Mindset

Paradigm Shift: I’m Not Weird, I’m ADD

I always suspected I was weird but kept it quiet and hoped no one else would notice.

Ten years ago, my mom suggested I might have Attention Deficit Disorder. I read a seminal self-help book and agreed that I did.

Then, a few weeks later, I decided I didn’t. There was no way I would let pathology excuse my character deficits or allow me to pretend I was somehow unique or special. I wasn’t good enough to have ADD. I just needed to try harder.

And then I proceeded to carry on in the same never-ending, self-defeating cycle of searching for the cure to being me.

The possibility lingered somewhere in the back of my mind for quite some time, but I beat it into submission. Until it fought back with a force I could not deny. My ADD decided it would not be pushed away. It pushed me back.

So I revisited this notion that my “character deficits” may be, just maybe, connected to my attention deficits. My second child was nearing his first birthday, and I realized that the adjustment from one to two kids was taking me an exceedingly long time. It was probably made harder by the fact that being a parent the first time around came surprisingly easy to me. And because there were only 18 months between them.

As my son grew out of infancy and into toddlerhood it became clear that an 18 year gap wouldn’t have made a difference. I could not cope well with having my attention split between two beings I loved so passionately and so equally. And while I could just about manage myself and a child, I was not built to manage a family.

Or so I thought.

I searched, internally and outwardly, for the answers to my problems. If I could just figure out…

–         the “secret” to parenting

–         the key to guiding their behaviour consistently

–         the trick to keeping a house clean (or getting it clean in the first place), stocking a refrigerator, having the kids fed when they are hungry instead of an hour later, getting somewhere on time, not forgetting appointments, not forgetting necessary baby items on outings, getting out of the house at all, getting done what I’d said I get done, remembering in the first place that I’d said I’d do something, listening to what the kids were saying or just listening to anyone period …

… then I could figure out how to be a proper parent.

I knew other mothers were privy to this secret, but there was no way of asking them without incriminating myself as incompetent.

The fact is, in the realm of mature and responsible adults, I had always been a con artist. Having kids just shone a spotlight on me. I was a replication artist – I could make life look sort of like the real thing from a distance, but up close and personal it become obvious I scribbling outside the lines.

I researched and read what I could about every single dilemma I was faced with. I developed system after system to fix each of my issues. I devised schedules for laundry and cleaning, pre-printed grocery lists to track needed inventory. I pasted pictures of silly faces and soothing quotes around the house, reminding me to be mindful, to stay calm, to think clearly, and most of all – lighten up.

I kept a large white board on the kitchen wall inked with all my commitments, and a note pasted to my tea kettle reminding me to look at said white board. I even wrote a list of every single activity that I could do with the kids – at home or at large – when we were bored, so that I didn`t have to think on the spot. Listlessness (the state of being listless without a list) is my biggest barrier to planning.  Being bored doing nothing is favourable to being bored doing something that requires effort.

Not surprising then that I was bored a lot.

And none of those systems got implemented for more than a day. Maybe the tea-kettle-post-it-note should have been pink instead of yellow? Back to the drawing board (aka rumination) I went, again trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

Aha, I figured it out! It wasn’t that I was an inadequate mom; I was just an incompetent person. At day to day stuff anyway. Real life stuff. I’m pretty good at crisis and adventure, not so good at crying kids and afternoon naps.

No matter what the issue was, I was central to it. Everything was down to me, my fault. If I could fix me, I could fix everything.

It was kind of narcissistic, don’t you think?

I have been doing this dance for my entire life, as long as I can remember: the “what’s-really-wrong-with-me-and-how-can-I-fix-it” waltz. Maybe this sounds familiar to you?

Until ADD beat me into submission. It wouldn’t be ignored any longer.

I finally learned about ADD – the one possibility I’d never allowed myself to entertain because of an ego that told me ADD would take away my control in the matter. ADD wasn’t my fault. My ego wanted it to be my fault so that I could fix it.

All these years of trying to fix myself, I had actually been reading the wrong user’s manual. That’s what learning about ADD showed me. I had been trying to operate a Mac with a PC handbook or navigate New York with a city map of London.

What a waste of time!

I’d lost years of my life trying to fix the glitch in my matrix, never realizing I was working with the wrong code. That was the dawn of my “awakening”. Giving up control gave me the power to do something real about the challenges I face every day.

I got a new manual. The manual tells me how to work with my brain instead of against it. Interestingly, it doesn’t tell me how to be a domestic goddess, but it does tell me that I wasn’t built for that role in the first place. There are other ways to be a good mom.

