions. We know who we are and what we believe in. We know what we want to do with our lives, except for one thing…

It hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

And that’s frustrating as hell. Not to mention depressing. And frightening!

What if your ledgers are full of wasted, frittered-away time?

What if opportunity seems to have vanished from your life, and “potential” is nothing more than a holy grail you’ve given up on?

So many of us have major gaps in our timelines. Youth gives us a liberty we don’t recognize until age takes it away – the chance to do so much more than we did. Instead, we have holes in our resume of life experience, a gaping parity between what we’ve accomplished and what could have been. If only we’d known how to motivate ourselves and take time more seriously…

There is no rewind button. You can’t get that time back. But before you strain your neck in the head-hang-of-sorrow, consider this:

Who’s to say all that time was really wasted?

You’re here now, aren’t you?

Don’t assume that all the opportunities you missed out on were necessarily ones you should have seized. Opportunity may knock, but it may also be an axe murderer. It’s a damn good thing you didn’t answer the door.

Okay, let’s say it wasn’t an axe murderer. Let’s say it was the guy from Publishers Clearing House. It came to your door with a giant check, inked with more figures behind the dollar sign than you can count fingers.

And you didn’t answer the door.

Yeah, that was a dumb-ass move. But what are you going to do about it? Never answer the door again?

Would you ostracize every other opportunity in retaliation for the one that got away?

Of course not.

Opportunity knocks more than once in a lifetime. It knocks every day, in fact, but it may look different each time.

You can’t get all the wasted years back. You can do more with the years you have left. This moment – right here and now – is your opportunity.

This moment is your opportunity…

To worry less about what other people think. Nothing wastes time like the sanctions we impose on ourselves when we live life to appease the scrutiny of others.

To try out that thing you’re afraid you’ll fail at. Successful people have failed more times than the average person. If you’re discontented, maybe it’s because you haven’t failed enough to succeed yet.

To let go of regret. The one that got away may not have been the right one for you after all. Even if it was, it’s gone. Stop rueing that. Open the door to something else.

To get clear on your values. Figure out what’s really important to you. Maybe some of your wasted time was attributable to uncertainty. If you don’t know what’s really important to you, how can you begin to know where to invest your time?

To redefine success. Maybe you haven’t lived out your dreams or achieved success in your lifelong goals. Unless you’ve been in a coma, you have achieved something. Maybe you raised kids or did some charity work. Perhaps you traveled a bit or were a good friend to someone. Whatever you have done, you must realize that those things are just as important as the goals you haven’t achieved.

To let go of expectations. Sometimes we don’t answer opportunity’s knock because we’re certain it won’t work out. But how do you know for sure? Life isn’t one long journey, it’s a series of paths. Sometimes you have to travel the arduous ones to get where you need to go.

To cut out the crap. Nothing that is important and worthwhile is a waste of time, even if it doesn’t get you where you want to go. The lessons we learn along the way are as invaluable as the destination itself. BUT a lot of the things we do routinely are disguised as important, when all they really are is busy-work. Get clear on why you are doing whatever you are doing, and stop doing it if it’s not all that important to the bigger picture

To open yourself up to possibilities. Every day is a chance to start again. Live, laugh, love more. Make time for something you usually pass by. Take a new route to work. Do something silly. Relax. Let go. See every day, every moment, as the right time to make things better – for yourself, for the people in your life, for the world. It doesn’t have to be grand. Sometimes, the most meaningful opportunity is the one you take to be in the present moment and accept it as it is.

Do these things, and you can quickly make up for the life you’ve missed out on. Though it’s not formulaic, all of these things will help you waste less of your precious time. Once you take out the worry and the fear of failure, and you cut out the crap and let go of your expectations; you redefine what you see as an opportunity because you know your values and you see the endless possibilities for a life well-spent, you only have one thing left to do:

Open the damn door!

(And now over to you – what would you like to “catch up on” in your life? Tell us about it in the comments!)

