Mindset

The Monsters University Guide to Non-Conformity

“One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints.” Proverb

In the last post I urged you to accept your ADHD for what it is, and start living with it instead of judging it. Today, I will tell you why. And let me give you a little hint – it has everything to do with non-conformity.

We are all born with limitless potential. From the moment of birth, the path laid before us is one of never-ending twists and turns, speed bumps and potholes. There are ups and downs, unexpected sharp curves and just sometimes… unswerving thoroughfares we can coast along enjoying the journey. We know this about life. Though we don’t know exactly where we are going, we do know that we are going somewhere. At least we hope we are.

Over time, our faith in the path erodes. We can’t see where we are going. We see the twists and bumps, the curves that took us off guard, but we lose sight of the destination. Others seem to coast along, while we veer from side to side and occasionally even hit the ditch. We compare our journey to theirs. We start to wonder if we are going anywhere. We fear that, in fact, we are going nowhere.

So what can a couple of fictitious monsters teach us about course-correcting our life’s path?

If you haven’t seen Monsters University, here is a little synopsis (spoiler alert here):

Mike Wizowski is a small and somewhat cute one-eyed monster. All his life, he has dreamed of going to Monsters University and becoming the best Scarer there ever was. He believes it to be his destiny. When he finally gets the chance, he discovers that despite his unequalled spirit, dedication and hard work, he does not have what it takes to become the Scarer he dreams of being. He knows the theory better than anyone but he lacks the one thing that can never be taught: he’s just not scary.

While at University, he does manage to overcome some major challenges. He finds a purpose for his wealth of knowledge and learns how to apply it to his work. But he never graduates and he never – ever – learns how to be truly scary.

There was an opportunity for Disney Pixar to give us the cliché happy ending we tend to want from an animated film. They could have had Mike reach deep down inside himself; get in touch with the inner Scarer he longed to be and let him out. That would have told the tale of the underdog finding victory through heroic self-mastery.

But they didn’t. Instead, Mike flunked out and got his coveted Scarer job – eventually – by working his way up from the mail room of Monsters Inc.

Profound, isn’t it?

In all seriousness, there are several take-aways this movie offers as inspiration. One being that just because you are not headed where you think you should be going, doesn’t mean you are going nowhere. Sometimes you have to go about reaching your goals in a way you hadn’t originally planned.

But I think the more important lesson that resonates is this:

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
Lao Tzu (Click to tweet)

Uh-huh. I did just make a connection between the great Chinese philosopher and a Disney monster. You see, I did not tell you the whole story. Mike never became a world-class Scarer. But he did become a top notch “scare consultant”. One who helped other monsters, especially his best friend Sulley, achieve unprecedented success as Scarers through using prowess for advising on them with his expert knowledge. You don’t always have to play the game to be in the game. In essence, he became what he might be. Not what he originally wanted to be, but what he was meant to be nevertheless.
(I can’t stress enough here that I, too, am alarmed by the fact that I am philosophizing over a monster movie!)

 

But what does this mean for non-conformity and ADD?

When you think you are going nowhere…
When you feel like you’re chasing your tail…
and never getting any further ahead…

You might be forgetting an important truth about the journey. Just because your destination is not visible on the horizon, does not mean it isn’t there. And because your journey looks a little different to the journeys of those around you, does not make your journey any less worthy, or your destination any less beautiful. You just need to open your eyes to the horizon in front of you.

Put another way:

“The irony is that the energy ADD adults expend on their attempts at sameness is wasted, as is the anxiety parents generate of their child’s differentness. The world is much more ready to accept someone who is different and comfortable with it than someone desperately seeking to conform by denying himself. It’s the self-rejection others react against, much more than the differentness. So the solution is for the adult not to “fit in”, but to accept his inability to conform. The child’s uniqueness has to first find a welcome in the heart of the parent.” Gabor Mate, Scattered Minds

 

If you want to make footprints in this world, walk your own path. Even when you’re not sure of where that path is taking you … keep walking.

The destination is always in front of you.

Mindset

How Do You Feel About Having ADHD?

Not so long ago, somebody asked me this question: how do you feel about having ADHD? I had to stop and think about it for a minute. I mean, how do you answer a question like that? It’s not possible to give an answer. There are many valid responses – each of them equally true. 