My new manual reminds me that a Mac isn’t best used for spreadsheets but it does excel in other applications. In future blog posts I will reveal the “secrets” from my “manual” in hopes that it will help you gain greater clarity around your abilities and talents.

However, my manual is only an adjunct to the manual you must write for your own life. If you haven’t got around to it yet, quit wasting time and get writing it! And I hope you will share your wisdom …

Growth

The Possibilities of ADD

 

“It’s impossible said pride. It’s risky said experience. It’s pointless said reason. Give it a try whispered the heart.”

As an avid reader and one possessed by the passion for personal transformation, every once in a while I come across a book that has me smitten from the opening chapter. My latest infatuation is fixed on a book written by a couple, Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander, entitled The Art of Possibility.

So far, none of the concepts they have written about are completely new to me. I have a background in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and ADHD Coaching, so the idea that we manifest the world we see through our thoughts about it is not only familiar to me but a personal manifesto of sorts.

What does make this book different is not the message it delivers but the questions it begs you to ask of yourself.

People learn not so much from what they are told, but from what they discover for themselves when they are asked the right questions. (Click to tweet)

 

The message of this book resonates loud and clear: if you intend to transform your life, you first need to look at it through an entirely new lens, one that is crystal clear with possibilities rather than muddied with thoughts of failures and problems. After all, the authors tell us – “it’s all invented anyway”.

I wonder how this message might change the life of an ADDer coming to terms with the diagnosis. Much emphasis is put on the disorder in the medical would. It is easy to neglect that some of the characteristics of ADHD could actually be employed as strengths, if used properly.

The idea that ADHD could be a strength may sound absurd. Currently there is much debate around the notion that it may even be a gift. Most people who live with it would beg to differ. However, if we play around with this idea, in the spirit of possibility, new views of the horizon can emerge.

Yes, I accept that ADD is a disorder, insofar as the ninety percent of the population (give or take) wired in a neurotypical way create the rules and structures in which the ADDer struggles. However, life is not always linear, systematic, or logical. There come times when a brain wired for obscure, tangential, circular thinking styles and hyperactive, hyper-focused energy is not only an asset but crucial.

In his book, The Da Vinci Method, Garrett La Porto argues that when ADDers are activated and truly engaged in what they are doing, they can apply an extraordinarily high degree of focus and energy in achieving that endeavour. He argues that they are capable of a level of engagement which far surpasses that which “normal” people are capable of.

The drawback – their routine output, the kind that keeps day-to-day life ticking along, is also far less. This may not be the case for every ADDer, but it’s certainly an interesting way of looking at it.

There are times in life when high engagement and output is demanded. These are the times of innovation, proliferation, creativity, exploration, crisis or even war. Just the right circumstances for an ADD brain to switch on and get into gear. Having this purpose in the bigger picture could be viewed as functional. I’m not saying that La Porto’s theory is indisputable.  I’m just saying – it’s a POSSIBILITY…

No one will argue that being short has its disadvantages in some domains. Being exceedingly tall has its drawbacks too. But there could be times when being either tall or short puts you at an advantage for getting certain things done.

Maybe the advantages aren’t as plentiful as the disadvantages. However one thing is certain – when you focus on what seems impossible rather than what could be, you decidedly live in a world that closes its doors to you.

ADD is a challenge. There is no doubt about that. It becomes especially challenging when you try to force yourself live a neurotypical life. Technically, you could drive your car in reverse everyday and probably still get to your destination, but your journey will go a lot smoother and more enjoyably if you operate your car the way it was designed to be driven.

Living well and flourishing with ADD means using your brain the way it is designed to be used. Pause and listen to what your body is telling you. Reflect on each day to discover what you might learn about yourself and what you need to operate well. Ponder how your unique strengths could serve the world. Do this over and over again and the path to a more satisfying existence will become apparent to you.

When you do – you open up a world that is full to the brim with possibilities. And the only doors that close are the ones you slam yourself.

Productivity

Warning! The Myth About Change & Living Your Adventure

Change is hard or so they say.

I say:

No it’s not. Not as hard staying the same when the same isn’t working anymore.

Change is just unfamiliar.

The experts, whoever they are, say the hardest part about change is the fear of the unknown. There is a supposed comfort in believing the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Personally, I’d rather not know any devils but I wouldn’t stay with one to avoid another.

They also say people fail to make changes because the patterns they are accustomed to are easy and automatic. Whereas as change requires effort.

What do they know?

Personally, I think the biggest barrier between the life you know and the life you want comes down to a simple human habit: unrealistic estimations.