Focus

ADHD to Zen: Inside Job

This is the last post in the transformation series. As a recap, this series is intended to help you change nothing in your life but your perspective of it. We are speculating that: by starting to see your life, yourself, or your ADHD differently – without doing anything at all to change it – you will find yourself in a more powerful position to effect positive change down the line.

In Transform Your Life: ADHD to Zen, we talked about embracing the chaos of your life and getting out of your own way, to see the beauty of what you already have. In ADHD to Zen: Non-Doing, we discussed how the practice of non-doing or, of doing things effortlessly, without attachment to the results, can actually help you do things better. And in ADHD to Zen: Living Fully, we explored the notion that living fully is not about living happily, all the time. It’s about accepting every aspect of our situation as being okay, just how it is. Only then can we truly move forward, if we need to.

Today, in this last post, we’re going to talk about you. More specifically, we’re going to talk about the way you experience your life – through your thoughts.

I’ll try not to make this rabbit hole too long or confusing.

Most of us experience life through our thoughts about it. We ADDers, typically have more thoughts than the average person. Not ordinary thoughts, rapid-fire thoughts. Frequently, these thoughts can be very negative and drag us down.

In the past, I have written a lot about changing the way you think about things. We experience life through the lens of our thoughts. Life is bound to be unhappy if those thoughts are always negative.

Certainly, positive thinking has a prominent role in happiness. However, if you want lasting peace and contentment, then you need more tools in your belt than just optimism. Another “tool” for finding serenity can be to allow whatever thoughts occurring to exist, without changing or endorsing them.

“Thinking is the natural activity of the mind. Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts. Meditation is simply a process of resting the mind in its natural state, which is open to and naturally aware of thoughts, emotions and sensations as they occur… When you don’t understand the nature and origin on your thoughts, your thoughts use you… we can use our thoughts instead of being used by them”.  Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, The Joy of Living

Think about rain for a minute. Imagine big droplets of raining falling gently from the sky, splashing down into puddles, hugging the curb outside your home.

What are those rain drops? Are they the sky? Are they the condensation from the clouds within the sky? Now they have fallen, have they become puddles? What becomes of each rain drop that has fallen? Is a puddle a large collection of single rain drops, or one, single entity?

Your thoughts are those rain drops. They come and go. They are not you. They are an expression of part of you, but they are not you. And as they pass, they become like the rain drops in the puddle. A puddle which, by the way, will eventually evaporate and cease to exist.

You are something much more than the rain or the puddle. You are so much greater than those thoughts that drop by and evaporate just as quickly.

When you follow or cling to your thoughts – when you chase them, or give in to them, you allow them to become you, when actually – they are nothing but a passing phenomenon.

When you sit back and notice them – simply notice them without judgement or trying to shoo them away – you tap into the nature of your own mind, the ebb and flow of conscious cognitions. And you realize that, while they are part of you, they are not the whole.

Rinpoche tells us:

“Everything I’ve learned about the biological processes of thought and perception indicates that the only way to break free from the prison of pain is performing the type of activity that imprisoned us in the first place. As long as we don’t recognize the peace that exists naturally within our own minds, we can never find lasting satisfaction in external objects or activities. In other words, happiness and unhappiness (is an) inside job.”

Living successfully with ADHD is certainly an inside job. Notice when you are thinking negatively, feeling scattered, or unable to settle your mind. You don’t have to change it – just notice it. Notice how one thought passes and another replaces it, only for that thought to quickly be replaced as well.

This is the nature of the mind, but not the nature of you. Thoughts can be scattered, negative or unsettled – but you exist beyond your thoughts. Noticing them from this vantage point, allows you to navigate through them and, as Rinpoche says, use them instead of being used by them.

I hope this series has been helpful. I am curious to know what you’ve made of the concepts we’ve explored. For now, I am going to take a break from the mindfulness topic and explore other issues in managing ADD and creating extraordinary lives. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to share!

