Growth

How to Be Your Own ADHD Coach

adhd coach

It doesn’t seem like it should be this hard to get on top of things, does it?

If you know what needs to be done, you should be able to just do it, right?

Maybe its the approach you’re taking.

I’m going to shoot myself in the foot when I say this, but you don’t need coaching to help you manage the challenges of ADHD. To say that in writing is a bit bonkers, since I am an ADHD coach. Why would I tell you that the thing I have to offer is something you don’t actually need? Hint: it’s not because I lack sales skills (though actually, I do) or because I am a half-wit (though actually, I hope I’m not!)

In truth, no one needs coaching. No one needs counseling either. There’s no rule of physics, philosophy or otherwise, that states things have to be any different than they are right now.

But when you want to feel better, leave a problem behind you, or move past a limitation – you may choose to get help. Through coaching or counseling or whatever means available. You don’t need to overcome challenges. You want to.

And get this: a lot of the help available, should you choose to seek it out, is free – or close to it. ADHD resources – such as books, websites, online videos and courses – are bountiful and relatively inexpensive. Most of them are but a click away, at any time, from anywhere in the world. Maybe not from my house on a Sunday evening, when the Internet connection collapses from winter traffic. But from anywhere else, anytime else.

But here’s the catch:

Just reading the book or watching the video is not the same as doing the work.

A lot of people use self-help materials. It’s a huge industry. No doubt, some of them are better than others (this blog is one of the better ones, just ask my mom). In any case, it doesn’t really matter. You have all the answers you need within yourself. Whatever resource you consult is merely a way of tapping into those answers.

That’s why I want to share with you the “secrets” of coaching. There’s no real mystery to it. You are the expert on you. And you can coach yourself through ADHD if you know how to approach it.

Here’s How to Coach Yourself

 

1. Find out everything you can about it

Books, videos… whatever! A good ADHD coach knows a lot about ADHD, and not just about the typical symptoms listed in a wiki. They know that ADDers can be accident prone but also make great athletes, can be unfocused at work but awesome in emergencies, and can look like they’re procrastinating when really they’re perfectionisting  (my word, but you can use it).

ADD is full of paradoxes. Learn about those paradoxes so you can understand why some so-called easy things are hard while other, objectively harder things – are easy.

 

2. Become more aware of YOUR ADD

It’s been said that there are around 18 thousand variations of the ADHD presentation. That’s why it’s so highly misunderstood.

My ADHD will most definitely look different than yours. Coaches help individuals figure out their own brand of ADHD, from the big challenges to the more subtle nuances of it.

 

3. Be More Accepting of Yourself

My most important job as a coach is to teach my clients how to let up on themselves a bit. You know how honey catches more flies than vinegar? My clients work harder when they know it’s okay to screw up. I don’t lecture them because I’ve made all the same screw ups in the past too. Except for my client who once burned down his garage. I haven’t done that (yet?)

Don’t lecture yourself. Remember: you are learning. You don’t have to get it perfect. You just have to step back and think:

What did I learn from this and what will I change next time?

 

4. Stick to one or two strategies at a time

My clients show up to our first meeting wanting to work on time management, clearing up clutter on the second, and by the third – they want to launch a new business selling personalized hour glasses to house keepers.

I’m no different. I’m an avid reader. I’m certain that each book is “the one” that will change my life forever. I’m a book-promiscuous. My Kindle has become a cemetery for forgotten epiphanies.

An ADHD coach’s job is to hold dear what the client quickly forgets. When my clients bring up new goals, I check in with them… “Are you sure you want to tackle thermodynamics right now? Cuz we haven’t really nailed the scientific method yet!”

In the beginning, focus on one or two of your “this-will-be-a-huge-relief-when-it’s-gone” type of challenges. Focus on first-things-first, before you take on the complete redesign of your entire life.

 

5. Keep doing the work

Richard Branson wasn’t built in a day. He may have been made in 15 minutes or less, but his empire took years to build. And he built it by making records and launching airlines, not watching TV.

My job as a coach is to keep my clients working hard, even when they don’t feel hopeful or motivated. Your job, as your own ADHD coach, is to make that commitment to yourself. Show up. Do the work. Repeat.

 

6. Celebrate successes

My favorite coachy things to say is: “Whoa pony, slow down! You just did what?!”

Not because my clients like being referred to as equines, but because my clients rarely take a moment to congratulate themselves when they kick butt. That’s where I step in and high-five their butt-kicking.