Fear is another barrier to change. But if fear (or anxiety) could be broken down to a simple formula, it would look like this:

Fear = an overestimation of the likelihood of a perceived bad thing happening + an underestimation of one’s ability to cope

If we applied this logic to change, the fear of changing your life, or really going for your goals, would look like this:

Inability to make a change = an overestimation of how hard something is (or likelihood of failing) + an underestimation of one’s capability to do it or to cope with the consequences of not succeeding

I’m not a maths lover but I do like formulas for the simple reason that they break complicated things down and make them clearer. I like real life examples because they give those complicated things some context. I hope sharing mine with you helps.

I’ve lived across the world. In 1999, I left a cushy government job that paid handsomely for a youngster in my profession to backpack Australia for a year. I’d sacrificed prestige and my rung on the ladder for menial jobs and adventure. Then I moved back home with Peg and Al (as my parents are affectionately known), only long enough to recompense my bank account and set off for England.

After seven years and a lot of living, my partner and I decided it was time to move to back Canada (it’s a place north of the US), with our baby. But the nomads in us weren’t yet settled. We took a detour through the American West, 10 month old baby in tow, living out of suitcases and a rented vehicle. We ate out at supermarkets and chain restaurants. We even survived a mugging and a protracted case of unexpected morning sickness. Two months of fun, adventure, sickness, irritation and quite a few moments of “What the heck are we doing!?”

Did we doubt the decision we’d made to travel? Of course. Especially when that pink pee-stick surprised us one morning in a Super 8 room, somewhere in the Coachella Valley.

Would we change it if we could? Never.

At the end of the two months, we’d had enough. We took a quick trip to Hawaii to collect our thoughts (lay on a each and do noting) and flew home to Edmonton where we stayed. It wasn’t the original plan, but that was how it ended up.

None of it was easy, but all of it was much easier than anyone could have predicted.

The thing people most often say when I share my story is this:

“Wow that sounds like fun, I wish I could do it (apart from the mugging and morning sickness)”

And I say:

“Why couldn’t you?”

Of course you could. If I could do it, with all my executive dysfunctions, any sensible person could do it. It depends on how much you want it and how much you believe in possibility. It also depends on how much you are willing to fail.

The only thing that really stands in the way of living a life you really want is whether or not you really want it.  And what you are willing to do to get it. Travelling across Western USA with “two babies” really wasn’t as hard as filing income taxes every year or working at a dead end 9-5 for an entire mortal life. We do hard things all the time.

When it comes to the possibility of living your dreams, the proof is in the pudding. You only need to do it once to realize that it was your own head holding you back all those years. Of course you need to plan and prepare but being adaptable and open to changing your plans will serve you equally as well.

Our intention had been to travel Western Canada after America to find a place we’d really like to live. But because we’d overstayed our time in America, we decided to go straight home. And because of that, we settled somewhere that (as it turns out) we really didn’t care for all that much.

Still, none of this was hard.

It’s not that we couldn’t have carried on traveling to find the “perfect” place in Canada. We changed our plans to do what seemed like the right thing at the time. Many times I have asked myself if we should’ve forfeited the American trip to spend more time looking for a great place to settle down.

The answer I have always come up with is “no”.

Although we haven’t been incredibly fond of place we are living, it was exactly where we needed to be at that time our lives. We’ve learned a lot of things and made a lot of priceless connections with people we’d otherwise never have met.

And had we not traveled, we’d have rued the fact that we never got in “one more adventure” when the opportunity presented. Regret is much worse than uncertainty or even failure.

When it comes to changing your life you need to have a plan – just don’t get too attached to it. Be ready to change course mid-journey, because sometimes it’s the road you never planned on that leads to the best destinations. When it comes to reaching for your dreams, strike a balance between determination and adaptability. If you are too attached to certain outcomes, you’ll miss what is already there or what could be.

Realize that your estimation of whether or not your dream is possible is the one thing that will determine the success or demise of it. If you think it’s too hard you won’t bother trying. If you want it bad enough to make it happen no matter how hard it is – you’ll do it.

And no matter what, be prepared to fail.

Failure is rarely as bad as you predict it will be, but limiting your life to avoid it is worse than you can ever imagine. (Click to tweet)

 

Go back that equation at the start of the post and look at it. Can you see that you won’t be able to quantify any of those variables of change-making until you try it?

Change isn’t hard. Staying the same when the same isn’t working – is.

And four years later, it’s time for another change. We have finally found that place where can see ourselves putting some roots down and are moving there next week.

Will it work out? I don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out!