And have an awesome day.

Focus

ADHD to Zen: Living Fully

Life is hard. The ADD life is harder than many for one reason: We are playing with the right equipment, but in the wrong game.

It’s like someone gave us a pair of soccer cleats and said:

“Now go out there and put the puck in the net”.

It’s understandable that we cry out and demand “Give me some skates!” But nobody listens. Our cries fall on air-horn-deafened ears. After a while, some of us change our tune. We abandon the hockey rink, decide that if life won’t give us skates, we’ll find a soccer pitch and learn a new game.

But not all of us find a soccer pitch or figure out how to play the beautiful game. That’s when we really suffer. They say that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. But if you don’t have access to water or sugar, you’re hooped. The adage is intendedly positive and helpful, but it does suggest that there’s something wrong with sucking plain lemons. If you can’t make lemonade, then I guess you’re screwed?

Today’s post is the third in the series of life transformation, from ADHD to Zen. If you want, go ahead and check out the first and second post. Today we are talking about sucking lemons and living fully.

“… We don’t need to fight against the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We have a certain degree of faith that no matter where we find ourselves that’s where we really need to be. In fact, no matter how much trouble we may have seeing it, the place where we are could be said to be exactly where we most want to be. This is hard to accept. But when you accept it, your situation improves dramatically. That doesn’t mean we should be complacent and accept a bad situation without trying to improve it. In fact it’s one of our duties to improve whatever situation we find ourselves in. To do this effectively, though, first we have to understand that we ourselves are not something apart from our circumstances.” Brad Warner, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped In Chocolate

When you’re playing hockey in a pair of cleats, you’re you. When you’re playing hockey in a pair of skates, you’re you. What’s changed? Only your equipment and perhaps your game, but you’re still you.

I happen to think there is nothing wrong with playing hockey in a pair of soccer boots if that’s all you’ve got. You may be slower, you may slip and fall more. You may, in fact, look absolutely ridiculous. What’s wrong with that? Does that make your journey any less worthwhile? What if you set a record as the first professional to ever play hockey in something other than skates? What if you invented a new game? What if you did nothing but just played your game, with the equipment you had and appreciated the fact that amongst it all, you are still you and nothing changes that?

Just like Brad, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to better your situation. But I am saying that living life fully means also embracing the negative aspects of it.

When we look at our challenges as something we have to master or have dominion over, we see them as our adversaries. We decide that something else is better than what we have. When we do this, we miss what is inherently worthwhile in the path we have been given. We miss our lives. We miss ourselves.

Go ahead – change your game. Change your equipment. Change how you play. But you won’t do any of those things by lamenting and judging that what you have and what you are isn’t good enough, as it is. When you accept the importance of who, what and where you are in this moment in time, you make room for your path to evolve and give yourself the leverage you need to change the situation.

Skates, cleats and lemons will all fade away at some point. And what will be left? You. If you start remembering that – life will get better no matter what changes (or doesn’t).

Let me know what you think.

And have an awesome day.

Focus

ADHD to Zen: Non-Doing

 

I start today with a deep, but not-so-heavy, sigh.

I am about to present to you the idea of non-doing, the second transformation step in this series of four (check out the first one here).

However, I’m perplexed. I have no idea how to present this topic. I really want to write a post so fascinating, that you feel compelled to read this post over and over again. My biggest problem: I’m not sure I can do it justice and explain it fully, without making it confusing.

So the only way I can express it appropriately is to “practice what I preach”, so to speak.

As I write this post, I am practicing non-doing.

How can that be?

In Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn tells us:

“But non-doing doesn’t have to be threatening to people who feel they always have to get things done. They might find they get even more “done”, and done better, by practicing non-doing. Non-doing simply means letting things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way.”