So when you coach yourself, make sure you high-five yourself. A lot. When no one is looking of course.

 

There’s no mystery to coaching yourself to overcome ADHD challenges, it just takes the right mindset and a willingness to accept your challenges, learn from them, and take a moment to celebrate when things go well. Now that I’ve talked myself out of a job, I must add that I’ve been incredibly happy to do so. I want everyone to know that the power to change their lives is within themselves, but you have to treat yourself the way a coach would treat you. Do onto yourself as a coach would do onto you – remember that okay?

But if you can’t do that, then maybe we should talk. Drop me a line on the contact page and we’ll see what we can do.

Growth

Little Digs: Thickening Your Skin to Withstand the Pricks

Don’t you hate it when people say things that seem like ordinary comments, but really are little digs to point out your flaws?

I was waiting for a courier delivery the other day. When my package arrived, I was surprised by the driver’s greeting. Rather than the expected “Hello ma’am… sign here”, he decided to criticize my kids.   

My kids had posted a note on our front door, proclaiming our house to be haunted, or rather – “hanted”. I opened the door to this brown-suited man, pen in hand, correcting their spelling mistake. I would have shrugged this off, assuming him to be a very conscientious delivery professional with a penchant for spelling. But no. He didn’t leave it at that.

He told my kids, eager as beagles whenever the door rings, about their error. And then made a big deal about the importance of spelling.

Thank you Mr. Delivery Man, for lecturing my wayward children. The neighbors will sleep better knowing our house is not hanted, as my “illiterate” kids would have everyone believe. I shudder to think of the whispers down the avenue.

And by the way – mind your own freaking business! I get to choose what I correct my kids on, not you, a complete stranger!

Maybe he was having a dig at me, the idiot who let the note stand as it was.

Little digs can never hurt me…

What really bugged me was that this statement was a little dig – having your mistakes pointed out for no other purpose than to make a spectacle of them. It makes the other people feel big.

But why should little digs even bug me?

Before I knew about ADHD, I thought I was inept. I had experienced a reasonable amount of success in my professional and personal life, but I just couldn’t get it together on the day-to-day stuff like being organized, on time, etc. It was those things that I counted as measurements of my success, or lack-thereof. I cared more about those trivial things than I did about the fact that I had a happy relationship, great friends, and I job I loved and was good at!

So, that’s why I took offense with little digs. I didn’t take them at face value, I took them as an assault on my character. And most of the time, I blew them way out of proportion.

It wasn’t until I had done A LOT of work on self-acceptance that I was able to thicken my skin to criticism – the real and the perceived kind. When I learned to embrace my own values, I cared less about what other people thought.

Sometimes, criticism can be constructive. But criticism based on personal opinions and values, not on general concern for another’s welfare…. that’s called judgement.

I have no room for judgment in the list of things that keep me up at night.

My hanted house is the only thing that stops me from sleeping these days.

Mindset

The Birth of the Panther Squirrel – A Story of Reinventing Yourself

Once upon a time…

Forget it. Who starts a blog post like that? (I guess I do?)

Let me take a chance here. Today, I’m trimming the preamble and getting straight to the point. I want to talk to you about reinventing your ADHD life.

If you’re going to successfully create the life you want – a life where you capitalize on your unique strengths and live extraordinarily – you’d better start with a clear mental picture what it will look like. Otherwise, you’ll keep getting what you already have.

Start With a New Beginning

Reinventing yourself is a “process” that starts with a new story. This particular reinvention begins with the birth of a Panther Squirrel.

Yes, a Panther Squirrel. In case you’ve never heard of one, the Panther Squirrel is very rare. You’ve probably never seen one before.

You’ve Heard of Panthers Though, Right?

Maybe you have seen a panther before, most likely from a safe vantage point beyond an enclosure at a zoo. But if you’d seen one in the wild, you would know that a panther is an exceptionally adaptable animal, able to thrive in a variety of habitats. Sleek, powerful and fearless, the panther hunts with wisdom, stealth and agility.

The panther is an elusive and rare animal. Not exactly a distinct species in its own rite, “panther” is the name given to a black-coloured jaguar or leopard. It is much like those big cats, but also – quite different.

What about the Squirrel?