 

Multi-tiered responses seem dithery. But it’s not really a multiple choice question. No matter how you fill in the blanks, having ADD means a lot of things – none of which can be summed up in one final conclusion.

Could Spongebob have ADHD? I wonder…

How do I feel about having ADD?

Well… um… !?!?

It reminds me of a story. A young man was sitting his college final in philosophy. Daunted by the knowledge the result accounted for 50% of his final grade, he was understandably uptight. Furthermore, there was only one question on the exam. One question in which to achieve exactly half of his final mark in the class. While he had really enjoyed the class, the idea that he could blow it all on one question unnerved him.

The question was “Why?”

Nothing more, just “Why?” It was a philosophy class, after all.

Others applied pen to paper madly and fervently, concocting all sorts of intelligent and articulate rejoinders, the kind expected in academia.  He was stunned and did not know where to begin. Surveying the plethora of options, he could not comfortably and confidently choose a solid debate. So instead he sifted through and pushed aside all ideas, going straight to his gut for his response. Which was:

Why not?

He aced the exam. One hundred percent. Ten thousand words more could not offer up a better answer.

So how do I feel about having ADHD?

I could say that I hate it. I’m tired of the restlessness, the inability to focus at times and the incessant drive to always be “doing something”. I’m sick of misplacing things and forgetting important tasks, and of losing my train of thought every… what was I going to say?

I could say that I love it. It blesses me with an abundance of ideas. It keeps me on my toes. It makes me good at handling unpredictable circumstances, to think quickly and take decisive action with little preparation or notice. It certainly makes life interesting.

Depending on when you catch me, both those answers are true – at times. But for the most part, my real answer is a simple as the Why Not that aced the exam.

How do I feel about having ADD?

I don’t. I don’t feel anything about having ADD.

How do you feel about it?

How about your teeth? How do you feel about having teeth?

How do feel about having a heart? How about your lungs? What do you think about breathing air? How do feel about living on land? What about gravity – how do you feel about that?

You don’t, right?

After many years of learning about my ADD and growing with it, I have learned to accept it. I’ve had much help in learning to manage my challenges, and most of my growth has been realized through discovering and fully embracing my strengths as well. I’ve taken the good along with the bad and the ugly. My ADD hasn’t got better. I’ve just got better at living well with it. So the challenges have been minimized, opening the door for the positives to manifest themselves.

Oh yeah… and through doing this all I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach my ADD comrades and help them manifest the same in their lives. Not a bad job eh?

Truly accepting and working with ADHD means that eventually, for the most part, you won’t have too many feelings about it at all. It’s just a part of you, like your teeth and your heart. It’s just a part of life, like gravity and living on land.

You won’t have to feel anything about it. You will take the good and the bad along with the air and the gravity. It’s just a part of life. And you’ll just get on with it.

In part two to this post, we will explore why this kind of acceptance is so important. Not just important, but absolutely crucial to creating your greatest masterpiece – a life lived well. But for now, I leave you with the question once more…

How do you feel about having ADHD?

(See those spaces down there? The ones under the heading “comments”? Those spaces are for your answers so go ahead and comment! I guarantee, every comment will get a 100% mark from me!)

Image courtesy of http://unh-ed604.wikispaces.com/Feelings

Mindset

13 Interrogation Tactics for a Confidence Break-Through (and why you deserve it)

IF YOUR CONFIDENCE HAS EVER BEEN AT ROCK BOTTOM, THEN MAYBE IT IS TIME TO HOLD THAT SELF-DOUBT ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT IT DOES TO YOUR LIFE…

The room is dark and damp, the lights are bright and oppressive. Self-loathing is in the interrogation room, charged with the crime of ruining your life. It says:

I don’t deserve to feel good about myself.

I have had so many failures and made so many mistakes, there is nothing in my life to feel good about. No matter how hard I try, I let people down. I let myself down. There is nothing about me to feel confident about. I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough. 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am i to be brilliant,

Gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

 

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

 

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously

Give other people the permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.” 

                                                                                                   

Says the good cop, quoting Marianne Williamson.

Nice try. Sweet, poetic, moving words but they didn’t break through to your self-loathing whose conviction in its righteousness is inpenetrable. It won’t budge, won’t confess its sins.

