Mindset

Passion We Can All Access (Really!)

 

Life can feel pretty empty at times. Yet I hate all the stale maxims about passion out there.

Follow your passion and … what???

It’s fine advice for retirees with nothing else to do. When you have mouths to feed and heads to put a roof over, passion is the last thing to worry about.

Besides, most of us don’t know what we’re passionate about. They don’t teach passion in school, unless you count teenage experimentation as extracurricular instruction.

Even if we were lucky enough to feel rapturous about something, who’s got the time to do anything about it?

Just stop wasting time, they say. Productivity experts propose cutting out TV or social media as if they are soul-sucking, passion-decoys. Give up these time wasters and you’ll have at least a couple of extra hours a day. Great advice, but it neglects the reason we rely on these crutches in the first place.

After a long day, your brain is numb and you have no energy for anything else. That’s why you flake out in front of a screen every night. A fatigued and dazed mind isn’t apt to feeling passionate about anything. Screen time asks nothing of you. Which is good because, most nights, you have nothing left to give.

Get up early, they say. Successful people start their day while everyone else is still in bed.

I don’t see the logic… passion is an entity awoken by an alarm clock?

Day in and out, we go through the motions, exhausted by the sheer irrelevance of the “to do” lists we serve. The lists that are, by the way, fertilized by pen ink and grow larger each time we strike an item off. We make a bed, it gets unmade. We wash a dish, it gets dirty again. We pay a bill… whammo! It comes around again the next month.

Not exactly the ideal life we imagine we’d have when we find our passion, is it? Yet beds will still get unmade and dishes will get dirty, even when you’re living out your dream.

There is one quote I do like, really like, about passion.

Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) writes:

“Naturally successful people want you to believe that success is a by-product of their awesomeness, but they also want to retain some humility. You can say passion was the key to your success because everyone can be passionate about something or other. Passion sounds more accessible. If you’re dumb there’s not much you can do about it, but passion is something we think anyone can generate in the right circumstances. Passion is very democratic. It’s the people’s talent, available to all. It’s also mostly bullshit.” (How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big)

Thanks Scott, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Here’s the solution.

You were hoping I’d get to the part where I make you feel better about the problem by now, weren’t you?

Well, here goes.

I don’t think that the key to a happy life is to do what you’re passionate about. We do what we do to get by. And most of the time, what we do kind of sucks. But it pays the bills.

Some of us will be lucky enough to find passions that pay well. Others do what they’re passionate about only to find that making a career out of it actually kills their passion.

Most of us, however, will go through the daily grind feeling less than satiated. Perhaps we’ll even feel a bit numb. Or bored. Or empty.

What we can do, in these instances, is this:

We can learn to be more passionate about living.

Let me be clear: by this I don’t mean Nike-advert, just get out there and do it, carpe diem, seize-the-moment passionate.

I mean this kind of (real life, accessible to all) passion:

Holy crap, I’m alive! Of course, I’m dying every day (as each of us are) but for now, I am still alive. I get to work and live in a first world country, where I have access to food, clothing, shelter and health care. Every day I wake up, without fear of violence or violation, because my world is basically safe. So safe, in fact, that I actually have no bigger concerns than what might or might not happen in the future. I have responsibilities and people that need me, which culminate in endless to-do lists demonstrating how rich my life really is. And the fact that I feel empty, despite all the busy things I do in a day, means that I am the owner of a brain capable of higher level, self-analyzing and reflective thinking.

In essence, life is not about following your passion.

Being alive is something to be passionate about. You could very easily be dead, or at least – much, much worse off than you are now.

Look around. See the beauty in the world around you. Eat some chocolate. Listen to music. Talk to a friend. Hug a child. Dance with your partner. Take a long shower. Run down a beach. Wear fuzzy pajamas. Draw a picture. Try a new recipe. Drive a different route to work. Smile at a stranger. Pray to God. Meditate. Think. Cry. Laugh. Love.

If you feel empty, be passionate about finding meaning in the small things in life. That kind of passion is not bullshit.

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

The Power of Pause

The Power of Pause is always present in nature
image courtesy of mindfulnet.org

What did you say again? 

How did I get here?

Why did I do that?

What happened just now?

ADDers are people in perpetual motion – motion of body, motion of thought and motion of e-motion. We are always moving in one form or another.

The fact we’re seldom static makes it difficult to keep track our position in the world. Heck, half the time we don’t even know where we are in the middle of a conversation!

Being frequently distracted means not being here and not getting things done. Which actually means …

we are doing too much of something – and not enough of another.

The fact is, ADD is not so much a disorder of deficit but of management, as Russell Barkley tells us. It is attention mismanagement we struggle with the most.

But here’s a surprise: attention is not a finite commodity. We can have more of it, whenever we want. In fact, we can have as much as we’ll ever need! But first we must learn how to manage the attention span we already have.

Instead of reacting – we can act.

Instead of blurting – we can listen. Then choose our words and the right time to say them.

Instead of being led by whims – we can think things through and make deliberate moves.

But how?

The power of pause is the superpower that puts you in control. (Click to tweet)

Check in with yourself and decide – where is my attention? How is this serving me? Is my attention where I need it to be right now? Is it where I intend it to be? Do I need to shift it?

I know you think I’m crazy for telling you this. You think that having ADD means you don’t have the skills to pause or focus. You don’t believe that you can shift your attention as easily as flicking to another channel on the TV.

I am telling you: YOU MOST CERTAINLY CAN.

Of course, you have to practice. The power of pause can only be realized after much, much practice. But isn’t it something worth practising?

If the management of your attention is central to many of your challenges, how could you not resolve to reign it in and show it who’s the boss?

Yep, you are the boss of your attention. I know it’s a freakishly absurd concept, especially when your paradigm is one of deficit.

But think of it another way. Right now, you don’t speak Italian (as far as I know!). But if you spent an hour every day – reading, writing and conversing in Italian – eventually you would become fluent.

With concerted effort, you can become fluent in attention as well. Yes, there is more to ADD than paying attention. There are other factors to bring into consideration. But the mismanagement of attention is an undisputed underpinning of many of our challenges.

Always late… how’s your attention to time? What’s distracting you from getting out the door on time?

Losing things… where is your attention when you are putting objects down after using them?

Behind in your duties… where is your focus when you are busy but not engaged?

Attention can always be managed better – no matter how short of a span you seem to have. Managing it better will do nothing but help any other challenges you face.

The best part? You can practice anywhere, any time.

Pause – in conversations, when making choices, while going about your day or whenever you have been doing something for a long time. Pause before committing to a request or whenever you are experiencing an unpleasant emotional state.

Pause when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. Practice at key times in the day, set an alarm, put up notes for yourself. Do it whenever you notice emotional shifts.

Just do it. And do it some more. And a little bit more. And a lot more.

Sooner or later you won’t need to practice. You will be fluent in attention. Practice starts now.

With just a little pause.

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!