We often think of non-doing as synonymous with meditating and doing nothing. But that is not the case. Certainly, the practice of sitting down and doing nothing can help us become more attuned to the present moment, to experience the richness and fullness of life as it unfolds in the here-and-now. However, that same presence and awareness of “now” can be achieved, just as easily, as we go about our day, doing whatever it is we do.

What does this mean?

It means that we can be present and allow our lives to unfold, to do the activities of the moment in a non-clinging way, without being attached to any particular outcome. We can appreciate the beauty of simply being, the wonder of what it means to be alive and wash the dishes or drive to work or do nothing at all – without clinging to the need to get more things done, figure things out or change our state of being.

We can let things be exactly as they are, and (as Kabat-Zinn says) “drink in the beauty of being alive”.

When we get caught up in the need to get better at something, to do more, or change the situation we find ourselves in, we attach ourselves to a notion that things are not okay – that we are not okay. Moments become minutes, become hours, become days – time that slips away unnoticed, and essentially – un-lived. Un-lived because we were somewhere else in our minds, thinking we should be anywhere but where we were.

When we embrace the perfectness of each and every moment, the absolute wholeness of who and how we are in it, we find ourselves in flow with the natural rhythm of the force behind life itself. When we start from this place of non-attached acceptance, we are able to go ahead and do whatever it is that needs to be done, in an effortless way.

Kabat-Zinn describes this: “The inward stillness of the doer merges with the outward activity to such an extent that the action does itself. Effortless activity. Nothing is forced. There is no exertion of the will…”

We, as ADDers, all have ample experience in doing things mindlessly, of being in action with detached minds that don’t concentrate on the task at hand. We also have the experience of getting lost in our activities – of being ultra-busy in pursuit of getting more done, often trying to catch up on those things never seem to get done.

My curiosity about the topic of non-doing for ADDers is this:

What if we practiced “doing”, more often, with full presence and non-attachment to particular outcomes? We know what it is like to be mindless and not-present, and at the same time worried about results or if we are going to achieve something. We don’t know what it’s like to do things, being fully immersed in them and present, and not really caring how they turn out at all.

This is how I practiced what I preach throughout the writing of this post. I wrote this post word-by-word, without editing or changing it (apart from a spell-check). I was in the moment, writing – being present with the idea, the keyboard, and my fingers typing away. I wanted this to be a good post, one that you liked. But I detached from the desperation that it must be so. I let go of any desired outcome and instead… I wrote it and let it be okay as it was. In essence, I let the post write itself.

You may or may not have enjoyed it. But I enjoyed the experience letting it unfold. I cannot say that it would have been any better if I had put pressure on myself to write the best post of my writing career.

The ADHD mind’s biggest enemy is pressure. If you drop the pressure, what becomes possible in your life? If nothing else – an appreciation of the moment and a life lived more fully-present. In the spirit of curiosity, I encourage you to try “non-doing”, even if for only a moment or two over the next couple of days. Share your experience in the comments below.

And have an awesome day.

Focus

Transform Your Life: ADHD to Zen

 

Going from ADHD to Zen… is that even possible? You probably think I’m kidding. Actually, I’m not – and you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking they are dichotomous either.

Life with ADHD may seem restless, unfocused and disorganized on the surface. Dig just a little bit further, though, and you may find a layer of peace and calmness under the chaos, just waiting to be excavated.

When ADDers seek help through medication, counseling or coaching, they are hoping for strategies to overcome their symptoms and live “normal” lives. What they really want is to transform themselves, to have a different experience of life altogether. At the core, they want more peace and happiness.

Isn’t this what we all want?

But who has time for personal transformation? It’s hard enough just getting through the day with your head still on. Transformation is for caterpillars and Autobots, not people trying to muddle through each day without falling apart. Most of us would settle for just getting to work on time.

We should want more from life than just muddling-through. What about having a life in which we are flourishing and having a great time at it? We assume that by becoming more organized, productive and focused, our paths will eventually lead us to a life of tranquility.