Pass this post on to someone you care about whose fear or failing is stooping them from making an important change in their life. Remind them that there can be no failure when learning is present.

Growth

5 Simple Steps to Master Your ADHD Challenges Now

So you’re stuck.

You do everything your clinician has told you to do, you take the medication and try to get organized but still, you just can’t get on top of your ADD.

As much as I wish medication would fix everything, it doesn’t. It helps, but it only takes you part way on the journey to ADHD success. It drops you off somewhere in the middle of the road, hands you the keys and says:

“You drive now.”

But it doesn’t give you an operator’s manual and the vehicle you’re meant to drive doesn’t run like an ordinary one.

So now what?

That’s the easy part. Take the wheel.

As frustrating as ADHD may be, it’s yours. All yours. It’s going to be with you for the rest of your life. So you might as well learn how to drive it.

The challenging part is that course is a bit bumpy and winding and the map you’ve had up to now has been, for the most part, inaccurate. The fun part of the ADD life is that it’s a ride like no other. The quicker you get in the driver’s seat with the right map at your side, the quicker your road will become less bumpy and a whole lot more fun.

There are five things you can do this month to take the wheel and become a better driver.

1. Learn about ADD.

Read at least four or five books on the subject BUT don’t read just anything. ADDers don’t have a lot of time, and they certainly don’t have a lot of attention. So the books you choose should maximize both your time and attention. Choose books that target your specific challenges. Read reviews of the book to first make sure your time spent reading it will be a good investment. As you reading, keep notes, make mind maps, take photographs of poignant paragraphs, or dictate key ideas into a voice recorder. Capture and remember important ideas however you can because ADD will make you forget everything almost as quickly as you close the book.

2. Get to know YOUR ADD.

I cannot scream loud enough for you to hear JUST HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS!

Yep, this “diagnosis” brings us ADDers together under an umbrella that describes a bunch of things we jointly experience. But that’s about it. ADD is a totally unique experience for each and every one of us. Think about it this way: ADD is the country, you are a citizen. Find out who you are as a citizen of ADD.

What are your challenges? When do they come up? When don’t they come up? What makes them worse and what makes them better? More importantly, what are your strengths and how can you leverage them against the things that you struggle with? Answering these questions will help you get to the reasons simple organizational tips and tricks haven’t worked so far.

Psst! If you want FREE resources to help you unlock the secrets of your ADHD, sign up for The Art of ADD newsletter (right sidebar) for the tools.

3) Give yourself a tune up.

We all know how important proper nutrition, lots of exercise and adequate sleep are for every being on this planet – none more so than the ADDer. This topic has been beaten to death by smarter people than I, so I won’t say much about it other than this:

Do one thing and do it now. If you’ve struggled with dozens of attempts to get fit and healthy, change just one little thing and stick to it for three weeks. Twenty one days and you’re on your way to making a new habit stick. Drink one less cup of coffee a day. Eat a handful more protein. Walk up and the down the stairs two times a day.

Do something. Just don’t do everything, because all-or-none thinking is the Achilles heel of ADD. More often it becomes none rather than all.

4) Get a coach.

Like any coach, an ADD Coach helps you figure out your game. A coach helps you get to the bottom of your slump and figure out a way to remove those obstacles. He or she understands ADD and helps you figure yourself out, so that you can design a life that works better for you. Most of all, an ADHD Coach helps you unlock your strengths, get on top of your game and reach your goals.

5) Make yourself a priority.

Life is busy. A busy life with unruly ADHD is harried. Make a to-don’t list for the next month. Give yourself a break from unnecessary tasks for awhile and devote yourself to the first four steps.

People go on retreats so they can immerse themselves in a new way of being. Immerse yourself in self-discovery and finding your self-efficacy. Ask for help or hire it in if needed. Give yourself a kick start by doing as much as you can to master your challenges. Then give yourself a break and reward yourself for your efforts.

These five simple steps won’t remove all the obstacles from your life, but they will make the ADD journey a lot easier. Tell me about the ways you have dealt with ADD challenges in your life. What was your best kick-start?

Productivity

Two Life Changing Tips To Manage Your Time Better

Everybody’s busy. Everyone needs more time. But apart from Dr. Who, none of us can control how fast it passes.

We do control how we spend the time we have. But even when we ADDers have time – we often fail to use it effectively. For several reasons: we don’t have a firm concept of how it passes, we aren’t realistic about what we can do with it, and we struggle to make the most of it.

There are plenty of great Internet resources that will teach you some techniques to manage these challenges. But I am more interested in experience than how-to’s. It makes no difference how well you spend your time if you don’t enjoy it while you are spending it.