Enter the bad cop.

He has only one question for self-loathing and its kind of a rhetorical one at that.

 

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

 

You can tell by the tone he’s not looking for existential prose.

He’s stating a pivotal truth.

 

You don’t deserve to feel bad about yourself.

 

Your self-loathing doesn’t buy that. It has plenty of bonafide reasons to believe it has every right to be there. Failures from your past, experiences that shaped your lack of confidence and criticisms from important people whose opinions really mattered at the time.

But the bad cop doesn’t give up just yet. He’s got plenty of staying power, just like your self-defeat. He challenges you with these concepts:

 1. You are human.

We all make mistakes. Everyone knows that. Nowhere in the book of life does it indicate a cut off point which divides the worthy from the unworthy. Fifty mistakes and you’re a-okay, 75 and you’re a loser? Its not in the rule book – go ahead and check.

2. Your life is a miracle.

I don’t care what you believe about the origin of the universe and mankind, the fact that you are alive is a miracle. The plight that one single sperm goes through to force itself through the millions of others, through hazardous and hostile environmental conditions, to penetrate the egg and form the union that made you – is a miracle.

To loathe “that you” is pure irreverence to the majesty and miracle of life.

3. You’re not here for you. 

You weren’t born to serve only your own purpose. If that were the case, you would have manifested as a virus or a parasite. You are here to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem, to the world and the people in it. Confidence in your worth opens the door to making that difference in a bigger way. Self-doubt keeps you locked in the closet.

 

4. You’re wasting time.

I’ve got some terrible news for you – you’re dying.

Every day we live, we are all dying. Its not a reason to get depressed. Its a valid and paramount reason to not waste a single minute of this life. This life that we have already established is a complete miracle.

If being small and self-oppressive serves in any way to make the most of your life, then go ahead and keeping on despising yourself. But most of the time, self-reproach stops you from doing valid and important things with your life.

 5. Your critics are human too.

The voices who have influenced your low opinion of yourself belong to people who have a multitude of their own sins. Casting stones may be one way of protecting themselves but it doesn’t mean that they have chosen the best self-defense strategy. Psychological offence is not the best defense, its the best demise of everyone involved.

6. Your inner critic doesn’t know everything.

If you are so wrong about everything, if you are such a failure and incompetent – why would that inner voice who tells you so be given so much undoubted authority? If you are incompetent, then isn’t it possible that inner critic is also incompetent?

7. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Lack of self-worth is usually a rigid, over-generalized belief that serves to feed itself by focusing on all the mistakes you have made in your life and your perceived inadequacies. No one with a strong conviction sets out to prove themselves wrong. How this translates in real life is that you never notice, or very frequently overlook or discount anything you have done that proves your worth and capability.

Self-doubt is a bias, a prejudice.

8. You aren’t omnipresent.

There is nothing about you that is always the same, all of the time. Its human nature to define the present and predict the future based on past experiences. But you are never exactly the same as you were the moment before. You are always capable of being different.

9. You aren’t omnipotent either.

You were designed to be flawed and make mistakes. Perfection is reserved for God, the Higher Power or Universe – however you choose to see it. Our flaws and mistakes are what challenge us to grow in spirit and determination. Which leads to the next point…

10. You’re stagnating.

You were made for growth and development. Hating yourself doesn’t help you grow. It keeps you oppressed.

11. You are in grave danger.

The voice of self-doubt usually grows as a protective mechanism to keep you from risking vulnerability and potential humiliation. What it also does is it exposes you to the risk of terminal disappointment. When you make it to 80+ years of age (God-willing) and you review the movie that was your life, you will rue all the things you never did or gave of yourself because you were filled with doubt.

You may also regret some lengths you went to in order to protect your fragile ego.

12. You’re setting a bad example.

If you are a member of any society (my apologies to cave-dwelling hermits who probably wouldn’t be reading this anyway), you are always influencing and affecting other people. Whether you mean to or not, feeling bad about yourself – to the extent that you don’t value who you are as being – says to others that there are particular standards that define worth. If those standards define you, they must define them.

Your self-reproach could inadvertently teach someone else to dislike themselves as well.

13. Your incapacitating humility is conceited and selfish.

Whoa, I can’t believe I really said that out loud.