No doubt you have seen a squirrel before. They are quick-moving, fidgety little characters, seen scampering around forests and parks, foraging and gnawing endlessly at anything in reach. Playful and mischievous, they’ve been known to ambush unsuspecting campers with early-morning pinecone blitzes. When not seen directly, evidence of their presence is usually detected in the mess they leave behind them.

Exactly How Do Panthers and Squirrels Relate to ADD?

In case the gist is lost in translation, allow me to blatantly draw out the connection.

ADDers have a colloquial connection to squirrels, indorsed by cult merchandise proposing our fascination with them (“Oh look, a squirrel!”). It’s cute and trite, but at least this meme makes light something that confounds us at the core – distraction.

I suppose it eases the intense frustration we feel from our inability to direct our own minds. If slapping a slogan on a t-shirt makes it funny – aka less of a big deal – then why not?

We may buy the t-shirt (or poster, mug, tutu …) and that’s okay. As long as we don’t buy into them.

But you have to know this: We aren’t merely a scurry of squirrels. We are panthers, as well. We might be rascally and hyper, but we can be powerful, strong and focused too. We can be flexible, responsive and courageous. We can roar. And yes – we are rare.

We are the manifestation of a unique gene expression, a little different from the other big cats, but also – a little the same.

We tend to forget about that side of us. We’re too busy buying into those t-shirts.

Introducing the Panther Squirrel

Reinventing ourselves, rewriting our scripts and creating more empowering ADHD lives – can only occur when we allow ourselves to be both – the powerful panther and the high-spirited squirrel. They can coexist in one person.

No doubt we can be disorganized, unfocused, and messy. But when we see only this, we fail to pay homage to the panther within. We forget our prowess and strength. We ignore the fact that we can be tenacious and steadfast. We forget that we are also hunters! Remember, the panther is elusive – just because he’s not easy to spot, doesn’t mean he’s not there.

Contrariwise, when we try too hard to be a purebred panther, we discredit the squirrel within. I will tell you this right now: the squirrel is just as important as the panther. The squirrel notices and collects treasures the panther walks by. He can get in and out of places the panther cannot. He has an energy the panther could not sustain. The squirrel-side of us may be the subject of comedy, but it’s also the part that makes us energetic, enthusiastic and charismatic.

We are not panthers or squirrels, we’re both. We are Panther Squirrels.

So Rewrite Your Story’s Main Character (Hint: That’s You!)  

If you are truly reinventing yourself, the story you tell about who and how you are needs to allow space for both of these characters.

My fear is that some people think of reinvention as a sort “rebirth” with a completely new persona, like Madonna or that guy formerly known as Prince. Maybe your reinvention involves a few costume changes and a weird symbol, but I’m guessing you aspire to more powerful changes than just a new façade.

The life you want is one in which you are actually happier, right?

Your new story, if it is to be one that allows you true happiness, will permit you to be both ADD and not ADD. It will tell a story of someone who is scattered but strong, hyper but calm, and regardless of either – loving it all.

Let’s face it, can you truly be happy without letting yourself be who you are? What if being happier simply means being everything that you already are, but in a refined and better-defined version of it? Like an HD or better yet – 3D – version of yourself?

Start your new story with that kind of character sketch, and see how much more transcending your reinvention will be. See what life can be like as a Panther Squirrel. We all know that – if nothing else – it will certainly be a life less ordinary.

If you were a combination of two or more animals, what would you be? (Comments below!)

P.S. The inspiration for this post came from an awesome conversation I had with my coach (bigging him up here, cue the applause). Thanks coach!

P.P.S. You are never going to believe this! In searching for images for this post, I came across this post from dailymail.co.uk. Turns out there is such a thing as the Panther Squirrel. Who knew?!

Image courtesy of cheezburger.com
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

The Gift of Confidence with ADHD

Last post I disclosed that I am doing a series entirely dedicated to finding confidence in your ADD life. This is the next installment – where I will explain what I have to offer and why you should bother reading it.

 

I haven’t read every book out there written on ADHD. Since I have ADHD and likely so do you, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you. I have read a lot, but only what would likely be tantamount to a mere drop in a literary bucket.

But what I have done is think about ADHD. A lot. In fact, I’ve thought about it for thirty plus years. Possibly even 35 years, but I can’t recall what I thought about before the age of five.

Of course I haven’t been thinking about the diagnosis of ADD since childhood, that would be sad and weird. I didn’t even know that I had ADD until later in adulthood. But even before I had a name for it, I knew ADD – I knew the experience of it intimately. So I am not exaggerating when I say, in the grand scheme of my inner contemplative world, I have thought about very little else for a great many years.