Most people have too much on their plate. In yesteryears, families resorted to two incomes as a way to make ends meet. As wealth increased, we used the superfluous earnings we had improving our quality of life. But as a society seduced by consumerism, we’ve lost track of the difference between needs and wants. Often, we work for our things rather than our needs, sacrificing time for money.

No one needs an extra bedroom or a cottage at the lake. Granted, they are nice to have. A room for company to sleep in and a cottage for respite certainly improve quality of life. But only if you’ve made the conscious decision that they are worth the time and money they require. The point isn’t whether or not you should have these things, it is whether or not you value them enough to sacrifice your time.

The challenge for everyday tasks is no different. In order to get a firm grip on how you spend your time, it is important to clarify between your needs and your wants. More importantly, you need to clarify your values. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing, and whether the thing you are doing is something you value, helps you make more conscious choices over how you spend your time.

Which brings me to the next challenge we so often face: competing values. I value being a good mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee, coach, housekeeper, philanthropist… but I can’t be all of those things, all of the time. The sad truth is that when we spend time doing one thing we value, we unavoidably fail to spend time doing something else we value.

In Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar shares an anecdotal study that was done on women and happiness. He explains that women frequently report their least satisfying part of the day was the time that they were spending with their children. Not because they didn’t love their children or enjoy their company, but because the time they spent with them was often punctuated by multitasking and doing other things like chores, emailing, or talking on the phone. Quite simply, they were with their children in body but not in mind. Being with their kids simply highlighted the nagging sense that they weren’t really giving themselves over to their kids, but coping the best they could stretched out on life’s wooden horse.

Multitasking rarely makes life more enjoyable. But we do it, because it seems we have to. When was the last time you ate a meal and did nothing else? I mean – nothing else. No talking, driving, texting, opening emails, watching TV – only eating? Few of us sit down and just eat. Interestingly, unconscious eating is partially responsible for today’s obesity problem.  In his hugely successful series “I Can Make You Thin”, British hypnotist and neurolingistic programmer Paul McKenna advises that slow and deliberate eating, done in isolation of any other activity, is one key way to eat less and lose weight.

We don’t just need more time or less to do. We need to experience the time we have more fully, no matter how we are spending it. Stress doesn’t come from infinite to-do lists so much as it comes from the loss of seconds, minutes, hours or even days of your life. Doing five things at once is not time well spent. It’s the passing of a moment without ever really experiencing it.

This is one of the biggest challenges ADDers have with time. We are never really here, but a millions places at once. It’s hard to feel like you have any time when you’re never fully there to experience it.

If you want to make the most of your precious hours on this earth, you only need to focus on two things.

1. Quality

Increase the quality of the time you are spending (no matter what you are doing) by being as present as possible, whether it is through use of medication, mindfulness, single-tasking, or any other means. It may seem counterintuitive, but most people enjoy things more when they are present.

There is a way to slow time down. It’s called Mindfulness. Mindfulness can be extraordinarily hard to achieve at the best of times, let alone when you have ADD. Yet, it can be very simple at the same time. In the Joy of Living, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche makes it very accessible for amateurs. In its simplest form, it only requires you to notice and observe all that you are experiencing and doing in the present moment. And when you notice your mind slip out the back door and on to other things, you gently bring it back to the moment. You don’t even have to give up daydreaming (which I secretly love, when it is not interfering with other things in my life). You simply notice yourself daydreaming. And by doing so, you are present.

Slowing down and doing one thing at a time is another way to capture the moment, especially if you practice mindfulness at the same time. The idea of it may sound like nails on a chalkboard to us ADDers who thrive on momentum, velocity and multiple sources of stimulation. But a bit of slowing down once in awhile can actually make us more efficient, and even more fulfilled. I feel like a better mother when I am fully present during playtime with the kids, as hard as it is to do when Barbie vs Batman has had its third spontaneous plot change, directed by a 5 year old who demands perfection from the performance.

But feeling like a better mom lets me focus more clearly by removing any source of guilt when I shift my attention to other things later on. Sometimes, you have to pay attention in “installments” by bringing your mind back, over and over and over again.

You won’t be able to slow down and be mindful all of the time, but any time you do will add a great deal of quality to your life.

2. Quantity:

Increase the quantity of time you spend doing things you value by clarifying your values and differentiating your needs from wants. Some things need to be done, but not nearly as many things as we think. Thinking about the “why” behind your activity can make it more rewarding for you, if it is in line with your values. I don’t value cooking and would happily eat out everyday – but I do value providing a nutritious meal for the family and reserving our finances for other things. Being conscious of the “why” can make certain tasks less frustrating, even if they aren’t that enjoyable.