What if we’ve got it the wrong way around? What if the way to organization, productivity and focus was through peace and calmness? What might be possible if transformation was the first step, not the result?

What I’m saying is this:

What if Zen came first and the rest followed?

I believe that complete transformation is not only possible, but inevitable, when you open yourself up to a new experience of life, even when circumstances haven’t changed one iota.  I’m not the only one. My ideas have been influenced by several likely suspects. Specifically – two monks, a professor and of course, a punk rocker. In this four-part series, I will explain what I have learned from them and challenge you to shift your perspective.

What have you got to lose?

You’ve already lost time and perhaps money trying to find the perfect system/treatment/cure for your ADHD. I’m daring you to try something different. Expand your horizon. For now, change nothing in your life but your perception of it. The nice part of this challenge – you don’t need to do anything but think. And we all know you’re good at that.

Transformation Step 1 – Embrace the Chaos

If you’re like me and many other ADDers, then I’m sure you’ve had this experience. You’ve tried countless tactics for getting yourself, your home or your work organized, and no system thus far has managed to stick. It’s not that you don’t know how to get organized, but keeping organized requires focus and effort – every single minute, of every single day. Focus and effort are limited resources and often – we’re just tapped out.

How can we transform this?

There is nothing inherently wrong with being disorganized or scattered. Sure, it makes our lives more difficult but there is no immorality in being less “together” than society seduces us into believing we should be.

However, the problem runs deeper than this. The pursuit of “getting-it-together” can actually divert us from the true purpose of our lives. Having an organized home, for example, should be something that supports us in getting on with our life’s purpose (if you don’t know what yours is yet, check this out). Yet the stress of trying to get and stay organized can be all-consuming, robbing us of the peace we are intending to achieve. A clean kitchen is a nice thing to have, but not something to record in a resume or obituary.

In The Art of Meditation, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard tells us:

“We expend a lot of effort to improve the external conditions of our lives, but in the end it is always the mind that creates our experience of the world and translates it into well-being or suffering. If we transform our way of perceiving things, we transform the quality of our lives.”

What if we see chaos as the tariff we pay for lives rich in creativity, purpose and meaning – lives that don’t rely on neat-and-tidy togetherness to substantiate them? Let me clarify:

‘Ms Jackson’

One of my clients was a highly creative work-at-home mom, whose creative spark invariably saturated her world at work and at home (they happened to be the same place). She was amazing at her job but her home looked like Jackson Pollock’s studio. And she wasn’t even a painter, so you get the drift…

In her “home time”, she engaged her kids in wonderfully imaginative projects that inspired their own creativity, curiosity and joyful experimentation. But she was always three loads of laundry behind and rarely could she string together a meal that didn’t come out of a bag.

Although my client highly valued creativity, being a mom made her believe organization and “togetherness” were something she should be good at too.

Parenting comes with a lot of “shoulds”, ones that other roles don’t necessarily have attached to them. A chemist doesn’t feel a need to program a computer, yet creative parents are always expecting to be better homemakers, organizers, cleaners, cooks and so forth. When did these attributes become inherent in the Job Description of a parent?

I wondered:

“How many creative-types did she know – painters, writers or the like, that were organized and tidy in all aspects of their lives? And if she had to trade her creativity for organization, would she?”

There seemed to be an important part missing in her story.  I mean – her kids got to school, nourished and nurtured, and went to bed the same way. She loved them and did the best job she could for them. She gave them the best of her abilities and shared freely with them her natural talents.

In fact, they were lucky to have a mom who had so many great ideas and could show them the joy of colouring their world. But on another account, they weren’t that lucky. Their creative mom was always stressed-out by their messy and disorganized home life, because of standards she assumed were essential to good mothering. I’d have loved to ask them: did they want a creative mom or an organized one?

She wasn’t letting herself be herself. She disallowed her joy in creative living by pursuing the got-it-all-together-mom persona. Her joyful spark was lost because she was too attached to the notion of who she should be.