The wonderful thing is that now I am thriving with my ADHD, I think much less about it. The way that I used to think about it was, for lack of a better term, obsessive. Maybe ruminative actually. I was stuck in a world of self-involvement, though not the conceited kind. The same kind of obsession a mad-scientist has when he is on the verge of solving a major equation but hasn’t yet determined exactly the right variables for the formula.

My own ADHD is not such a conundrum anymore. I have been freed from the chains of rumination and self-analysis. Now I like to think about it in a way that is much more fun and exciting to me. I like to think about the way the other members of my tribe experience ADHD. And how I can help. I have been liberated from disability of ADHD. It no longer holds me back. In fact, ADHD has become my art. I can help make it your art too.

Of course, I am digressing here so let me get back to the original point. My thinking all these years has not been merely self-obsession. I have been obsessed with the concept of ADHD. What it means. What it feels like. What it’s all about. And (most importantly) how to feel good about having it despite a lifetime of feeling second-rate and inadequate.

Yeah, you heard me right… feel good about having ADD. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

So I have thought a lot about it. And I have read a lot about it. Before sitting down to write this it did cross my mind that I couldn’t possibly have anything to say about ADHD that hasn’t been said before. I probably don’t. Previously I have talked about how there are virtually no new ideas out there anymore (except for “wireless” hovercraft toilets, most useful for times of performing a bodily function and midway realizing you are without the appropriate tools – no one has thought of that yet).

What can I add to the world of knowledge and literature on the subject of ADD? My own perspective of it, that’s what. Nothing less, nothing more. Why should my little perspective on this huge issue matter to you? You don’t really know me. I haven’t told you much about who I am that would make my two-cents worth your time.

I also know how hard it is to read when you have ADD. I know how hard it is to find the time to read at all these days, for anyone. So I am hugely honoured that you have even made it through these first 650+ words, and maybe perhaps even some of my other posts on this blog. I am also highly conscious of the fact that I better give you a pretty solid sales-pitch right now if I am going to convince you to keep reading any further.

Why should my ADHD theories matter to you?

Because I am your biggest fan.

When you are a fan of something, a team or an artist, it means you like them. They mean something to you. You have made a personal choice to stand behind them, when times are good and bad. And you want them to do well.

I want you to do well. I want all ADDers to do well. They are my tribe. I found myself and where I belong when I discovered the true nature of my differences. That is what has made all the difference in my life – finding the team that I play for. So of course I want my team to do well. My “two-cents” is in reality a personal investment of the most valuable kind – I give over completely my head and my heart to support my team and help them do well. I write this for you, my teammate, my tribes-member, to help you do well too.

I spent the first half of my career helping people with depression, anxiety and other mental illness free themselves from those debilitations. A great deal of this work was centred on self-esteem and confidence. Now that I have found a new calling, I have reinvented my career and now dedicate it to coaching other ADDers through their challenges towards their place of confidence and success. My training, my coaching, my blog – are my contributions to that mission.

Which brings me back to the reading. I know you don’t have a lot of time. Your attention is a scarce commodity. I respect that about you. So I will cut to the chase right now with a caveat that will excuse you if you want to don’t want to invest anymore time.

This is, in some ways I suppose, a self-help blog. But not the kind permeates tactics and strategies for “overcoming” ADHD and becoming more “normal”. Strategies for self-improvement and gaining confidence are certainly explored, but not from a standpoint that negates how great you already are. If that’s what you want, I’ll tell you now you’ve got the wrong blog.

If, however, what you want right now is to find a new meaning to your life, to find some direction, build up your confidence and discover a new sense of worth and value that coexists with your ADHD – then you have found the right blog. This is what I am talking about. This is what I am all about. I don’t want you to relegate your ADD like some sort of cognitive cancer now in remission. I want you to rock it.

This is an existential journey into the depths of the collective ADHD conscious, searching for meaning, hope and acceptance. For it is in those realms that true freedom and mastery are born. True success with ADHD starts and ends with authentic self-worth. Put it this way: a low opinion of yourself won’t make your ADD any better and perhaps, makes it infinitely worse.  No strategy in the world will change your life if your head’s not going to change too. (Click to tweet)

Writing this series now, word by word, I will admit that I have no idea how deep this rabbit hole will go. But I am glad that you are coming on this journey with me.

 

 

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…