You may be irritated right now that I haven’t highlight ways for you to get more done. But I can almost guarantee that when you spend more time on things you truly value or conversely, find value in the things you are already doing, your time will be better spent. And when you stop and pay attention to those things, the roller coaster slows down.

Productivity

Time Is On My Side (No It’s Not)

hi

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

No, not the sound of a clock, but my head banging on the counter top. It’s a little hollow right now (my head) – hence the tick-tock rather than a bang-bang or thud-thud.

The elusive concept of time …. eludes me. I have always maintained that if days had more hours, my ADD would have half the challenges. You see, while I am a terrible organizer, haphazardly inattentive, and slow to get started on most things – I’m convinced that I would be none of these things if time simply waited for me. I can pay attention – but only after I get around to doing everything else on my list, so that a million things aren’t competing for my head space like an under-priced house in a seller’s market. I could also be more organized – if someone else’s deadlines didn’t dictate the time frame within which I must work. If this were the case, getting started would be a non-issue, because when I got started and how long it took – would be irrelevant.

The biggest problem with time is that it seems to be moving faster and faster. It could be a sign of the ages – too much to do and too little time. Or it could be a sign of my age. My dad always warned me that life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. Funny guy my dad, he’s the Cliff Claven of sayings involving bodily functions.

But I don’t think it’s really going faster (quantum physicist’s post your arguments below). We are  going faster and time simply matches our pace. Every night before I go to bed, I review the day’s events in comparison to the next day’s itinerary and think:

“It’s too much”.

See, twenty-four hours in a day really isn’t enough, but since it is all we get, we need to pace ourselves accordingly rather than cramming more into each second. But with ADD, there are two huge barriers to doing this.

1. We have no concept of time.

We don’t know how long something should take or how much time we need to complete it. We have no idea how we spend most of our time, simply because we often aren’t “there” while we are spending it. But most of all – our biggest challenge with time is that we are overly optimistic. Most authorities on managing ADD will advise you to project how much time you think a task will take and double it, in order to get a more accurate figure of the time it will actually take. I am fully aware of that fact. However, when I look at how much I can get done in a day (realistically) and compare it to what I want to get done, there is a gross mismatch between the figures. Deep down I really believe I should and could get those things done, if I only I could find the focus.

2. We frequently take on too much.

Everybody takes on too much these days; busy-ness is not segregated to ADDers but seems to be a global dilemma. Next time you see a friend and ask her how she is doing, I will bet you a million bucks (the ones roaming the Boreal Forest, not the ones sitting in Bill Gates’ bank account) that she says “Oh, I am soooooo busy!” We ADDers don’t necessarily take on more than any other group of people, but we certainly do take on more than is good for us. Again, because of our optimism (I should and could) and because of this simple phenomenon:

When the going gets tough, ADDers … up the ante. (Click to tweet)

 

Yep. That’s what we do. For example, I started coaching last year and have been busily growing my business. Apart from my family, coaching is my priority numero uno because – it’s the thing I really love to do. Then, I started this blog, which has become priority numero dos because (as it turns out) – it’s the other thing I really love to do. So I do these two things joyfully, while coasting along with the “day job” and making time for my family and  friends. I could also pretend that I make time for housework to try and look good, but the amount of time I spend doing that is an inconsequential drop in the bucket.

The week that this blog went live was a crazy-busy, but totally exciting time. It seems a long time ago now but was less than a month (thanks to you again, elusive Father Time). The day after the blog was first published, I did the only rational and normal thing a woman in my position would do – I decided to relocate. Not next door or across town, but 840 km (522 miles) west of here. Wrapped up in the excitement and enthralled with the sense of completion the blog gave me, I was inspired to finally make the decision I had been postponing for nearly a year. Because that’s how my brain works.

When ADDers get busy, we have a tendency to take on even more. Being busy, harried, and hanging on by the skin of our teeth activates our adrenaline, aka mother nature’s Ritalin. However, adrenaline has serious side effects if we rely on it long-term, and while it gives us a boost in the short-term, it doesn’t really increase productivity. But its not just the adrenaline we crave. While other people can get their noses to the grind when they really need to, ADDers need to get into the right mental state to get focused and productively active. When that state hits us, we don’t want to lose our momentum. So we decide to take it all on. And that’s the reason we believe we should and could do it all : because when we’re in hyper-focus, we can and do. At times, we “can” and “do” do more than anyone else “could” or “would”. The problem is, the momentum doesn’t last forever. Yet we seem to think that because we can get a lot done in hyperfocus, we can get that much done at other times. It’s a faulty principle. Hyper-focus is the exception, not the norm. If it was, your life would be very one-dimensional and devoid of enjoyment and rest. In short, you’d burn out.