Eventually, she experienced a shift in her perception. In short, she gave up on being a “great mom” and instead became a great “her”, who also happened to be a mom. She let herself be herself.  While she did her best to organize day-to-day life, she didn’t sacrifice her peace and joy to do it.

She found calmness amongst her chaos. She found a way to roll with the punches and think on-the-fly, not beating herself up when she didn’t quite manage things so well.

How She Found Calmness in Chaos

  • She became more mindful, present and grateful for the moment, rather than focusing on how things should be.
  • She set aside her judgement, and allowed each day to unfold, vowing to take each moment as a learning experience rather than a test she must pass.
  • She noticed that, whenever things weren’t going as well as she would like, these moments (like all moments) would pass. Each moment was a new opportunity to start again.

What was really cool was that, as she found more calmness in her “chaos”, she became more organically organized. Not perfect mind you, but functional – enough to get through the day without feeling like a complete failure.

Let me ask you:

What area of your life could be better-served by an attitude of acceptance?

What sacrifices are you currently making to your life’s purpose, by focusing on some externally-imposed standard you think is more important?

What shift might you experience in your whole well-being, if you simply gave up your need to control this one aspect of your life, and allowed it to be just as it was?

Finding Calmness in Your Chaos

Let’s imagine, for example, that your desk is cluttered (not hard to imagine, is it?). You’re always searching for items needed to complete your work. Your productivity is seriously limited by this kind of disorganization, no doubt. But you’ve tidied your desk a bazillion times and it never stays that way.

Should you try to organize it yet again? Maybe you should flagellate yourself with a mouse-cord. Or hire a thug to stand behind you, slapping you upside-the-head every time you misplace something. Perhaps that would keep you organized.

Another tack might be to change your point of view.

A Fix That Fits

Accept that part of your work day will involve time spent looking for misplaced artefacts. I’m not saying that you can’t work on de-cluttering your desk, but you can factor-in a cluttered desk as a natural part of the way you work. You’re a square peg, so make the hole square too. After all, you’ll lose more time in endless cycles of de-cluttering and re-cluttering than you will by allowing a few extra minutes to find things.

If you can get organized and stay organized, you will. But if you can’t, you will have to make peace with your disorganization.

Zen in Clutter  

Allow yourself to find the Zen in a cluttered workspace. Take the pressure off. Be present and accepting of the way things are. When you notice your desk in disarray, take a moment to tidy it. Or don’t. But do not beat yourself up for being disorganized. The calmness in finding this Zen could actually help you get more focused and organized, simply by being more present and accepting of the moment.

Stop fighting the waves of ADD. Start riding them.

In the next three follow ups to this post, we will explore:

  • How doing less, or even nothing at all, can help you get more out of yourself.
  • How sucking lemons is the one of the greatest ways to live more fully.
  • How managing ADHD and living life well is truly an inside-job.

For the next couple weeks, work on your own perspective-shift. Whatever it is about your ADHD that bugs you the most – make a decision to see it from a different perspective.

What are the positive aspects or off-shoots of that challenge? For example, Ms Jackson was creative but that often meant she was also disorganized. What do you get to be despite your challenges?

Your challenges – are they really in opposition to your values, or to society’s imposed values?

What happens when you look for the Zen in your ADD moments? How do you feel? Does a shift in perspective help you when you other tactics don’t?

I’m curious to hear what you notice. And don’t forget – please share your experience in the comments below!

Focus

What You Should Do For ADHD Awareness Month

October is the month for International ADHD Awareness. As you know, I’m a big advocate for promoting awareness of ADHD. I talk a lot about ADD. Because, well… this is an ADD blog.

So what are you doing to promote the cause during this international month of awareness?