Low blow, eh? I’m a bit nervous now, but let me explain. I have been locked in mental closet of rumination and self-reproach for many years, and now I am free I can say with experience I recognize its narcissism.

Worthlessness always has some roots in comparison. Its pretty conceited to think that your faults are so much worse than anyone else’s. Its arrogant to believe that the voice of self-doubt has more validity than any other possible opinion. Its selfish to hold yourself back from being your true self because of greed.

Greed? Yes, greed – indulging your own need for self-preservation while denying the world its right to benefit from the miracle of your unique contribution to it.

 

At the start of this series of gaining confidence as an ADDer, I told you I want to do everything I can to help you grow that confidence.

I didn’t say I was going to be nice about it.

If my hypothetical “bad cop” seemed a bit harsh, I can assure you that it wasn’t done sensationally or without good reason.

I know, intimately, what it is like to feel worthless and incompetent. I also know a lot about human psychology. Enough to know that the voice that feeds self-doubt is not kind or soothing. That voice is harsh, mean and just plain cruel.

That kind of voice does not respond to sweet and supportive words of encouragement like the beautiful sonnet from Marianne Williamson. It responds to a voice that lambastes it.

Fight fire with fire. So I have been cruel to be kind.

Please know this, as you finish reading this installment…

My “bad cop” was not talking to you. He was talking to the self-doubt that is interloping your psyche. If you want to start feeling more confident in yourself from this moment, the one thing you can do is make this differentiation.

That voice is not you. It’s just an opinion.

And opinions can be changed.

Mindset

6 Life-Changing Reasons You Should Celebrate the Positives of Your ADD

Well my dear readers, looks like I’ve made it big time! Aka – I made it onto ADDer world. Bryan Hutchinson has been kind enough to publish a guest post from me on his blog. For today’s post, I have included an excerpt but be sure to follow this link to read the full post – and don’t forget to comment (I know how we ADDers like reminders!)

 

Having ADD sucks.

Did I just say that? Hmm, looks like I did.

Not being able to breathe under water also sucks. Why are fish and a limited number of mammals the only sentient beings blessed with the ability to navigate life fully immersed in water? I would love to frolic under the sea for hours without coming up for oxygen.

But I wasn’t born with gills, so I can’t.

I also really hate the fact that I can’t fly. I could get to work a lot quicker if things like traffic and gravity wouldn’t get in my way. The view would be amazing and the commute a heck of a lot more exciting if I could soar above it all, the wind in my sails.

But my bones are too heavy. And then there’s the little matter of having no wings. As fate would have it, I can’t fly either.

Come to think of it, there are a lot of things that suck about being human. Dependency on clothes for dignity and body warmth is quite a hassle. Having wisdom teeth that force their way through your gums like a latecomer onto an over-capacity commuter train, only to be ripped out years later when they never fully emerge – is irritating and pointless. And don’t even get me started on the pain of child birth (or child-rearing, for that matter). Read More…

Mindset

9 Simple Ways This Apology Will Help Your ADHD

I am not going to post today and I apologize for that. I promised myself when I started this blog that, come hell or high water, I would post every week. But Armageddon isn’t here and neither is the deluge.

I have been working long hours and am tired from the recent move across the country. But those aren’t the reasons I’m not posting. The real reason is – I am tapped out. I have no creative spark and at this moment in time, and I’m a bit bored of writing. We all know how well we ADDers do at tasks we are bored with.

So please accept my non-post of an apology but take from it several key lessons about managing your ADHD like an artist.

1. Be authentic.

Boredom and apathy is the space that I am in right now, and I am showing it to you. No pretending.

2. Own your challenges without shame.

My challenge right now is that I have no creative thoughts or interesting insights to share. I won’t force what I haven’t got because that’s not being real. And there is no shame in owning up to what you are struggling with.

3. Act in integrity.

I could have simply not posted today. But I know there are a few people who expect me to write every Thursday. I feel responsible to those people so I confess that I can’t write today, apologize for it, and make assurances that more posts will follow.

4. Don’t make excuses.

I could have blamed my non-creativity on long hours and all the stress associated with a move but that wouldn’t be true. I could make the time to write, but I have other needs that are a bigger priority today. No excuses – just the truth.