So yes, we need to project a realistic view of how long things will actually take. And yes, we should learn to take on only what we can feasibly do in normal times, not hyper-focus times. But more importantly – we need to learn to appreciate what we are doing, when we are doing it. And we need to appreciate why we are doing all that we are. Because without meaning and purpose, all busy-ness is wasted effort. Thinking about the purpose behind our actions can put more joy into the time we do have. It can even slow time down.  Being fulfilled and full of joy transcends the ticking of the clock and nullifies the relevance of the passing seconds. It is time well-spent, not time maxed out.

Being busy or pushed for time doesn’t matter when you make each minute an important part of your day.

In the next post, we will explore time more and try to harness it like a cowboy halts a bucking bronco. But for now, please leave me your comments and share your experience of time and its challenges. I want to know that I am not the only one who can’t get a firm grip on the clock!

Growth

Seven Ways to Kick Chronic Self-Doubt in the Face

Everyone doubts themselves now and then. A moderate dose of doubt can be good for a person, as long as it doesn’t take over. However, the effects of growing up in an environment (i.e. school) whose infrastructure is in direct conflict with the way many an ADD brain works, make it not uncommon for ADDers to doubt their abilities and suffer low self-esteem because of these doubts.

The problem lies in the fact that many ADDers have come to conclusions about themselves that are not as true as they believe them to be. They may see themselves as stupid, incompetent or incapable of learning. They may believe themselves to be obnoxious, unruly, or just plain bad. These kinds of labels do nothing to help an ADDer “perform” better, and in fact can be debilitating. Never mind the fact that they are just plain wrong.

The problem is, these negative self-beliefs have become so ingrained by the time a person reaches adulthood, it feels impossible to shake them. It is at these times that you must go to war with your negative self. The steps to fighting it aren’t easy, but then again – neither is feeling bad about yourself.

 

1. Declare war

Decide right now that you will no longer submit to totalitarian rule and plan your coup against the “authority” that tells you can’t do it:

 

Until you declare outright war, you will never be sovereign from a limiting view of yourself. (Click to tweet)

 

2. Name your opponent

Imagine self-doubt (substitute self-loathing, self-criticism, low confidence) as a tangible opponent. Give it a face, a body and a name if possible. What would it look like or sound like? I see mine as Goliath, much larger and uglier than me, his arms are big and his voice is booming but he is Neanderthal-esque. He’s a brute but an idiot. I can be smarter than him. Know who it is you are fighting.

 

3. Get in the ring

Your opponent expects you to back down. Surprise him with hand-to-hand combat. This starts with a decision that no matter what that inner voice of treason tells you, you will swing your bat at every ball. Start by simply saying “No, I will not listen to you.”

 

 

4. Bring out the big guns

Daily affirmations and letters of gratitude may help when you’re feeling a bit low on yourself, but when your self-esteem has launched a full-blown assaultive, you need heavy artillery to win the battle. Decide that with each blow that inner voice delivers, you will throw a bigger punch. Bigger punches come in three different forms:

A. The lefthook: Undermine self-doubt by focusing on every piece of evidence that contradicts it, no matter how small that piece of evidence may seem. This means tit for tat. If you notice self-doubt telling you can’t do something or aren’t good enough, then you must deliberately look for evidence that says you can and are good enough. Every piece of evidence counts. If, at the beginning, your mind can’t focus on what’s good about you, then try a reverse tactic – focus on why your negative views are wrong.

B. The uppercut: If you can’t generate your own evidence, turn to others who can. What would your closest family member or best friend say about the negative thought you are having about yourself? If you can, seek out their advice directly. If the people in your life don’t know how to be supportive, think about what a trusted expert in the field of ADD or someone else you admire might say.

C. The low blow: Find the Achilles heal. Every point of view is just a view, a negative one is no more correct than a positive one. It only feels like it is because you have learned to judge yourself against faulty standards that tell you that you are wrong or not good enough. Find holes in the standards that fuel your low opinion of yourself. Are the standards too black and white? Do you apply these standards only to yourself and not other people? Do your views neglect key pieces of information? Is there another way of looking at things?