In honour of this important time, I have written a best-selling book that will change everything we know about ADD, based on my years of intensive research. I have also produced and starred in a documentary exposing the ups and downs of ADD and the insufficiencies of standard treatment. And then just last week, I invented a new drug that is currently being reviewed for FDA approval. It helps you focus without making you irritable or tweaky. I called it Xursize.

Haven’t I done well this month?! Top that Ned Hallowell. Move over Russell Barkley. Eat my dust Rick Green.

So I might be exaggerating a bit. Exaggerating, in that I didn’t actually do any of those things.

(I may have been a bit insolent too. Those three guys are my heroes.)

In real life (the one in which my body exists, not just my head), I did something much more impressive than those insolent exaggerations (lies).

The Really Impressive Thing I Did

I woke up every day after just two snooze-button pushes. I got my kids to school 2 minutes before the bell rang. I arrived to work on time. I paid attention when my husband asked me to find something. I watched 14 performances of Call Me Maybe in my living room. Note: I didn’t troll through my smart phone, I WATCHED my kids sing my (now) least favourite song in the world.

And to top it off, I called my mom on her birthday. (Well, actually, the day before, but I wasn’t late!)

In essence, I managed my ADD – to the best of my ability anyway. Indubitably (say it 3 times), amongst those huge ADD successes there were a lot of failures too, but that’s not the point. We (people) fail every day. Nothing epic about that.

The point is, I didn’t bow down to ADD and let it reign over me. I didn’t let it control me. I saw it, and I told it:

“Hey ADD, I see you. And I’m going to kick your ass”.

And I did.

Although… it kicked my ass on several occasions too. Then it laughed at me.

I responded:

“Oh ADD, you’re such a stinker”. (Yes, sometimes I talk like Harriet Nelson, especially after I’ve sworn twice in a post and am feeling dubious about it).

ADD and I are about 50-50. We’ve tied when it comes to the ultimate management of my life. Though I dare say, lately I seem to be winning more often than it does. Ha-ha, whose laughing now, punk?!

How did I manage my ADD?

I know you want a simple answer. So I’m going to give you one because guess what? The answer actually IS simple.

It’s all down to awareness.

I’m not talking about public awareness. I’m talking about self-awareness.

The Simple Answer

The more aware I am of my ADD, the more control I have over it. The more I am able to sit back and watch how it operates in my life, the more able I am to govern over it. When I pause and take notice, I can see ADD coming a mile away. And I say to it:

“Oh no, you don’t…”

And when it does, I say “Awe shucks (still feeling guilty about swearing), I’ll get you next time. I will see you from even farther away… next time”. (Cue the evil Dr. Claw laugh.)

So becoming aware of your ADD challenges and when they present… that’s a huge part of managing it well. It’s the first step in personally transforming your life and, in my opinion, the undeniably most important one.

Other things to be aware of…

  • Your strengths and how you can use them.
  • Your intentions – and whether or not you are doing what you intend to be doing.
  • Your values – and whether or not your intentions and actions are aligned with them.

Before I leave you, I want to demonstrate an example of why self-awareness is pretty awesome. I apologize in advance for referencing The Matrix again. 1999 was the best year of my life and so it seems I maybe be maturational-ly stuck there. (Generation X’ers can I get a whoop whoop?!)

Here’s The Matrix Comparison:

When Neo “awoke” in the matrix, he struggled with the preternatural challenges that faced him. He had no choice but to recode his outdated perceptions. When he finally became aware of the true nature of the matrix, he became more powerful than he ever realized he could be. So powerful, in fact, that he was able to dodge bullets and later… walk right through them.

Self-awareness helps you dodge bullets and walk right through them. (Metaphorically speaking, please don’t fling yourself into the middle of a skirmish).

So if you do anything to promote our cause this October, ADHD Awareness Month, do this:

Sponsor your own self-awareness: of ADD, how it shows up, what strengths you can leverage, and what your true intentions, values and ideals are. A fulfilled and confident ADDer is the best resource and mentor for those who are struggling. We need more positive mentors.