5. Know your limitations.

I know I am tapped out at the moment. My brain is telling me it doesn’t want to think very hard just for now. I notice this in my body, my mood, and my thoughts. My body feels tense, my mood is a bit irritable and my thoughts echo “How can I do it all???” like a panicking record repeating itself. Sometimes you need to push your limits to reach your goals. Other times you need to listen to your body and live within your limits.  Today, I am listening to my needs and meeting them.

6. Change course when your path isn’t working.

Instead of posting what I had planned for today, I am writing this post (see number 7 for the back story). When the path you are on isn’t working for you – change it.

When the path you are on isn’t working for you – change it! (Click to tweet)

 

7. Don’t get too attached to your plans or expectations.

All week I have been tweeting about connections between people because I have been working on a post about just that. That post is only half written; I just can’t find the words to finish it right now. But the words I write now are the only ones that seem to be flowing – so I have changed directions completely. It seems to be working, even though it isn’t what I had planned for this week.

8. Be concise.

My usual style is to write 1000 words + not because I have all that much to say but because that’s how long it takes me to say anything. Sometimes less is more and you need to be happy with that. Long winded explanations aren’t always necessary or even helpful. Practice being okay with saying less.

Practice being okay with saying less!. (Click to tweet)

 

9. Accept that wherever you go, there you are.

I’m bored and apathetic today. I probably won’t be tomorrow or maybe the day after that. I know my creative energy will come back. So I will let myself be how I am in this moment, knowing that this moment will pass. Fighting it won’t make it go away any quicker.

So there you go – seems like a non-post in actuality turns out to be an almost 700 word post. Hope it helps for what it’s worth – please let me know in the comments below! Important notice to bloggers – I like to share the love so don’t forget to sign in with Commentluv so you can display your own latest posts!)

 

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!

Mindset

Fighting the Waves of ADD

 

I almost died and still – I just didn’t get it. I guess wake- up calls don’t always resonate the loudest rings.

Thirteen years ago, I was caught in a rip tide off the Eastern Coast of Australia, near a lovely little seaside resort called Byron Bay. Being from a landlocked Canadian prairie province, I was a virgin when it came to coastal aquatics. I leaped in to cool off in the effervescent waves, drunk on the beauty of the sea and alight with the energy of the glorious Australian sun. I was oblivious to the rip and its intent for me.

Thanks to my lack of attention, it took some time for me to realize I was in trouble. It wasn’t until I looked up and noticed my traveling partner half a mile down the beach from me, flailing her arms in desperate exhaustion, that I twigged to the fact that something wasn’t right. I started swimming mightily for the shoreline, getting nowhere but further out to sea. My dear friend remembers it as the most frightening experience of her life. I only remember intense frustration and the incredible urge to bitch-slap mother nature in the face.

Thankfully, after an eternal fifteen minutes or so, a couple of surfers showed up and rescued us like knights in shining board gear.

I later learned that rips have a tendency to suck swimmers further and further out, but never actually pull them under. The unfamiliar swimmer, if not rescued, drowns from exhaustion. What you are meant to do is to let the rip pull you out a bit, then swim casually across, perpendicular to the shore, until you find the spot where the rip ceases. And then swim in.

I had no idea.

Swimming straight to the shore, even though faced with a fierce rip, seemed intuitively right. I didn’t know what I was up against. And yet my determination to fight against the waves is the very thing that would have killed me had it not been for a nearby surf school.

I wish that incident had awoken me to the preciousness of life and the need to soak up every moment of it, knowing that at any minute it could be ripped away. It didn’t. I’m not always an apt pupil of life’s lessons. I never could pay attention in class, regardless of the teacher. At best, my near-death drowning experience became a good anecdote to share once and awhile when the beer was flowing and there was nothing else to brag about.

I had no idea what a metaphor for my life that moment had been. I fought those waves for several minutes, but I had been fighting against who I am for a lifetime. I wonder if this kind of fight sounds at all familiar to you?

Years later, a light bulb went off and I made a deliberate decision to stop swimming against my ADD. The light bulb was a lot subtler than the oppressive waves, yet hit me with much greater impact. I simply listened – and observed – as an ADD expert talked to a group of people about the challenges of ADD, and how the ethos of brokenness keeps them stuck. As I listened, I suddenly realized this man knew more about my angst than anyone else in the world, and he had never met me. And it got me thinking – what was this thing I had been fighting against all my life? And more importantly – where was this fight getting me? Maybe, this thing and I didn’t have to be enemies anymore. Maybe, letting this wave take me out a bit could lead me to calmer waters.