 

5. Change your tactics

In “How David Beats Goliath”, Malcolm Gladwell points out that the underdog actually has a bigger advantage than the titan when he employs unconventional tactics. David brought Goliath down with one stone. Think carefully about one thing in your life you could change. That thing might be the stone to throw your self-doubt off its feet. You may need to start doing something small that will give you even one more ounce confidence. Ounces added to ounces make up gallons, eventually. Think of yourself as a learner, rather than a master. Failure is okay, because each failure teaches you something. After all, “an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions.”(Ralph Waldo Emerson).

 

 

6. Strengthen your defenses

Get busy, surround yourself with things that make you feel good. Banish negative thoughts with the one thing they can’t argue with: the law of averages says that repeated efforts are those most likely to bring about success. Give yourself every opportunity to succeed starting with small efforts. Don’t allow that voice to negate your efforts by telling you small successes don’t count. Lots of little things contribute to the big picture.

7. Declare victory, but keep your guard up

Self-doubt never goes away completely, but you can quiet it significantly by closing the door on it, and being mindful when it starts to creep up again. Watch for it, but don’t let it in the door. A bouncer at a nightclub has the authority to decided who does or doesn’t get into the club. If someone looks like they are up for causing a bit of trouble, a bouncer doesn’t let him in and then wait to see if he’ll cause trouble. He knows it’s much easier to keep a trouble maker out in the first place than to try and get him out later. Guard your mind like a bouncer.

The war on chronic self-doubt can be an epic one, but the more battles you win, the more you stand the chance of claiming victory and ending the war.

The most important thing is that you never give up.

Share you strategies for overcoming self-doubt in the comments below!

Growth

Defeating Self-Doubt: Awakening the Warrior Within

This post isn’t for everyone. But if you battle low self-esteem, confidence or worth as a consequence of your ADHD – then this post is absolutely FOR YOU!

 

In her book Courage: Overcoming Fear & Igniting Self-Confidence, the author Debbie Ford instructs readers depleted in self-esteem to become warriors against the self-defeating forces within. At a glance her instruction may seem exaggerated or over-zealous, but as someone who has battled low self-esteem and helped countless others do the same, her advice is measured in just the right dose.

You will never win a battle against low self-esteem without going to war. And trust me when I say this, it is a war. Your opponent has been growing in strength in the hidden realms of your psyche since you were a small child. It has found ways to twist events in your life and suck them in as energy to feed itself. It continually finds ways to exploit your human flaws, and negate your strengths and achievements, rendering you an insignificant adversary. It is a cunning, formidable foe who deceives you into believing that its agenda is the only option available to you.

Most of all, it is sly. It lays dormant most of the time, whispering in your ear but not speaking so loudly as to bring attention to itself. It is noticeable when you look for it, like the beating of your heart, but does not make itself obvious. By this, it ensures its existence, like a parasite that drains energy from its host while inconspicuously ensuring the host does not notice its interference. But, but, but …. If you do notice it and decide to take action, this beast launches a surprise attack on you, assailing you with all its reserves. With every effort you make to strengthen your armour or to step up your tactics, it responds by upping the ante. At this point you feel helpless, defeated, resigned to the fact that it will always win. And so you give up the fight and remain a prisoner of war to self-loathing.

Like the parasite, self-reproach needs you to survive. You feed it unwittingly, and it grows in strength and control over you. But if you starve it, it dies.

And the worst part is, it’s all a delusion.

You’ve had the power all along. Like running away from a monster in a bad dream, all you need to do is wake up. Wake up to the beauties and talents and strengths you possess, the ones the monster told you were inconsequential or meaningless. Wake up to the power of who you are, and always were, when that monster was spinning fiction to serve its own gain. Wake up to your potential and who you can be, now that the monster is dead. It was the one who told you to feel bad about yourself. That feeling made you make certain choices in your life, then it turned those choices against you, using them as more evidence as to why you should feel bad about yourself.

Who are you now, without that delusion?

After all, the only thing that is stopping you from being as brilliant as you really are is that monster.

When you fight this devious self-esteem, you must imagine yourself as a warrior, like William Wallace in Braveheart. You will not give up your freedom. You will not give up the fight.

And every time you win, you grow stronger in force, and depth, and magnitude. Each time you let your light shine, you hug yourself from the inside, or your consciousness whispers encouragement to its subconscious, you grow into being your true self, the one who accepts who he or she is. Each time you accept yourself and live with the belief that you are perfectly whole, you fulfill your purpose in life to bring gifts to this world, sharing the energy and essence of who you are.

The battle starts now with one choice.

You must do whatever it takes to starve the monster and awaken the warrior within. The only other option is to be eaten alive by self-doubt.