The fight against my ADD self was exhausting me and it never worked – the harder I fought it, the further I got from where I wanted to be. So I gave up the fight; I gave in. I let the rip of ADD take me. I accepted that it is a part of who I am and that the things I was fighting so hard against would always be with me. It didn’t happen overnight, but when I finally accepted ADD as a part of me instead of trying to “will it away”, my self-concept, and subsequently self-worth, started changing rapidly-  for the better.

Things started to shift. I had a clearer picture of what it was I was dealing with. I could accept my flaws as part of my brain-wiring, rather than berating myself for not trying hard enough. I could find a way to live with those flaws, but manage them better. That part, of course, is still a work in progress. But the most disastrous part of my ADD is no longer an issue – I don’t beat myself up for it. I am swimming across the rip and making my way to shore.

For what it’s worth, I consider it an endurance swim for leisure, not a race.

I don’t know where you are in relation to your ADD – it may be somewhere completely different than where I am. Or, we may be on the same course. What I do know is that as ADDers, our greatest opportunity for growth and learning is from each other, as we are all part of the same tribe. I would love for you to share your experience of the ADD path in the comments below, and let us know how you have (or haven’t yet) come to terms with it, so that we all benefit from your insight!

Growth

The Art of ADD Manifesto (The ADD Way)

We are not broken. We are whole.

They say we have deficits. We have all the skills everyone else has, we just use them differently.

Others say we are distracted. We are; distracted by all the possibilities and connections we see, the ones others don’t.

We have fire in our bellies and engines that drive us. Our spirit is interminable.

We are not defined by a list of symptoms. ADD is a part of who we are, but not the whole of who we are.

We do it differently. Different is not bad or wrong. If there was no different, there would be no Edison, Einstein or Branson.

We don’t want to be normal. We want to be ourselves.

We need help with certain things, like others need helping cutting hair or doing taxes. That makes us human.

We easily forget to do what is asked of us. We apologize for that. We also forget easily when you fall short too.

We’re sorry we don’t always remember birthday cards or thank-you notes. You are important to us, but calendars elude us. Please don’t forget that when we do honour you, it is usually in a more thoughtful and creative way than a card could ever conceive of.

We are lost in our thoughts for one reason: our thoughts are very interesting.

We lose things and forget things, get sidetracked or derailed for the same reason: our thoughts are very interesting.

Our thoughts can lead to wonderful things, when we channel them and use them properly. Our impulses and whims bear this same potential.

We interrupt because we are excited by what you are saying and we want you to know we connect with it. We want to find a connection with you.

Ask yourself, does anyone else in your life get even half as excited by your ideas as we do?

We act on the impulses most people secretly wish they could. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out well. That’s a part of life. We accept that not all things we do will work out well.

But when they do – they work out very, very well. It’s a risk we are willing to take.

We long for inclusion but we don’t want to fit in entirely. What we want is a life less ordinary, with a few less bumps and spills as well.

We realize that we’ve had a place in the evolution of society. We have always been here. We didn’t become disordered until society decided that uncommon was unhealthy.

We are visionaries, dreamers, hunters and warriors. We are explorers, creatives, go-getters and doers. We know that there are limited spaces in this world for these positions, and we are happy to fill them.

Without your organization, structure and planning we could not do our jobs.

Without our vision and inspiration, your jobs would be pointless.

We are all cogs that make the engine run.

We run on diesel in a world where petrol is the dominant fuel. If we force ourselves to take in gasoline, our engines run poorly and fail. When we fuel ourselves properly, our drive accelerates us.

We don’t mind that others like to do things linearly, methodically and didactically. So please don’t mind our tangents and trajectories. We get there in the end.

Whether you paint by numbers or colour outside the lines, in the end – the picture is still complete.

We don’t apologize for our ADD ways, anymore than a zebra apologizes to a horse for its stripes.

We don’t use ADD as an excuse, anymore than a bumble bee uses his weight as a reason not to fly.

We don’t do life the normal way.

We do it the ADD way.

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